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Islam in China

The price of being a true believer of Muslim background in China

Jess and Rena with their baby son were kicked out and all their sheep and horses were taken away. They didn’t have any money, not enough clothes to wear and no place to sleep.

SECRET BELIEVERS AUTHOR Puertas Abiertas España 02 NOVEMBER 2016 17:10 h GMT+1
china, countryside Chinies countryside. / MIT

The few thousand Muslim background believers (MBBs) living in western China are the most persecuted group in this country as they face persecution from both the government and their own families and communities. 

Unlike many Han Chinese Christians, MBBs face many more challenges. One of the greatest challenges facie is marriage. To practice the principle of 2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” there is a price to pay. Jess and Rena are a faithful MBB couple, but things were not the way they used to be.



Rena converted to Christ from Islam in her early 20s. She is a courageous young woman to witness Christ in her family, though she was cursed and driven away by her own parents.

She knew that she had to marry someone who shared the same faith. She cried out to the Lord and asked for a godly husband when she felt alone. Most of her friends were married and even became mothers. “To be frank, I really wanted to get married at that time,” Rena said. “Then I met Jess.”

“I knew she would be the one at first sight,” Jess said and a blush appears on his face. “There was something about her that attracted me very much.”

But Jess was told that he had to believe in Jesus first. “I didn’t really care who Jesus was. All I wanted at that time was to marry her. I am 10 years older than her after all and I couldn’t afford waiting.” Jess went with Rena to a local MBB leader and asked for a baptism. “They asked me some questions and I said yes to reluctantly, but just thinking about our wedding day, I was willing to say yes to anything.” Jess and Rena laugh.



The first year was a disaster—they quarreled every day. Rena often wept and complained that she had been deceived. Jess took off his mask and refused to go to their Bible study or other gatherings with fellow MBBs. Things got even worse when their first son was born. “We smashed many bowls and cups,” Rena looks at Jess and says: “I was too young to be a mother and I wasn’t ready to enter into marriage.”

Jess, on the other hand, tried to run away from the tension and conflicts at home. He has a gift of music, he taught himself how to play piano and guitar, and he even learned how to compose on his own. “I was busy attending different talent shows,” Jess said. “I dreamt of performing at a big stage and hearing applause from people of a full house.” But Jess didn’t obtain good results. So he had to come back home and continue to fake happiness in front of others. One day, he saw the Bible on the bed and began to read. “It was my first time to read the Bible and I couldn’t stop,” Jess said. “I really prayed that day when I read these words, I experienced unexpected inner peace that I never experienced before.” Something is changing in his heart.  “Jesus, please help me to love my wife, fix my marriage if you are the true Lord.”

After that, Jess started to help Rena do some housework and care for the baby. Rena noticed this difference, and one day, Jess asked to attend the weekly bible study group at night. “I pray for you every day and God clearly answered my prayers,” Rena told Jess. “In the past many brothers and sisters were against our marriage, now I see God’s grace when I was rebellious.”



“When I thought life would be happily ever after, a fierce storm was building up.”

Jess’s two older brothers found out about his new faith, and they found it to be a disgrace in a Muslim family. They slapped his face. “They had never beaten me before... But I couldn’t deceive Jesus again.”

Jess and Rena with their baby son were kicked out and all their sheep and horses were taken away. They didn’t have any money, not enough clothes to wear and no place to sleep.

“It occurred to me that my parents left an abandoned house in the mountain,” Jess continues. It was their only choice. Since it had been abandoned for so long, the ceiling was leaking and all windows were broken. The temperature could drop dramatically at night in the mountain. A gust of cold wind made them shiver violently.  There was no water and electricity either. “Is it really worth it?” Rena asked. Jess held her tight in his arms and said, “Dear, Jesus is worth it.”

Every day Jess has to go to a river nearby to fetch two buckets of water and use candles at night. His brothers came once and requested him to divorce Rena. “They know it’s impossible. They told us if we turned back to Islam, they would build a big and beautiful house for us. But Jesus is more precious than that.”

Without sheep and horses, it’s hard for them to live. Jess figured out a way to make an income for his family. He purchases socks, scarves, and belts and sells them at bazaar (local market only once a week). Life is still hard for them, especially in the winter. It’s freezing outside and Jess need go to a far place to fetch water because the river nearby freezes during winter time.

Having learnt about Jess’ situation, Open Doors has provided a small fund for Jess to do more street vendor business so that he can support his family and remain in the community. “Thank you so much for your support and I will use the funds wisely.”



Among the 90 million Christians in China, there are only a few thousand Muslim background believers (MBBs).

The few thousand MBBs living in western China are some of the most persecuted groups. On one hand, the government imposes tight control over this sensitive region in order to defend from terrorist attacks and to reiterate its position of anti-Islamic extremism and anti-infiltration of religious issues by forces from overseas

On the other hand, they also face persecution from their family, friends, and neighbors.  Conversion to Christianity is seen as a disgrace to a Muslim family and treason to the community. If Christians are discovered they run the risk of being disowned by their families and thrown out of their homes.

Open Doors China keeps searching for the most persecuted Christian groups in China even though Christians in most parts of China have been gaining more space for practicing their faith in recent years.  We strengthen the faith of the most persecuted MBBs in China by providing persecution related training and Christian materials, connecting the isolated ones to Christian groups, and providing micro-loans for them to mainland livelihood.

It is because of stories like Jess and Rena’s, a living testimony of the difficulties are facing in different parts of the world, that Open Doors in Spain (Puertas Abiertas) has launched its #GivingTuesday campaign. GivingTuesday is an online platform created to encourage solidarity by establishing a special day for giving, which this year will be November 29th.

Open Doors believes that solidarity can change the world and it is for that reason that we encourage you to help the lives of brothers and sisters who are willing to follow Jesus steps in the midst of persecution as Jess and Rena are doing. You can find further information by visiting our “Secret Believers” project in GivingTuesday (Spanish).




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