Christian converts from Islam often face the brunt of persecution in the Islamic world. In the eyes of Muslims, they have committed an “unforgivable crime”, having deserted the “light of Islam” to become infidels by following what Muslims believe to be a false religion. Christian converts face immense pressure from their family and neighbors to recant their faith and return to Islam. To refuse often results in verbal and physical abuse from those they love most and may eventually lead to ostracism from their community. Despite these hardships, however, Samia gave her life to Jesus and wants the world to know her Christian persecution stories from the heartland of Algeria.
“I was a Muslim by inheritance, both by culture and obligation,” Samia, whose name has been changed for her own security, told ICC. “I admit now that I was only a hypocrite to follow Islam, because Islam formed no part of my life. But, the discovery of Jesus Christ and the Gospel changed my life forever and gave it meaning. I finally found the God that I can love, worship and serve freely, because Islam was only a form of slavery.”
“I became a Christian in 2007. After I saw the movie ‘Passion of the Christ’ I prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, if you really forgive sins, show me and forgive me.’ That night I had a dream. There was a man dressed in white and another in black who came to meet me. The man in white said, ‘Give yourself as a sacrifice and I will raise you from the dead and give you new life.’ The man in black was standing over a corpse and responded, ‘Look at this dead man. He gave himself as a sacrifice and he has not risen.’ The man in white showed me a lamb and said, ‘Behold, the lamb was sacrificed for your sins. Give yourself as a sacrifice and you will rise again.’ At that moment, I gave myself to Jesus and saw my life as a sacrifice. Immediately after, I opened my eyes and I realized that I was resurrected from the dead, without knowing how.”
“Trouble and persecution began at the time of my marriage to the man I love. When his family found out that I was Christian, they did their best to cancel our marriage. They first asked him to get another wife who is Muslim. When he refused, they told him they would not attend our wedding. We got married and lived five quiet months without any troubles. But this quietness proceeded with a strong storm. My husband’s brother was also a Christian. When he got married to a Christian wife, their parents realized their house was being invaded by Christians! We could feel their fear of seeing everybody converting to Christianity and we endured the rejection of the family for a month.”
“After that, the parents kicked both of us out of their home which was unbearable because we had nowhere to go. But, we found a friend who allowed us to stay in a hen house he had built in another village. We lived for seven months in that hen house, but villagers and his nephew eventually found out that we were Christian. ‘How dare you allow Christians here in our village?’ they said to him. You must know that any person who abandons Islam is an apostate, or an unbeliever, which is a serious crime to Muslims.”
“We quietly stayed another two months in the hen house because we had no money and it was a terrible crisis. Our dear friend tried to help but there was just too much pressure on him. So we eventually went home to see if the family would accept us. But the family members just insulted us, humiliated us, and even blasphemed the name of Christ. Their mouths were like volcanoes, incessantly uttering hurtful and blasphemous words at us. The persecution became harder when they hit us. Even worse, the parents filed a complaint against us with the police. The head of police ordered us to leave the house within 15 days or they would arrest us.”
“The Lord blessed us because we found a Christian couple that allowed us to stay in their house when they were out of the country for training. For us, it was a kindness of the Lord and a great relief. We were finally able to sleep at night without fear, but it was only for a short time. During those three months, we sought the face of God, and we responded in his grace.”
“A few days ago my maternal grandmother died. But before her death, she had told my mother to give her home to my husband and me. Although my mother was reluctant to give us the house, I persisted in my prayers because the Lord gave me this promise in Isaiah 43:4 ‘You are precious and I love you, I give men in exchange for you…’ The Lord is faithful and answered our prayers. We have now lived in my grandmother’s house for two years. When I remember that all of what we faced was simply because we are Christian, it makes me cry. But these are the Christian persecution stories of so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ in Algeria.”
The Internship That Changed my LifeRichard has been an intern with ICC since the beginning of September. In this blog he shares his experience learning about the persecuted church, saying, “People, literally all over the world, in countries whose names some people do not even know, are suffering for the Gospel.”
By Richard Proctor
When I found out that I was going to be an intern at International Christian Concern (ICC), I thought that this was going to be an awesome opportunity to gain some job experience and be able to expand what little knowledge I possessed about the persecuted Church. When I showed up for my first day of work, I was told what my main responsibilities would be and I thought to myself, OK, I can handle this. Most of what I would be doing involved bringing awareness of the persecuted Church to the masses. To accomplish this task, I would be publishing articles on ICC’s web site and then linking those articles through the social media site, Twitter. I was ecstatic at the opportunity to use social media during my internship.
