• Central Asia: Why persecution can be worse during Ramadan…

    Wednesday (22 March) marks the beginning of Ramadan. It’s a time of the year when Christians in Muslim-majority countries or regions can encounter increased persecution – as Samil from Central Asia discovered soon after giving his life Jesus.

    When Samil* was a teenager, he joined a local football club. But little did he know that decision would kick off a journey of faith that would transform his life and lead to persecution from those closest to him.

    The club was set up by the youth leader of a local church. Growing up a Muslim, Samil had no interest in Christianity, but he was desperate for somewhere to play sport. He made new friends and ended up at a youth event which inspired him to occasionally attend church. It wasn’t long before Jesus captivated him, and he decided to give his life to Christ. He was so excited about this decision that he quickly set about telling others his newfound faith – even at the mosque.

    Image: Samil sharing his story

    Sharing his new found faith

    “I went to the mosque to share the gospel on Fridays, when it was prayer day,” Samil recalls. “I took New Testaments with me. I had so little knowledge then, but I had a great passion to tell people about the hope which they can find in Jesus.”

    It’s an approach he took following his grandmother’s funeral – much to the anger of the mullah (an Islamic teacher), who falsely accused Samil of accepting money to convert to Christianity. Despite his fervency, Samil struggled to counter the mullah’s remarks. “I was, one might say, a child in faith,” he says. “I felt so confused.”

    Undeterred, Samil began attending training run by Open Doors local partners which equipped him with the knowledge and confidence to articulate his faith and respond to questions.

    Ramadan heightens persecution

    But this brought a fresh challenge, because the more Samil spoke about Jesus, the more exposed he was to opposition. Even his mother, who had expressed some interest in Christianity, urged Samil to step away from church and faith in Jesus, such was her fear of the consequences.

    At this point hostility only came from locals, including neighbours, but that all changed at the beginning of Ramadan one year. The mullah visited the family’s home to say a prayer in honour of his grandmother, after which Samil began asking him questions about Islam. Unable to answer them, the mullah became enraged and told Samil’s parents that he had been brainwashed.

    Suddenly, Samil’s father was under pressure to do something about his son’s faith. “Every time when somebody came to our house, I knew for sure they would speak about me and that hurt my father so much and he oppressed me,” says Samil.

    Pressure also came from his sister and her husband, who is also a mullah. After talking with Samil, his brother-in-law said, “He will no longer be a normal person, there is no hope for Samil, he has already been brainwashed.” The two of them refused to have any relationship with Samil.

    Samil’s mother meets Jesus

    When his mother tragically died from bowel cancer, Samil not only lost his mother but also the one of the only people he could rely on for support. “Even though she did not agree with my decision to convert, mum understood me,” he says. “The only thing that brings me comfort is that, three days before her death, my mother accepted Christ. We prayed together. I am sure that she is with the Lord.”

    After his mother’s death, the mullah continued to turn Samil’s father against him, and things came to a head when Samil was due to get married to a Christian woman. They went against tradition by deciding not to have a mullah preside at the ceremony.

    “My father was furious. He beat me, but I didn’t feel any pain, and he kicked me out,” shares Samil, who was left to walk the streets in the middle of the night, not knowing where to go or what to do. “Then one of my sisters, Amira*, secretly opened the door for me, and I went into my room. She is the only person from my family who understands me and is not against my faith, even though she is very far from accepting Christ.”

    Persecution brings transformation

    “It is very difficult for me to endure the persecution within the family,” continues Samil. “But over the years, God has done so much. I have seen so many miracles from God. For example, my wife is a wonderful answer from God. All the relatives said that no one would want to marry me as a ‘traitor of the faith’. But God gave me a wonderful, kind, believing wife, we have a daughter growing up and now we are expecting a second child.

    “He changed my attitude towards women,” he adds. “I believed that women have no value compared to men, but now I understand that in God men and women are equal. Amid persecution, God helped me through women – first my mother, now my wife and sister.”

    The opposition remains but Samil knows he is not alone. “No matter what, God does not leave me. I get up every morning at 5am to pray, ask Him questions, sometimes shout with tears to Him. And He answers prayers. God has never left me in any difficulty. Peace always comes to the heart. Yes, I have not seen any great miracles, but the biggest one is the miracle of tranquillity – peace in the soul.

