Family Fear Persecution if they Return to Comoros Islands
By Teresa Young
PLAINVIEW Fedha Mohamed Elyas has visited her children in Plainview before and returned home to Africa with no problems. But this time, going home doesnt present a rosy picture.
Elyas is a resident of the Comoros Islands , off the southeastern coast of Africa , and she professes faith in Jesus Christwhich puts her in a tiny minority in her native land.
While the 98 percent Muslim country has not traditionally been open to other faiths, the election of a new ruler recently meant a much more hostile environment for Christians. Many have already been imprisoned, fined and tortured, and Elyas has no reason to believe she will receive any different treatment. Friends have already reported her house was searched and her name is on a list of Christians now in the hands of the Comorian government.
She first visited Plainview last summer to see her son, Daniel, then a senior at Wayland Baptist University , and a daughter, Maureen, a sophomore. She returned in the spring to see Daniel receive his diploma from WBU and planned to stay for a few months. News from home, however, has left her afraid to return.
Under the ruling of Islamic fundamentalist Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi since May, the Comoros Islands are currently ranked 15th on the Open Doors list of the Top 50 worst persecuting countries in the world. Elyas and her fellow Christians had to worship in secret for fear of being discovered by the government.
The government did not give you liberty to preach or worship, she said. People would come to my house, which is far from town, to worship. Someone would stand outside so if they saw anyone coming, we could hide the Bibles.
Choosing Christianity in 1996, Elyass family turned her back on her when she turned to faith in Christ. Though raised in the Muslim tradition, she would sneak away to attend church as a young adult.
Sometimes when I found myself in real trouble, I would pray the Christian way. I would pray to Jesus, she said. But whenever my prayers were answered, I would tell myself it was just coincidence, and go back to the Muslim way.
She soon chose to follow Christ and has been an outspoken leader among Christians in the Comoros .
Since she is a diabetic who controls her condition with diet and exercise, Elyas and her family believe a prison sentence would be almost a death sentence.
In the Comoros , all basic necessities such as food and clothing have to be provided by the family, not the state. Christians attempting to bring food would run the risk of being arrested themselves.
One of the Christians (in prison) was sick with malaria (the No. 1 killer in the Comoros ), and some people brought him medication which they gave to the guards, Daniel said. But it never reached him. Even if a family member brings you food, theres no guarantee that it will get to youespecially if you are Christian.
With two children in the United States and another son, Nicky, studying in France, Elyas has no one in Comoros to care for her should she end up in prison.
Her only hope is to apply for political asylum in the United States and hope to wait out the political storm in her own country. She intends to return there as soon as conditions are safer, as do her children, also Christians.