From Marshmallows to Bricks
This was my first real exposure to the persecuted Church. I was taught how to research, publish, and tweet about articles. At first, most of the stories didn’t seem to bother me. Headlines that read, “Man Imprisoned for Distributing Christian Materials” or “Man Loses Everything after Converting from Islam to Christianity,” those were the types of headlines that the pastor at my church would read. These are the same marshmallow-like headlines that are heard in every church in America. Coming into this internship I thought there would be stories of brutal attacks and all-out wars on Christianity.
After the first day, it seemed that my tasks were easier to handle and I felt more confident, that I could possibly do more. However, as each day passed, it seemed as if the headlines of the stories I posted grew darker and darker. Now instead of arrests for carrying religious materials, headlines read: “Women Beaten as Mob Attacks Christian Community”, “Man Killed after Insulting Islam”; “Girl with Mental Illness Imprisoned on Blasphemy Charges”. As I read each of these headlines, it felt as if someone was throwing bricks at my chest. I could sense a change within me that I never felt before.
Now it is easy to ask the question, “OK God. If you’re truly a loving God how can you allow your children to suffer like this?” When I started this internship, my mentor informed me that this question may very well come across my mind. However, I do not find myself asking that question. Instead, the question that I asked God was, “OK God. You’ve shown me what true followers of you are willing to do to further your kingdom. What do you want me to do?”
His Sacrifice and My Sacrifice
I’ve been a Christian since I was six years old. Throughout my life I have come to realize that, we, as Christians, suffer because Christ himself suffered. In John 15:20 Jesus said to his disciples, “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.”(King James Version) Jesus Christ, the only man ever to live a perfect life on this earth was beaten, tortured, nailed to a cross, spit upon, and mocked. If I am a true follower of Christ—taught to be Christ-like—then what am I doing to further His kingdom?
Needless to say, in the United States, I realize that the ability that I have to freely worship God without being thrown into jail is a blessing. However, in the few weeks that I have been working at ICC I’ve come to realize that I have taken advantage of that blessing. As I’ve read the stories about people being beaten, jailed, and out-casted because of their faith, I know that God wants me to do something more than sit in a pew three times a week. There has got to be more to the Christian faith than the façade that is put on whenever the church doors are open. People, literally all over the world, in countries whose names some people do not even know, are suffering for the Gospel and as of right now, I have the opportunity to be a voice for them. In August, I may have been a whisper for the persecuted, now I want to be a scream from the mountain tops.
Interested in interning with ICC? We are currently accepting applications! Click here for more information.
The Journey of a Little Girl Rescued from an Islamic Training CenterBy Corey Bailey
Shantona looked at me with a deep sadness in her eyes. Only 10 years old, she should be full of life and joy, but instead she looked down to the ground as tears threatened to fall.
In February 2012, Shantona’s father sent her off to, what he thought was, a Christian Hostel to go to school. A poor family in the hills, education is the only hope of a future, so this opportunity seemed like an answer to prayer.
But Shantona’s father was lied to. Dreams of a bright future became a horrible nightmare.
Once Shantona was taken from her father’s house, she was sold to an Islamic training center, known as a madrassas, where she was imprisoned and forced to learn Arabic, study the Quran and pray to Allah five times a day. Shantona quickly realized that something was wrong. They were not learning the usual subjects you study in school, and as a Christian she did not want to be forced to practice Islam. So Shantona refused to pray or learn Arabic. As a result, however she was disciplined. Not only was food withheld from her, but her hands, now scarred from numerous beatings by a cane, also bear witness to punishment for refusing to comply.
Shantona’s father only learned of her whereabouts months later when another girl, imprisoned at the same madrassa, escaped and told of her own harrowing experience. When Shantona’s father realized had been tricked and his daughter was being harmed, he frantically began searching for her. He called on an ICC ministry partner to help find his daughter. Months later, when Shantona was finally located, he personally went to pick her up. When the leader of the madrassa realized he intended to take his daughter away, he began verbally berating them. Shantona’s father stood strong as he the leader yelled, “The Bible of the Christians is full of lies and evil things and only Islam and [the] Quran can guide people to right path to heaven!” The teacher continued to criticize Christianity, but finally let Shantona and her father leave.
Since her rescue, Shantona’s father was scared the Imam or other leaders would search for her at home, since they knew where she lived. ICC’s partner intervened and placed Shantona in a Christian hostel where she could live and receive a quality education. They are attempting to help her work through the persecution and trauma she experienced; however, Bangladesh lacks counselors to help with these types of things.