    “God also changed my attitude to persecution, before it was difficult for me to love people who hate and hurt me for my faith, now I can bless them, I can pray for them.”

    Pray now…

    • That Samil’s father and other family members, and his neighbours, will come to know Jesus
    • For the Holy Spirit to lead, guide and embolden Samil as he seeks to share the gospel with others
    • That Christians vulnerable to pressure and persecution during Ramadan will be guarded from harm and have the strength to hold onto Jesus.

    Do something now…

    1. Order our new 2023 World Watch List interactive prayer map…

    2. Take on the Risk Factor quiz and share your score with your friends…

    3. Choose to Lose and raise money and prayer for those losing out because of their faith in Jesus…

    *Names were changed for security

  • Vietnam: Thuy forgives her attacker

    Ever since Thuy* and her husband became Christians, they have been facing a lot of harassment and discrimination from their Vietnamese neighbours. This persecution escalated recently in a harsh attack, which left Thuy in hospital.

    The local authorities spread lies and malicious rumours about Christianity, so Christians are seen as untrustworthy.

    “Authorities tell the villagers that Christianity is from the West – an American belief, a religion from the enemy which is not good for them.” Athan*, a local Open Doors partner adds, “And if a Christian helps others to convert to Christianity, they are paid a lot of money – so the false rumour goes. This is why Thuy and her family were persecuted.”

    Vietnam is number 25 on the Open Doors World Watch List, and persecution is particularly rife among rural communities where ethnicity and traditional beliefs are closely intertwined, and leaving an indigenous faith to choose to follow Jesus is considered a betrayal of the community.

    Violent attack

    This tension came to a head earlier in the year. When Thuy’s husband was away at work, one of her neighbours wouldn’t stop insulting her, demanding that she either give up her Christian faith or leave the community. “If the local government does not do anything to stop you, I will!” the neighbour shouted.

    Thuy asked her to stop, but the neighbour became even angrier. She grabbed a stick and started attacking Thuy – her injuries were so bad, she was in hospital for two weeks.

    Extraordinary forgiveness

    Her case was reported to the district police after she was discharged. The local police decided that the neighbour had to compensate Thuy’s medical expenses and the wages she’s lost. But Thuy’s neighbour is very poor, and wouldn’t have been able to afford this.

    Thuy’s local pastor encouraged her to extend forgiveness and love – and Thuy didn’t hesitate. She has prioritised forgiveness and trying to have a good relationship with her neighbour, even after the attack, and has only asked for her to share the expenses of her medication (7,000,000 VND, about £245).

    Open Doors partners not allowed to visit

    After the incident, an Open Doors local partner tried to visit Thuy to pray for her and her family, but the local government did not allow him. They told him that they do not allow the practice of religion in their community.

    This partner says: “They don’t know why we’re doing this (visiting and praying) as Christians. Praying for one another is our way of life. I told to them that there is no law in Vietnam that prohibits Christians from praying for one another, but they were adamant. The local government is just making things difficult for the Christians in that area.” He plans to take the issue to higher authorities, so he can get permission to support Thuy and her family.

    Meanwhile, as Thuy is still recovering and on medication, Open Doors partners will be providing financial help to support her family until she is fully recovered and is able to get back to work. Athan is also in touch with Thuy’s local pastor – he is able to pass on the news that many people around the world are praying with her, and that she is not alone.

    Pray now…

    • For Thuy’s family to receive God’s strength and resilience as they face many kinds of persecution
    • For believers in their district to stand firm and continue to share the gospel, and for the example of forgiveness to shine the light of Christ
    • For Open Doors local partners to be equipped to support local Christians, and be given permission to meet and pray with them.

    Do something now…

    1. Order our new 2023 World Watch List interactive prayer map…

    2. Take on the Risk Factor quiz and share your score with your friends…

    3. Choose to Lose and raise money and prayer for those losing out because of their faith in Jesus…

    *Names were changed for security

  • Egypt: The miracle that changed Raina’s life

    Rania* grew up in a devoutly Muslim community near Cairo, Egypt. Becoming a Christian has endangered her – but she knows it is the best decision she ever made.

    She says: “If I would show you my face, this could cost me my life.”

    Growing up, Rania was taught to wear strict Islamic clothing as a teenage girl and, later, as a woman: “From an early age I was told that my purpose was to get married, have children and satisfy my husband. I didn’t feel like I had much value.”

