12/18/2018 Washington D.C. ICC – Isolation. For many Muslim-background believers, also known as MBBs, this is one of the first feelings they experience when their faith becomes public. Ostracization from their family is swift and their lives are at risk. Finding a new sense of community is challenging. But this has not prevented many MBBs in Egypt from living for Christ.
Walid* was raised in a wealthy Muslim family, but today he lives ostracized from his family and on the brink of poverty. By watching Christian media, he learned about Jesus and eventually gave his life over to Christ. His family’s reaction was deeply painful for Walid. “My Muslim family locked me up in a room for seven days without food. Then they started to make me meet imams. They ended up depriving me of my heritage. All of this happened through six months.”
His family persecuted him, encouraged by their community. Ultimately, the risk grew too great and Walid fled. But the persecution soon followed. Although he had given his life to Christ, his name gave away his Muslim background. Changing the religion on his ID card from Muslim to Christian would raise too many questions from the authorities, putting him at risk of imprisonment. Living as a Christian while legally, on paper, a Muslim exposed him to many risks.
“After I got married, I changed my apartment many times because my ID says that I’m Muslim,” Walid shared with International Christian Concern (ICC). “Imams of the mosque were trying to make me pray on Friday. My wife is not wearing the hijab and the owner of the house saw the Bible in my home. It was a big pressure on us, and I decided to stay in another apartment.”
“I wish I have a safe place where can I stay, and I want to tell about Jesus,” Walid added. Despite the intense persecution Walid suffered at the hands of his family, he has not forgotten to pray for them. “Jesus appeared to me and asked me [to] forgive them; it was very painful for me.”
Fortunately, Walid has found a new family and community in the church. “[At first], there was no one to take care of me, but now there is whole group to care for me and my family!”
While Walid has been fortunate to find a new community, many MBBs struggle to do so. Rima knows this firsthand. She came to know Jesus in the hospital, where she was seeking cancer treatment. It was the unexpected kindness of a Christian neighbor who first gave her a glimpse of Christ’s love.
“I wish I have a safe place where can I stay, and I want to tell about Jesus.”
“My neighbor was a Christian and she was needing surgery, so I helped her with some money,” Rima recalled. “After some days, I was in hospital laying on my bed, screaming and bothering people who were next to me. [Then], the Christian neighbor came and told me that she was healed and now doesn’t need a surgery!”
“Then she got the money back to me, saying that if I asked Jesus to heal you, he will [help] me recover and heal from the cancer,” Rima added.
One night, Rima decided to follow her neighbor’s suggestion. “I asked Jesus to heal me. Then, I saw a light in the room and all the people next to me saw that light. Then Jesus appeared to me and told me, ‘Don’t be afraid; you will not die!’ Really at this moment Jesus healed me and the doctors did not believe that and from that time I believed in God.”
Because of Rima’s conversion, her husband divorced her. Her sons were amazed at her healing and troubled by their father’s response. They decided to leave the home with her. One son has begun to read the Bible and the other is convinced that Islam is wrong, but hesitant to accept Christianity. Because both are now in university, Rima lives alone. She lives in an apartment that is mostly bare except for a few necessities.
“I am looking for a job which can help me to provide [for] our physical needs,” she said. Unfortunately, a job is hard to find for an Egyptian woman who is also a Muslim-background believer. A new community is also hard to find.
Thankfully, Rima is part of a discipleship group where she learns about the Bible. “We are seven persons. We pray with each other and share [amongst] ourselves the tough conditions. They helped me in applicable ways such as helping me pay the rent of my apartment and also when I’m exhausted, they always be by my side.”
But still, even among a small group of other believers, she feels lonely. “I have visited the church many times and now I have some superficial friendship with some sisters. Sometimes we meet each other, but there is no strong friendship.”
A lack of friendship, a lack of family, a sense of isolation. Life for MBBs in Egypt is extremely difficult. Yet although they have suffered much, they have kept the faith. This Christmas season, we must keep MBBs such as Walid and Rima in our prayers, that they may be uplifted and strengthened through the love of Christ.