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Churches are forbidden in Saudi Arabia, and converting from Islam is punished with decapitation.
It’s almost impossible to be a Christian in Saudi Arabia, the heartland of Islam. While foreign visitors are allowed some freedom to organize private religious meetings, for native Saudis the pressure from both government and relatives is almost absolute.
And yet God is working among Saudis. The story of Muminah* gives us an insight of how His work.
She remembers it very clearly. It was five years ago. Muminah, who lived with her husband Adil in the Saudi city of Najran, travelled with her husband to Mecca to perform the hajj —the pilgrimage that all Muslims are expected to make once in their life. She’d been longing for a spiritual experience during this long-anticipated trip.
And there, while she was in what was supposed to be the culmination of her spiritual life as a Muslim, Jesus appeared to her in a dream and called her to follow Him. For the first time in her life Muminah clearly felt the love of God. But the vision also left her confused.
Growing up in Saudi Arabia all she’d ever been taught was the strict Wahhabi Islam, the DNA of their society. Its teaching about followers of Christ is clear: from the age of six her schoolbooks taught that all religions outside of Islam are false. And she clearly remembered her teacher in high school stating that Allah had cursed the Jews and the Christians for being “the apes of the Sabbath” and the “infidel swine of the communion of Jesus”.
Churches are forbidden in Saudi Arabia, and converting from Islam is, in theory, punishable by death by decapitation.
Muminah literally knew no-one who was a follower of Christ, and since her husband always reacted with a hot temper if someone simply made a slightly critical remark about Islam, she decided to keep her dream to herself.
The freedom of movement for women in Saudi Arabia is severely limited. They are not permitted to drive cars or even to leave the house without a relative. But one door to the outside world is increasingly difficult to close, even by the government: the internet.
Back home, when her husband was at work, Muminah locked her door and went online to search for more information about Jesus, who had revealed Himself in such a special way. Through social media, she was able to connect with other Arabs abroad who were then able to teach her more about Jesus.
She quickly found out that the Bible was not corrupt, as she’d been taught all her life. And gradually she was more impressed by the teachings of Jesus. She started to pray, and while chatting online with a foreign Christian she’d never met in real life, they prayed together and Muminah gave her life to Jesus.
Through her computer, she is now able to read the Bible every day. But she always makes sure to delete her browser history since her husband would be furious if he finds out. If he knew Muminah was a Christian, he would be convinced that she was either insane or bewitched. It would be within his right to kill her himself or report her to the religious police and have her executed.
It’s been five years now since Christ first appeared to Muminah. She has never met another Saudi Christian in real life yet.
Living a Christian life for the Saudi Christians is challenging, dangerous, and lonely, but finding the truth is worth it. God is there to comfort them.
Many Saudi’s learn about Christ through the internet, satellite TV, or through face-to-face contact with Christians when travelling abroad. But returning home and sharing their faith with relatives is extremely dangerous.
There are cases where Saudi believers have disappeared when their relatives found out they’d converted or after they admitted they were following Christ. Even when they flee Saudi Arabia to live abroad, many of them are still reluctant to proclaim their faith in public, afraid of being kidnapped and brought back to Saudi Arabia.
Puertas Abiertas (Open Doors) estimates that, if a Muslim from Saudi Arabia or other Islamic countries in the Middle East converts to Christ, but does not receive any support in the first six months of his spiritual journey, they most probably will turn around and go back to his Muslim background belief.
That is why Puertas Abiertas (Open Doors) works to reach those Muslim Background Believers (MBB) and support them through digital media, radial programs (and phone follow-up), Bible and Christian resources distribution, biblical training, post-traumatic counselling, vocational training, Microloans, financial support, etc.
You can be part of stories like Muminah’s. Would you consider to join us in this adventure in search of and training of Christ followers in the most unexpected places? Give now through GivingTuesday.
*Representative story used for security reasons.