The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
The police and Islamic religious authorities in these countries are highly vigilant against any attempts by Christians to reach Malay Muslims with the gospel.
Christians in some Southeast Asian countries have the freedom to practice their faith only if they do not reach out to the Malays, the biggest group of people in the land who are required by law to be Muslims.
There is a small remnant of believers who have chosen to defy such prohibition. But their boldness comes at a cost.This is the story of Miriam*.
During an interrogatory, an officer banged and kicked the table as he was shouting abusive words at Miriam. They told her that she was in trouble for sharing Christ with Malay Muslims. They asked her to confess the ‘crime’ and to give them the names of her missionary friends and all Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) that she knew.
“I couldn’t tell them so I kept quiet most of time. But they threatened me, saying that I would never see my husband and children again if I didn’t cooperate”, she explained.
“They questioned me continuously for days and nights, not allowing me any rest at all. They did not let me sleep either.”
As Miriam recalled this incident, tears came to her eyes. She stopped, covered her face with her hands, as if to allow her grief to pour out. Even though the incident had happened over 15 years ago, the memory is still fresh in her mind. It also continues to have a repercussion for the rest of the Body of Christ, even today.
Persecution, Rejection and Loneliness
The police and Islamic religious authorities in these countries are highly vigilant against any attempts by Christians to reach Malay Muslims with the gospel. Dictatorial laws allow the government to detain suspects without any warrant or time limit under the pretext of national security.
As a result, nearly all pastors, church leaders and believers, except for a few brave ones, have distanced themselves and their churches from any involvement with MBBs and those in Muslim ministry. MBBs and their leaders face not only the risk of being persecuted by the government, but also rejection from the rest of the Body of Christ.
Without the covering and support of the church, they walk a lonely road of ministry. But in such trying times, many have found the strength to continue serving through Jesus, who kept His promises.
“I had to leave my church in order to do Muslim ministry as my leaders do not allow me to help MBBs while I was serving in this church”, shared Edmund*, another MBB worker. “So I decided to leave the church and trusted God. Thank God, He provided for all my financial needs so that I can continue serving Him in this ministry”.
There is no fear in love
Many efforts have been made to create awareness and encourage more workers to be involved in Muslim ministry. But the fear of persecution stops churches and believers .
This year, however, in a mission conference co-sponsored by Open Doors, Bill* (an MBB) was moved to speak boldly in his own mother tongue to all participants, “Forgive us Malays [as the majority people group] for suppressing the rights of the Christian minorities. We also need the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Please, we need your help so Malays can also hear the gospel”.
What he said touched many non-Malay ministry workers who were there. Some broke down in tears and prayed for repentance on behalf of their churches for turning MBBs away and not being willing to help them when they are persecuted. The evening marks a humble beginning and there are great challenges ahead.
But not everything is lost, according to Edmund who has been working among the Malays for over 20 years. He said with a big smile: “Actually, the cost and fear are nothing compared to the joy and rewards of serving God in this ministry. When you have love for Muslims, you won’t think about the difficulties. You love what you do. You feel joy when you see them seek Jesus or when you see them accept Christ as their Lord and Savior!”
It is because of stories like Miriam or Edmund, a living testimony of the difficulties that Christians are facing in different parts of the world, that Open Doors in Spain (Puertas Abiertas) has launched its “Secret Believers” campaign, in order to raise funds for projects related with the work among them. You can be part of it with your personal contribution here at GivingTuesday (Spanish).
*Names changed for security reasons