    Rania did get married, and had a son. She did not feel close to her husband Sameh*, and she was horrified when he chose to follow Jesus. Everything she’d heard about Christians was bad. “My husband came to Christ first; I did not like it at all,” she says. “I had always learned that Christians were dirty and that converting to Christianity was a sin.”

    Image: Street scene in conservative part of Egypt

    Miraculous healing

    Things changed when their son became very sick. He was so ill that Rania and Sameh were worried that he would die. “My husband prayed for him – I didn’t think much of it”. But God was working.

    “As my husband was praying, my son suddenly stopped shivering and his temperature went back to normal!” This miraculous healing would have been wonderful enough – but God also sent the young boy a vision that changed the life of his family. “My son opened his eyes and told us: ‘I saw Christ on the cross looking at me, and He called me, saying: “Child arise”’,” Raina remembers. “I couldn’t stand on my legs anymore. I fell down, kneeling next to my husband crying and thanking this God I never knew. At that very point I gave my life to Jesus.”

    Secret believers

    Raina knew that openly being a Christian in her community would be extremely dangerous for her and her family. “We were living in a strictly Muslim village,” she says. “From the outside nothing had changed: I couldn’t stop wearing my veil all of a sudden. Converting to Christianity is seen as a shame for the family, something that fanatics say should be forbidden. If we wanted to live, we had to become secret believers.”

    Egypt is number 35 on the Open Doors World Watch List, and converts from Islam face enormous pressure from their families to ‘re-convert’. The state also makes it impossible for new believers to get any official recognition of their conversion.

    “If you’re a secret believer in a family, that family is your first church. Sameh and I do Bible study together, share about Jesus with our children, and pray together. It’s a journey. We were never very close [before my conversion]; now we are learning what it means to support each other in marriage.

    “The things I learned about myself ever since I was young – harmful things – are engraved deep into my soul: ‘You have no value, you have to hide yourself’. It takes time to fully let go of those convictions.”

    How Open Doors is helping

    Part of this new understanding of her identity in Christ comes from seminars by Open Doors local partners that are run for women, particularly for women from a Muslim background, many of whom have faced discrimination for their gender because of the culture they live in.

    “The women’s seminars were so helpful for me,” says Raina. “The sisters helped me to overcome the traumas of my past and God Himself told me that I am of value, that I am in fact His beloved daughter!”

    Looking to the future

    Despite the difficulties she and her family are facing, Raina is passionate about supporting other believers who’ve converted from Islam. She is now able to do that, thanks to support and training from Open Doors local partners: “Recently, a new chapter in our story started: we now have a discipleship group in our home, a house church,” says Raina.

    Please pray for us…

    “Please pray for us if you read this. Changing everything in life was not an easy step, but God was supporting us all the time and we were able to move on. We decided as a family that we will not give up. God is good.”

    Please join Raina in these prayers, and ask that other women who are persecuted for their faith and vulnerable because of their gender would be seen, heard and empowered to reach their God-given potential.

    Use these prayer points:

    • Praise God for His miraculous encounter with Raina and her family, and His faithfulness in standing with her
    • That Raina and her family would be protected from attack and able to have Christian community
    • Pray that Raina’s children would know Jesus’ love and protection, and that they’d find Christian friends their own age.
    • For all Open Doors local partners to know God’s guidance as they seek to serve converts in the region.

    Do something now…

    1. Order our new 2023 World Watch List interactive prayer map…

    2. Take on the Risk Factor quiz and share your score with your friends…

    3. Choose to Lose and raise money and prayer for those losing out because of their faith in Jesus…

  • East Africa: Aminah’s story of brave faith

    Aminah (name changed) from East Africa became a Christian after her son was healed from a strange illness when he was prayed for at her local church. “His father insisted on going to the mosque, where they would recite over the boy. But that didn’t work. I also took my son to witchdoctors. But that also did not help.”

    Her husband didn’t want Aminah taking him to a church. But, at her wits’ end, Aminah took her son to her local pastor. “I called my husband and told him that I had taken his son for Christian prayers and that his health had improved. He didn’t like it. He said that it was fine if the prayers had worked, but that our visits to the church should end there and then.”