While listening to her story, it was clear to me that Shantona, from a different tribe than the other girls at the hostel, feels alone and sad. I In fact, the only time she smiled was during the children’s sermon I gave where I said, “Jesus is our friend and never leaves us alone. We can tell Him when we feel happy or when we feel sad. Even if we feel alone, we can tell Him and He will remind us that we are never alone because He is always with us. He is a good friend who loves us and wants to know how we feel.” This was the only time I saw Shantona smile; her lips could not help themselves as she heard about a Savior who comforts the lonely. She smiled the entire time, with a tiny flicker of hope in her eyes.
“We are writing to ask you for urgent prayer,” wrote an ICC-supported pastor in a heavily persecuted country earlier this month. “I am receiving threatening phone calls from an unknown number… He says he is a Muslim and I am Jesus’ follower and they will bomb my house.”
Another email arrived from the same pastor two days later: “The phone calls continued this morning… the guy on the phone knew my name and my birth city and [the] major events of my life in the past years. I have no doubt that this is from the Taliban.”
Pastors and evangelists ministering the world’s most persecuted regions—including those that ICC supports in Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran, among other countries—have learned what it means to “take up [their] cross daily and follow [Jesus]” (Luke 9:23). For them, to follow Christ comes at a great cost, yet it is their privilege to suffer, as He has suffered, for the sake of the Gospel.
“We believe our Savior is big enough to protect us from evil people,” the pastor continued. “If His will for us is to die we are ready. But we know that we are serving the King of Kings and we trust His character and want His will in our life. Please continue to pray for our protection, discernment and wisdom.”
These Christians are on the front-lines to be a light in the darkness and to proclaim the Good News to the helpless and hurting. And, in the face of immense persecution, the church is seeing tremendous growth. In Iran, for example, ICC-supported ministers reported that 13 new houses churches were started in the past three months and at least 28 Muslims accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
“We’re moving forward and talking to people daily,” said an ICC-supported Iranian pastor. “This month alone, we had over 20 people come to Christ. Although people are very scared and timid to talk to strangers, God has given us a strategy to talk to many people about Him and people are responding!”
The underground church is the heart and soul of transformation in Iran and many other Islamic nations. Churches throughout the region are flourishing and quickly multiplying. This is a grassroots level ministry that will ultimately have some of the greatest impact of all that we do.
By William Stark
An eight-month pregnant woman lies unconscious in a hospital bed in Ethiopia. Already, her husband has been pronounced dead due to injuries sustained in attack perpetrated by two unidentified Muslim men. What did this couple do to deserve this? What drove these unidentified men to attack?
Burtukan and her husband, Abreham, were Christians living in Worabe, Ethiopia. Abreham was the pastor to a small Christian community in Worabe, a Muslim-dominated city known for being intolerant of non-Muslims.
In May 2011, two Muslim men approached Burtukan and Abreham at their home and demanded that Burtukan and her husband convert to Islam. Both refused to convert. As the two individuals left, they threatened Burtukan and her husband, saying they would make their lives difficult in Worabe.
Nothing would have prepared them for what was to come.
When Abreham and Burtukan were returning home from visiting a fellow Christian in Worabe, they were again confronted by the same individuals that had demanded they convert to Islam earlier that day. Instead of demanding their conversion, they attacked Abreham and began to savagely beat him. “I screamed for help, but no one came to our aid,” Burtukan told an ICC representative. After beating Abreham for what must have seemed like an eternity, the two attackers decided to turn their rage on Burtukan, an eight-month pregnant woman.
After the attack, Burtukan and Abreham were both hospitalized for the injuries they received. Unfortunately, Abreham died from the injuries he sustained. Burtukan, who was unconscious for nine days, survived along with the child she was carrying. After Burtukan learned that her husband had been killed, she fled Worabe and went to live with her family.
When ICC got word of this tragedy, a representative was sent to see what ICC could do to provide for Burtukan’s needs. Since then, ICC has been providing Burtukan with what she needs to support herself and her one-year-old daughter, who she named Birhane, meaning “my light.” ICC purchased three cows for Burtukan and built her a new house in Moricto. Even though nothing can replace her husband, ICC has helped Burtukan start to put her life back together by providing her with shelter and a way to make a living.
“ICC has provided me with so much help. They have built me a house and purchased cows for my daughter and myself. Now, I am able to rest safely with my family in Morcito, Thanks be to God,” Burtukan, said.
If you would like to support projects like this, please donate today, and designate your gift to “Suffering Wives and Children.”
“What a unique time it is to live in this moment in history,” a Syrian Christian living in Damascus wrote to ICC. “The biggest challenge for the church is to get involved at such a time and to take part in the story that many generations from now will be speaking about.”
