“Welcome to our prison: Istanbul!”
That is how our host greeted those gathered for a recent conference of believers from Muslim backgrounds. She fled Syria nine years ago and is now stuck in her host country, Turkey, unable to return home.
More than 30 pastors and church leaders from nine countries had gathered to share stories and encouragement. Many of their spouses were present as well. I was blessed to join these precious brothers and sisters during the conference and get a glimpse of life under persecution.
Personal stories of life under persecution
All of their stories contained similar elements: Jesus Christ revealed Himself to them in different ways as their lovely Lord and Savior; trouble, hardships, and suffering soon followed. Almost all of these believers experienced rejection by family, friends, and communities because of their apostasy as they pursued their newfound Lord.
Hussain was a police officer assigned to spy on a Christian woman who had converted from Islam. He ended up falling in love with her — and with Jesus. When they married, he soon found himself ousted from his secure civil service position.
Rachel had dreams and visions of Jesus that led her to approach a Christian woman who could tell her more about the Savior. After learning more, Rachel gave her heart and life to Jesus. Soon she found herself running for her life from hardline Muslim family members who wanted to kill her, finally taking refuge in a safe house provided by ANM. She lives there now. Rachel was not allowed to travel to the conference, but a video interview revealed a lovely young woman who only wants freedom to pursue Jesus, the love of her life, openly.
I heard many more stories, similar in nature and equally powerful. These precious believers walk a hard road, isolated and alone in their homelands with nobody to share their burdens and sorrows. But they remain committed to following Jesus and telling others about Him through all their trials and suffering. They are confident they will survive, knowing that fellow believers in other places are with them in spirit and prayer.
For me, one of the greatest blessings of the conference was to see those distant connections become visible and personal for a few days — there was so much joy in their fellowship.
Renewed inspiration to pray for the persecuted
I came home with a new appreciation for the words of Hebrews 13:3 — “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
As we approach the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on November 7, I’m remembering and praying for my brothers and sisters in North Africa and the Middle East — and around the world.
Would you join me?
Provide safe housing for persecuted believers who have to flee their homes, families, and communities.
Header image: stock photo by [2Ni] on Unsplash