In photo: : Islèm searched for Jesus online, despite the danger.

 Social media can be a lifeline when you’re in isolation – something we have experienced because of Covid-19. But for Islèm*, searching for a Christian community online was a dangerous decision. 

A girl, just out of hospital, searched for Jesus on her smartphone. It was a dangerous thing to do. She knew that her Muslim community might reject her, or even kill her, if they found out her secret. Islèm thought she was the only Christian in North Africa. But there is a secret and fast-growing network of Muslim-background believers living all across the region. And thankfully, they found her.

 

“God, why me?”

 Islèm was 15 and had just been released from hospital after a suicide attempt. Her home life was difficult. She says, “My father was leaving the house a lot and he was aggressive.

Islèm found herself in hospital for two months. During her isolation, she began to question her life and her faith. She says, “One night, I saw the moon and asked God: ‘Why me? Why did you create me? If you are God, show who You are.” Amazingly, it was the following day that the doctor gave Islèm permission to leave the hospital. Her mind was made up: she decided to change her life. She looked for Jesus online. Islèm says, “I saw a page on Facebook called ‘Christians in [my country]’. It was strange for me. Maybe it was a sign. I clicked on it and sent a message. I was curious about what would happen.”

“I thought there were no Christians in North Africa.”

In photo: Islèm’s secret Bible is precious.

Violent threat

When Islèm reached out to other Christians in her area, their initial reaction was suspicion. Islèm’s profile was all about her Islamic faith, and the threat of militant Islam to Christians across the region made them nervous. They assumed she was a spy from Islamic State.

However, Islèm persisted. Slowly, she gained their trust and convinced the pastor that her curiosity was genuine. One of the most significant moments on Islèm’s journey was the day she was given a Bible, made possible by your support for Open Doors.

A girl and her brother delivered the Bible. Islèm remembers, “I had many questions. I asked if could come with them to church and she said yes.”

Photo: Believers must meet in secret in North Africa. Image used for illusrative purposes.

Joining a community Open Doors supports a network of follow-up workers who are able to establish contact to those searching for Christ online or through social media. Joining an underground community of believers proved to Islèm that she was not alone. She says, “I went to church and it was great. I felt as if the pastor was answering the questions I had when I was in hospital. On that day, I became a believer.” Islèm had found a spiritual home, peace in Jesus and a new community to belong to. But she was terrified about what would happen if her father discovered her new faith.

“I thought that if I would say something more, my Dad would kill me.”

In North Africa, conversion from Islam is thought to bring shame on the family. The life of a convert is that of an apostate: they face rejection, imprisonment, even the threat of death. Without support, secret believers find it almost impossible to grow in their new Christian life. Persecution becomes too much. Under pressure from all sides, some return to the religion of their community. And it’s even harder now, following the rise of Covid-19. Secret believers are even more isolated and often lack the family and community support to keep going through a crisis.

“Jesus is like oxygen, because without oxygen you cannot breathe. If Jesus was not in my life, I would not be here today. I would not be alive.”

 Islèm lives in constant tension, knowing that her faith in Jesus puts her in danger – even from her own family. That’s why your support for Open Doors is such a lifeline.

Islèm’s identity is hidden for her safety.

 Be a lifeline to isolated secret believers at risk in North Africa.

PLEASE GIVE

Every PHP 2,350 could provide digital training and discipleship for a young believer from a Muslim background.

Every  PHP 3,450 could provide relief aid to a family of persecuted believers impacted by the coronavirus lockdown.

 Every PHP 4,350 could mean 35 people are reached by the church through social media.

PLEASE PRAY

Pray that Muslim seekers will find faith and community, as well as the strength to stand firm in their faith and to be a witness.

Pray for our teams and partners in North Africa who are helping secret believers isolated due to the coronavirus crisis. Many don’t have a family network to support them.

 Pray that we will reach those who cannot buy the food they need. Pray that the church will be salt and light during this time of fear and isolation, showing the love of Christ to neighbors and finding creative ways to meet for worship.