    Isolated and beaten for choosing Jesus

    Back at home, she tried to reason with her husband about continuing to go to church. But he wouldn’t have any of it. “He said, ‘If you don’t leave that Christian religion, you can’t stay any longer in this house.’ Then he ordered my two oldest children who had joined me at church to go into the house. He beat them up.”

    As he left for a long work trip, he told Aminah to return to Islam, or leave the house and never come back. This kind of threat is commonly faced by persecuted Christian women. By being thrown out of her home, Aminah would be without a means of support or community, making her increasingly vulnerable.

    Aminah was forced to make an impossible choice – but she couldn’t leave her children, so she stayed. Her husband sent people to spy on her to make sure she didn’t go to church. He also stopped financially supporting Aminah, but instructed his brother to feed his sons.

    This kind of persecution has a devastating impact on women in communities like Aminah’s, where men are usually the breadwinners and women have little opportunity to provide their own means.

    Aminah remembers: “Life was a struggle. There was no soap, no food. He did not provide anything at all. I wondered what to do. Then my pastor called me. He told me to secretly walk to his home. There I told him what I was going through. I told him that I wanted to start a small shop to take care of myself. He connected me to Open Doors.”

    Through Open Doors local partners, Aminah was provided with a small loan, and she built a simple shop next to their house, which was on a busy road. She finally had an income of her own.

    When her husband returned he was angry. He beat her up and forced her to take down her shop. At this point, Aminah realised a divorce was her only option and moved out of the house.

    Starting over

    Image: Aminah and her children

    In the midst of her distress, God turned Aminah’s life around. She had her own plot of land nearby – and, through her church, Open Doors helped her to restart her life again. She built a new home for herself, and a new shop. “I can now feed myself and my children who chose to live with me,” she says. “First, my children were not in school, because there was no money for school fees. Now, thanks to you, they are studying.

    Aminah’s story is one of many illustrating the way that Christian women are vulnerable to persecution for both their faith and their gender. Aminah’s suffering went unnoticed by everyone – except her global church family. Your prayers and gifts really do make a huge difference and will help more women like Aminah to be seen, heard and empowered to live out their God-given identity.

    Pray now…

    • For emotional and physical healing for Aminah and her children
    • That God would continue to provide for them, and soften her husband’s heart
    • For local Open Doors partners in East Africa as they help more Christians like Aminah.

    Do something now…

    1. Pre-order our new 2023 World Watch List interactive prayer map…

    2. Take on the Risk Factor quiz and share your score with your friends…

    3. Choose to Lose and raise money and prayer for those losing out because of their faith in Jesus…

  • Pray this prayer for persecuted Christian women and girls

    Sarah (name changed) in North Africa was thrown out of her home by her dad because of her faith. Later, her husband threw her out of another home. In her country, as a woman, she is particularly vulnerable without the protection of her family.

    If she were a man, being forced to leave home would be devastating – but a man might be able to find a job, a home and safety. Women in her culture only leave the family home when they marry. By throwing her out, her father wasn’t just rejecting her. He was endangering her life.

    Around the world, millions of women from religious minorities face persecution for their faith and their gender. Many of them – like Sarah – live in cultures where women are not viewed as equal to men. In many cases, being a Christian means that they are regarded as having even less worth.

    Open Doors partners help women like Sarah to realise that they are cherished and valued. But our vision is that every woman who is persecuted for her faith and gender is seen, valued and empowered to reach her God-given potential. So, please pray with us that they will know how valued they are.

    Pray this prayer for women and girls in the persecuted church

    Lord Jesus,

    You are the God who created women in Your image and sees their true value. We praise You for the brave faith of persecuted Christian women around the world.

    Draw near to those who are threatened, locked away or abused for their choice to follow You.

    Make a way for girls to receive the education and training they need to thrive.

    Bless the widows and the refugees and provide for all their needs.

    Open the eyes of our persecuted sisters to see how precious they are in Your sight.

    May they hear You calling each of them by name; and may their courage and testimony draw many others to You.


    Do something now…

    1. Pre-order our new 2023 World Watch List interactive prayer map…

    2. Take on the Risk Factor quiz and share your score with your friends…

    3. Choose to Lose and raise money and prayer for those losing out because of their faith in Jesus…

  • Indonesia: Nara’s story

    When Nara’s daughter married a Christian, all she wanted was that her child would remain a Muslim. Right before the wedding, Nara said to her daughter, “Don’t convert to Christianity.” In Indonesia there are no laws preventing Christians and Muslims marrying, but it’s not very common, as families of different religions don’t tend to mix.

