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07/03/2023 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – In one of the world’s most persecuted regions, the church is experiencing a remarkable surge of new believers. Despite the persecution and pressure from Islamic families and culture, an unprecedented number of Muslims across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) turn to Christianity.

When Muslims convert in this region, they know persecution will immediately enter their life. Because of the unique backgrounds and situations of these new brothers and sisters, we refer to them as Muslim-background believers (MBBs).

These courageous people endure great hardships throughout their journey, from the time they first explored Christianity to the beginning of their new Christian life and beyond.

It is International Christian Concern’s (ICC) privilege to support MBBs as they navigate their new faith. We rescue some from life-threatening situations and restore livelihood opportunities for families that lost everything for their conversion.

In carefully coordinated work with partners across the MENA region, ICC has helped dozens of MBBs relocate to a safe living situations, build a sustainable livelihood source, and connect them to opportunities to grow holistically in their new faith in Jesus.


The experiences of MBBs differ greatly from one another.

Some MBBs grow up in close-knit Muslim communities, cherished and respected by their families and tribes. Choosing to love Christ more than their family (Matthew 10:37) can be excruciatingly painful and heartbreaking for both the new believer and their Muslim loved ones.

In North Africa, for example, a father gave his MBB son 12 days to renounce Christianity, and when the son did not, his father and the whole village arranged a funeral for him to symbolize that for them, he was dead; he was no longer a part of the tribe because he had become a Christian.

Other MBBs come from broken families marked by abuse, divorce, extreme poverty, or the traumas of conflict and war. ICC especially helps MBB women who have experienced not only persecution because of their new faith, but also gender-based violence in their Muslim community before they found hope in Jesus.


Muslims who ask too many questions about their religion are seen as threats to the broader Muslim community. In the deeply religious cultures of the Middle East, to lose faith in God and religion is not only an internally troubling thing for the questioner, but is also seen as the seed of apostasy (to question and explore answers outside of Islam). They must explore Christianity in complete secret with great sensitivity.

Many MBBs are young people who, after trying to find peace in Islam, ultimately encounter confusion about who God really is. Many of them become atheists or agnostics until they dream of Jesus, stumble across a Christian social media page, or meet a Christian friend to whom they turn to find their answer and hope in Jesus.

Tragically, when family members learn of their curiosity, MBBs often face disownment, assault, and even life-threatening attacks, as their Muslim family tries to rid itself of the shame that an “apostate” new Christian brings them.


Most MENA countries have anti-conversion laws in place that persecute converts to Christianity.

Apostasy laws in some countries criminalize conversion from Islam to Christianity, making it punishable by imprisonment or death.

Anti-proselytization laws restrict or prohibit any effort to share the Christian gospel, bringing great pressure to new converts and Christians who agree to meet with a seeker to help answer their questions about Christianity.

Many MENA countries regulate identification and inter-faith marriage. Throughout the Muslim-majority world, one’s religious identification from birth is included on identification documents. It is not possible to change one’s ID from Muslim to Christian. This leads to several challenges throughout the rest of the MBBs life, including restrictions on marriage and the education of children in the public school systems who will also be registered as Muslims.


When an MBB decides to follow Jesus, society sees them as a threat to the social fabric and cultural norms of society. They may be physically and verbally assaulted, exiled from their town or country, imprisoned, or separated from or rejected by their family. They may face imprisonment, be a fugitive from relatives who try to kill them, or be condemned to execution for choosing Jesus instead of reverting back to Islam.

Other times, MBBs lose their jobs, or have their possessions, home, or business taken from them. ICC steps into the lives of these persecuted brothers and sisters to protect them and restore what they have lost for Christ’s sake. Some of them need to be relocated to a safe place. ICC also helps them find new jobs and start small businesses to provide for their families.


Restrictions and punishments in many MENA countries often deter Christians from relating to Muslim seekers or new believers in Jesus to help them in their new journey.

Many MBBs find it difficult to build relationships with other Christians due to a lack of trust and a fear of bringing further persecution to both sides. Unfortunately, there have been cases of MBBs returning to Islam when under pressure, many times citing a lack of both physical and spiritual support to help them stay the course in their new faith. ICC connects new believers with on-the-ground partners who help their faith grow and get the physical assistance they need to experience the tangible love of Christian family and community.

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