Syria’s civil war has now claimed more than 33,000 lives, activists say. In August alone, nearly 5,000 people were killed in the conflict’s deadliest month to date. The victims have included those from every political movement and religious affiliation in the country, including Sunnis—the majority of whom support the Free Syrian Army—and Alawites who generally back President Bashar al-Assad.
Syria’s Christians have also suffered and many find it hard to choose sides. While they desire political reform and greater freedoms—like many of their Sunni countrymen—they remember the outcome of war in Iraq and revolution in Egypt and fear the growing threat of extremism if Assad if overthrown.
“I am concerned if the regime is toppled, Syria will fall in to the hands of extremists. Nobody will protect the rights of the Christians. Look at what happened to the Christians in Egypt and Iraq. Christians keep losing,” said Kalach, a Syrian Christian businessman, echoing the fears of many Christians.
No doubt, persecution will increase if the regime is toppled. Rebels from al-Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist networks have infiltrated into the Free Syrian Army to “make jihad in the name of Allah” and “restore” Syria as an “Islamic caliphate”. Yet, despite uncertainly over Syria’s future, Christians have found greater purpose, knowing that they must not stand idly by while their countrymen are slaughtered. Christians are laying down their lives to share the love of Christ and to aid anyone—whether supporters of the opposition or of the regime—who is in need.
“The reason we are here is stronger than the [bullets] we hear or the curfews in place for our safety,” said the Christian in Damascus. “We are truly seeing His mighty hands in the life of our Church and people. We are seeing doors to share the truth with many of the Syrian people. I can’t fathom all the doors God is opening up for the Church to speak the truth into people’s lives.”
Christians are among the earliest groups woven into Syria’s multi-religious fabric. While the threat of radical Islam is of grave concern, Christians have put their trust in Christ alone and know that the church will continue to endure and even prosper as it has for nearly 2,000 years.
“We, the church, will continue to look forward to the future of the church and hold onto the unique challenges we face,” the Christian in Damascus continued. “Many are talking about wiping out Christianity in this land… But the fact that the followers of Jesus in Acts 11 were first called Christians in Antioch, Syria was no coincidence. God never stopped watching over Christians in Syria. Close to 2,000 years Christianity existed in Syria and it will never seize to exist. On the contrary, the church is growing and will continue to grow!”
Please pray for the church in Syria who, despite facing escalating persecution, have chosen to stay in their homeland to offer hope—found in Christ alone—and minister to those in need.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15NIVBy Corey Bailey
As I reflect on my recent trip to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka I am struck by our need as humans to be heard; to tell our story and have someone care enough to listen.
I spent much of my time in these countries listening to people’s stories and experiences of persecution. Both children and adults relayed astonishing accounts of what they went through. It covered a broad range of abuse, from children being sold to Islamic Training Centers and beaten with live wires when they refused to read the Quran, to pastors in rural areas that were beaten and told to close down their churches or watch the “bloodshed as we kill all your parishioners.”
For some, I traveled eight hours on a bumpy road into the jungles to sit with them and listen. Others invited me into their homes and taught me how to make traditional bread, called chipati, and shared their stories over dinner. Still more traveled to a secluded area to meet me, far away from the prying eyes of their villages, to convey their struggles. Some parents brought their children on a 15-hour journey to meet me in hopes that I would be able to hear their story and help them.
Even more humbling was the fact that, for the most part, they just needed someone to listen. They needed someone to hear them. They were amazed when I would tell them that people across the world were praying for them. With tears in their eyes the pastors would say, ”Thank you for your prayers. To know that someone is listening to us and caring for us means everything. We are not forgotten and we can continue to face our persecutions.”
When the children who were held captive in Islamic Training Centers finished relaying their experiences, they said, “Please let everyone know what happened to us. Please, please ask them to remember us. Ask them [to] help us to get a good education so that we can have a future.”
As they left one by one, it was always the same: hope would flood their eyes and a slight smile would cross their face. It was as though you could see the power of their story being shared, heard and valued fill their eyes and souls as a balm to heal and give them the strength to carry on.
The tear gas was blinding that night in Maspero. It burns the eyes and slows the ability to react. People ran, aimlessly and horrified, but they had nowhere to go. Armored military vehicles veered uncontrollably into crowded streets. Gunfire crackled from overpasses and showered the roadways. And, peaceful protestors dropped to the ground – swept and crushed beneath the tires of tanks or by a bullet to the head or chest.