    In fact, Indonesia has been developing a more conservative Islamic character. That means Indonesians who are brought up as Muslims but become Christians will likely face disapproval, intense pressure to return to Islam, verbal abuse and possibly social isolation. In some cases, families will withdraw all support. Married women may keep their new faith secret a to avoid the threat of their husbands divorcing them. Some women are even faced with psychological abuse, including death threats, for practising Christianity.

    In that context, you can see why Nara, a Muslim widow, didn’t want her daughter to become a Christian. But in the space of a few weeks, all that changed.

    Image: Indonesian street scene.

    Nara’s dream..

    Nara had no real knowledge of Christianity – she’d seen a picture of Jesus at a friends house, but that was it. So, she was shocked that a few nights after the wedding she was awoken by a strange dream. In her dream, she saw Jesus and all she could say was, “Lord Jesus, Lord Jesus, please help.”

    No matter how hard Nara tried to ignore it, the dream kept coming back to her mind. “My chest feels tight [when I think about it]. [After that incident] I didn’t have the desire to go to work selling vegetables, so I stayed at home,” said Nara.

    People in her neighbourhood knew that Nara was a widow, so when she didn’t turn up to her usual market stand, her neighbours started to wonder what had happened.

    One of Nara’s regular customers, who was also a Christian, phoned her to see how she was. Nara told her about her dream. “At the time, my Christian customer asked if I was willing to meet with her pastor. I immediately agreed”, Nara recalls.

    When the pastor heard about her dream, he said, “God desires to touch your life. Do you want to accept Him as your Lord and Savior?” She immediately said ‘yes’, because of the anxiety she had been experiencing over the last couple of weeks.

    She knew that she needed to do something. “So, when I said that I wanted to accept the Lord Jesus, the Pastor led me to accept Him. And my heart was filled with peace afterwards. Everything that had previously agitated me simply vanished.”

    Nara is now part of a discipleship group led by this pastor. This pastor uses teaching materials provided by Open Doors partners to help those who come along to the group grow in their relationship with God.

    Sadly, the story doesn’t end there. The news of Nara’s newfound faith was met with confusion and anger from her unmarried daughters. They were so shocked that they have moved out of home, leaving Nara to make ends meet by herself. Because of her decision to leave Islam to become a Christian, her neighbours have also started to ignore her and exclude her from community activities.

    “I have a lot of obstacles to overcome, but it doesn’t matter”, says Nara. “The Lord Jesus has saved me, and for that I am thankful. He directs me to His path and light. I’ll keep following Jesus until He calls me home.”

    Please continue to pray for Nara as she chooses to follow Jesus even in this trying season.

    Pray now…

    • For God to touch the hearts of her daughters to accept her new faith and to find Jesus for themselves.
    • That her faith continues to grow and she would stand strong despite opposition.
    • That God will bless her small business and the work of her hands.
    • That she will have the courage to share about God’s goodness He has done in her life.

    Do something now…

    1. Pre-order our new 2023 World Watch List interactive prayer map…

    2. Take on the Risk Factor quiz and share your score with your friends…

    3. Choose to Lose and raise money and prayer for those losing out because of their faith in Jesus…

  • India: Mass Christian protest

    More than 15,000 Christians from around 70 denominations in India came together in the capital New Delhi last month to protest against ongoing persecution.

    The peaceful protests on Sunday 19 February called on the government, the court and civil society to intervene on behalf of persecuted Christians, particularly in states that in recent years have passed so-called ‘anti-conversion laws’.

    In theory, these laws prohibit forced conversion from Hinduism to another religion, but in practice they are often used as an excuse to harass and intimidate Christians who are simply doing things like distributing aid or having a private church meeting.

    Around 600 reported cases of violence in 2022

    India is number 11 on the World Watch List, making it a place of extreme persecution for many of the country’s 69.5 million Christians (five per cent of the total population).

    According to research by the United Christian Forum, a New Delhi-based human rights group, there were 598 reported cases of violence against Christians in 2022. Just before Christmas, hundreds of tribal Christians were forced to flee their homes in Chhattisgarh state after they were attacked, allegedly for converting to Christianity.

    Last month, a church in Madhya Pradesh was burned down and a slogan praising Jesus erased and replaced with the name of a Hindu deity. Three men have been arrested in connection with the incident.

    Promising developments – but action needed

    Last month’s protest is hopefully another positive step towards provoking the authorities into more decisive action for Christians affected by persecution.

    Last year, the Supreme Court began an investigation into the issue, which last month led to the court telling the governments of seven states to urgently provide details of attacks on Christians and give feedback as to what steps were taken in responding to the incidents. The order comes after they failed to produce the requested information in response to an earlier court order in September. They were given three weeks to comply.

    Meanwhile, in another promising development, a Commission has been asked to investigate whether a government benefit for society’s poorest people can be extended to include minority religions, including Christianity.

    The scale of opposition against many Christians is huge and these steps will only mean anything if the authorities resolve to provide Christians with greater protection and freedom. Please continue to pray for our Indian family.

    Pray now…

    • That this protest will galvanise the authorities into providing Christians with greater protection and freedom
    • That developments with the Supreme Court and support for society’s poorest will lead to real change for many Christians in India
    • For the protection, strength and encouragement of believers across India.

    Do something now…

    1. Pre-order our new 2023 World Watch List interactive prayer map…

    2. Take on the Risk Factor quiz and share your score with your friends…

    3. Choose to Lose and raise money and prayer for those losing out because of their faith in Jesus…

    Pray now…

    • That Nadia will continue to grow in her faith
    • For strength and boldness for believers on the Arabian Peninsula
    • That God would help Open Doors partners to reach and support more persecuted Christians.
  • Iran: Pastor released from prison

    Some good news from Iran, several Christian prisoners, including Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani who has been in prison for nearly five years, have been released.

    Pastor Nadarkhani is the last to be released of four Christian converts sentenced to ten years in prison in 2017 for house church activities. After their sentences were reduced at a retrial in 2020, Youhan Omidi and Yasser Mossayebzadeh were released in 2022 and 2021 respectively. Last month, Zaman Fadaie (known as Saheb) was released (on 9 February), and this was followed by Pastor Nadarkhani’s release (26 February).

    The pastor told Article18 (a human rights organisation that defends religious freedom in Iran) that he was ‘happy to be released and at home after nearly five years in prison’ and ‘very grateful for all those who prayed for me and remembered me while I was in prison’. He added, “All I endured was small in comparison with what Christ has done for us.”

    What’s it like to be a Christian in Iran?

    However, your prayers continue to be needed because Pastor Nadarkhani – who, since 2006, has repeatedly been harassed, arrested and imprisoned for his Christian activities – still faces flogging and two years living in exile on the other side of Iran.

    In February 2021, a UN report said Nadarkhani had been the victim of ‘religiously motivated persecution’ and that his detention was unlawful.

    Deeper change needed

    The releases of Pastor Nadarkhani and Zaman Fadaie are among a wave of pardons by the Iranian regime as it marks the 44th anniversary of the Islamic Republic. Two other Christians, Mehdi Rokhparvar and Moslem Rahimi, were also released last month.

    This is good news and follows the acquittal last year of nine Christians who faced the prospect of five years in prison. In late 2021, the Iranian Supreme Court decreed that belonging to a house church was not a criminal offence. However, despite this, Christians continue to face oppression for expression their faith, with many believers still facing charges and imprisonment.

    As Article18’s latest annual report says, ”Such pardons, while welcome, do not address the original injustice of their sentencing and imprisonment, and the government continues to regard rights and freedoms guaranteed in international law as crimes, including the right to freely adopt a religion of one’s choice, and to manifest one’s faith in community with others.”

    Pray now…

    • Give thanks for the release of Pastor Nadarkhani and the other believers
    • That Pastor Nadarkhani will not have to face flogging and exile
    • That these pardons will be followed with the release of more Christian prisoners and the provision of greater freedom for believers across Iran.

    Do something now…

    1. Pre-order our new 2023 World Watch List interactive prayer map…

    2. Take on the Risk Factor quiz and share your score with your friends…

    3. Choose to Lose and raise money and prayer for those losing out because of their faith in Jesus…

  • Syria: Earthquake response

    Reverend Ibrahim is an Open Doors partner in Aleppo, Syria. In this interview, he shares how his church is helping, his hopes for the future and what Open Doors supporters can do to stand alongside those who are vulnerable and suffering.