“The area turned to darkness. All of a sudden there was shooting and people were running,” said Mary Ibrahim Daniel, a Christian activist who had marched with thousands of other Egyptians from Shubra to Maspero in Cairo on October 9, 2011. “The guy next to me fell from a bullet to the neck. My sister and I were almost hit by a tank. People were screaming. We could hardly see because of the tear gas. The street was covered with blood. Many were dying, but we couldn’t help them or else we would die too.”
Near Mary, but not within sight, stood her brother, Mina. He was a known activist in Egypt and attended many demonstrations, but he had never witnessed anything like this before. However, Mina would see little of the violence that unfolded that night—he was among the first killed.
“After I got shot and went to the hospital I saw Mina on the floor at the morgue,” Wagih Yacoub, a Coptic human rights activist, told ICC. “I was just with him a few hours ago, laughing and talking. And then I just saw him lying there… I don’t know what to say. He was my friend.”
Mina was shot and instantly killed by a bullet to the chest, according to a medical examination. He was only one of 26 Christians killed that evening which protestors dubbed “Bloody Sunday.” The initially peaceful demonstration denouncing the destruction of a church by a Muslim mob a week earlier was met by the worst violence in Egypt since President Mubarak’s ouster from power in February 2011.
One year later, the victims’ families are still waiting for justice. “Only three soldiers, who have been charged with ‘involuntary manslaughter’ and sentenced to just two and three years in jail, have been held responsible for the events,” Ahram Online reported. As is often the case in Egypt, violence targeting Christians usually goes unpunished.
“They were among my best friends and life is difficult without them,” Hani, a Christian engineering student, told Gulf News. “Deepening my grief is that the actual killers have not been punished for brutally attacking peaceful demonstrators.”
Many Muslims in Egypt and throughout the Middle East will always remember 2011 as the year that long-standing dictators were deposed and greater political rights and free speech were realized. For Christians, however, the year fondly labeled as the ‘Arab Spring’ has brought only hardship. Religious freedom was far from the minds of most revolutionaries and Christians now find they are the targets of widespread and merciless violence.
In all, more than 80 Christians were killed in 2011 as a result of religious-based violence in Egypt which, according to reports, has prompted more than a hundred thousand Christians to seek immigration to western countries. Christians fear that persecution will only increase as well-organized Islamist movements capitalize on newly-gained political freedoms.
Some church leaders, however, refuse to lose hope. “We are passing through a dark tunnel of violence, feeling grief of death and injustice…” Bishop Thomas of the Coptic Church told World Magazine from Cairo. “Trying to bring forgiveness and justice together is a big struggle, but we are committed to the love that never fails. We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed.”
In December of 2005 a Christian man in Morocco by the name of Jamaa Ait Bakrim was arrested for burning down two old, unused wooden posts outside of his home. Almost seven years later, he is still sitting behind bars in the country’s largest prison and still has another 8 years left on his sentence. Why is Jamaa spending more than a decade in jail for destroying a couple of old wooden posts?
Because Jamaa is a Christian who dared to be open about his faith in Christ in one of the strictest Muslim countries of North Africa. The destruction of the posts, which Jamaa had asked for permission to get rid of, was simply an excuse for local police to arrest a man who somehow resisted all of the pressure to hide his Christian beliefs. Most of Jamaa’s 15-years sentence is not for destruction of property, but for “proselytizing”, a crime in Morocco that is rigidly forbidden and punished.
Jamaa’s journey to Christ and his eventual sentencing began decades ago when he converted to Christianity in Europe in the early 1990s. Within a few years of returning to Morocco Jamaa was rejected by his family, forced into a mental institution, and sentenced to over a year in jail for having the audacity to put up a Christian cross in public.
Somehow undeterred Jamaa continued to be vocal about his faith until police finally found an excuse, the destruction of the wooden posts, to put Jamaa away for as long as possible.
Today, Jamaa needs your help. Without action it is likely that he will remain in prison for another 8 years, but outside pressure could be the key to securing his release. It will also send a message to the Moroccan government that it is unjust to imprison a man simply because he does not hide his faith. Lend your voice to ours, sign our petition and call for Jamaa’s immediate release.
Follow the instructions below and have your signatures back to us by Friday, October 26.
Here’s How You Can Help
#1 Pray: The first thing you can do to help is stop right now and ask the Lord to intervene on behalf of Jamaa.
#2 Next, review our petition.
#3 Electronically sign the petition by clicking here.
#4 Print out the petition and take it to your friends and church and have everyone you know sign it. Send it back to us so we can compile the responses.
Feel free to print out extra signature pages for large numbers of sign ups. When you have collected all your signatures, please mail the signature pages to:
PO Box 8056
Silver Spring, MD 20907
or fax them to us at (301) 585-5918
Please get them back to us by Friday, October 26.