    What was your initial response to the earthquakes?

    I asked the president of the Aleppo school to open the school and make space so we can receive people as a shelter there. Then I went back to my church, to see what happened to it. The front part of the church was very dangerous. It was going to fall. However, I was not so concerned about the building – I was concerned about the parish and the people there. So I told the people who were in the church, who went there for safety, that it was not safe anymore. I said, “Please go out of the church and go to our shelter in the school.”

    Give now…

    A gift of whatever you can afford, could help to provide urgent relief, including food and blankets, for a persecuted Christian in the region affected by the earthquake.

    What happened next?

    I started to organise the shelter, and this shelter was open to everybody. We never asked the people about their religion, we never asked about their ethnicity. I thought about what Jesus said: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in […] Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:35, 40)
    So I said to everybody, go ahead and let us start feeding the people. They were thirsty, and I said to bring drinkable water to everybody – there was a danger that the water they had wasn’t clean because of the earthquake. We also brought mattresses and blankets.

    How many people has your church been able to help?

    On the first day, we received 633 people, whom we took care of. On the second day we received 697 people, whom we took care of. On the third day, we received 253, whom we took care of. I don’t remember the other numbers on the days after. And every day we provide 1,500 sandwiches for lunch for public shelters, as nobody can afford food. We offer them food and water. This isn’t just for Christians, by the way. The shelters are for anybody.

    What we did, as a church, by the grace of God – we were there. It was really a blessing that the church was available when others weren’t yet. We were, from the beginning, taking care of the community – trying to bring a type of peace into the lives of people.

    “People of the cross,” she told me, “you were our family, taking care of us.”

    They have seen Jesus Christ working through us. That He was and is and will be with us in the critical times. In one way or another, the church was carrying the living existence of Jesus Christ among the suffering society, among the community that was feeling that God was far away from them. One woman, a non-Christian, wanted to thank us but didn’t even know the word ‘Christian’. “People of the cross,” she told me, “you were our family, taking care of us.”

    Instead of concentrating on the bad situation, I was leading the church of Aleppo in how to deal with this critical situation – bringing transformation in the lives of society because of the presence of Jesus Christ within this church. To be salt and light in this intolerable situation. Later on, I had to deal with other critical questions that were raised by our community: Why did Jesus do that? And I had to teach the people that it is not Jesus or God who did it, because God does not do evil things.

    On Sunday morning, our doors were open, and there were 350 people in the worship service – not complaining, but asking God to have mercy over us and deliver us and bring us into deeper relationship with Him.

    What was the economic situation for Syrians before the earthquakes?

    People were not able even to eat. They were just relying on what we do – food baskets, hygiene baskets we provide them. The situation was critical. The churches were trying to decrease the suffering of the people – but what we can do is so little compared with the needs.

    Do people in your church want to stay in Aleppo?

    You have to know that, only 30km from us, from Antioch, Christianity spread all over the world. We need to keep Christians in this place, in this country. We need to support their presence. If the economy isn’t helping them, we as churches all around the world, we should be their economy. We should be their schools, to teach them. We should be their fuel, where they can’t have coal.

    As for me – I had chances to leave, and I chose not to leave. It is to do with my identity – I believe I am called to be a servant of Jesus Christ, and I have to be a good shepherd. When everything is ok in this country, maybe it will be time for my family to leave, to emigrate. But for now, I will remain. Nothing at all is attractive to me in this part of the country. What is attracting me to be in this country is Jesus Christ, and only Jesus Christ.

    How can we pray?

    Thank you. Prayer is very important. Being one church is crucial. First of all, reconciliation between the people. Second, one church – we need to be one church, and to be unique here. Thirdly, I ask that God would accept our ministry, although it is not perfect.

    Pray now…

    • For the church in Syria to be a unified light of hope in the midst of this ongoing crisis
    • For strength and equipping for Reverend Ibrahim and all Open Doors partners in the region
    • That God would bless and encourage all who are suffering and mourning.

    Give now…

    A gift of whatever you can afford, could help to provide urgent relief, including food and blankets, for a persecuted Christian in the region affected by the earthquake.

  • Arabian Peninsula: Nadia’s journey to Jesus

    “Just before finding Jesus, it was the lowest moment of my life,” remembers Nadia (name changed). “I felt like there was no hope.”

    Nadia had always been searching for God. She was brought up in a Muslim family, but she struggled to find truth and life following Islam. “I consider myself a seeker. Since I was very young, from the moment I conceptualised the idea of God, I’ve been seeking ever since. God, and the search for truth, were the main parts of my life.”

    So, she began to search. But in the Arabian Peninsula, such a journey isn’t something that’s easy or safe. “There were actual, real repercussions when asking spiritual questions,” Nadia remembers.

    “When I was seven years old, I was at school and there was an interesting subject regarding free will. I asked a very challenging question to the teacher and, instead of encouraging me, I got in trouble. My mother, to keep things peaceful and safe for me, told me, ‘Don’t ask questions, just do what you have to do, just finish school and that’s what you need to do.’”

    Nadia continues her search…

    Although Nadia had known about Jesus from childhood, she didn’t make the connection between Him and everything she was searching for. Her spiritual seeking led her instead to New Age practices.

    There is a big cultural interest in mysticism and the New Age beliefs in the Arabian Peninsula, partly thanks to Islam itself: “That really sparked a curiosity,” says Nadia. “So, year after year, reading various books, watching different documentaries, talking to different people, traveling to different places, it brought me into this world of all sorts of strange things.”

    And yet, as she continued exploring these practices, her personal life was falling apart. She’d become estranged from her family, and they emotionally abused her and cut her off. She went months without talking to either of her parents. “I felt like there was no hope, and it had already been about a year since I was very angry at God, very angry at Him. There was a lot of anger and I just stopped talking to Him.

    There was a peace there, and I knew that I wasn’t alone…

    Finding Jesus

    “I’ve known who Jesus was since I was a child. I have a heritage that’s Western [and] I have family on one side of my parents who are believers, so it wasn’t really a foreign concept for me. I knew who Jesus was, but there were a lot of gaps in understanding various stories about the Bible, and I had no idea what the gospel was really.”

    Jesus found her just after her father died. “That was really the first time that I felt there was a Father who had adopted me after my own father had passed,” she says. “There was a peace there, and I knew that I wasn’t alone… Jesus knows each and every one of us, and He knows what’s in our hearts, and He knows what each individual needs uniquely in their life or in that moment.”

    Part of the family of God

    Although Jesus had rescued her, following Him in the Arabian Peninsula – where Christianity is largely suppressed – brought new challenges. “The risks are very real,” Nadia says. “It’s very challenging to find a church and other believers. One of the main reasons is fear. You could be afraid that you’re talking to someone who’s not a believer, but they’re posing as one.

    “The first time I met other believers, real born-again believers, it was a wonderful experience. I had prayed for that for a long time, to really be able to connect to people who understand what I feel and be able to talk to them and see that they have the same Spirit that I have and rejoice in that joy. It was one of the most wonderful experiences. It was very overwhelming. Since I came to Christ, I definitely learned what it means to be in the family of God and that I am not alone.”

    Open Doors partners have worked with Nadia to disciple her and help her grow in faith – and to begin to share her depth of faith with others across the region.

    The idea of so many people around the world praying for me and for the people in this area really gives hope as to how connected we are as the body of Christ.

    Your prayers ‘have affected me and other people in the region’

    Nadia knows that she can trust Jesus no matter what happens. “What does Jesus mean to me? He means everything. He changed my life in ways that I have never experienced. I will be eternally grateful.”

    Thank you for praying with your persecuted church family on the Arabian Peninsula. Nadia has seen the power of your prayers at work: “The idea of so many people around the world praying for me and for the people in this area really gives hope as to how connected we are as the body of Christ. The more people in this area know this, the more encouraged they’ll feel that they’re not by themselves. Those prayers have affected me and other people living in this region who’ve found the truth and seen the light.”

    Do something now…

    1. Pre-order our new 2023 World Watch List interactive prayer map…

    2. Take on the Risk Factor quiz and share your score with your friends…

    3. Choose to Lose and raise money and prayer for those losing out because of their faith in Jesus…

    Pray now…

    • That Nadia will continue to grow in her faith
    • For strength and boldness for believers on the Arabian Peninsula
    • That God would help Open Doors partners to reach and support more persecuted Christians.
  • We support people who are beaten, tortured,
    imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.