In week two of our stories from Ramadan, we meet Achiam, from Chad. Achaim knows all about isolation. Not only is she blind from birth, she has also chosen to follow Christ, making her an outcast among her own family and community. Find out how her faith is sustaining her. She says, “I know the end of this situation is not for tomorrow, but I also know my God will continue to sustain me."
This year, Ramadan runs from sunset on Thursday 23 April – Saturday 23 May. To help you pray during this time, for each week of Ramadan we are releasing stories about the experience of persecuted Christians during the fast. This week, we meet Achiam*, an isolated believer in Chad.
The odds are stacked against Achiam* (20, pictured) from Chad. As well as being the only Christian in her village, she was also born blind.
Achiam with her knitting, which she does to fund her studies
As a child, she was accepted into a school for the blind, where she first heard the gospel. For years, she just followed her classmates to the church building. It was six years before she chose to follow Jesus.
The first time she went home for a school holiday after that, she didn’t say anything about her changed faith, but people noticed a difference all the same.
“Within a few days, they noticed that I no longer prayed like them,” Achiam recalls. “My father asked me what the problem was. I confessed that I had become a Christian, and that I no longer followed Islam.”
Achiam’s father tried to understand what had caused this change, but she simply and quite bravely told him it was her choice and that she had decided to follow Jesus. “From that day on, nothing was the same anymore,” she says. “I was considered the worst thing that had ever happened to the family. Everyone in the community had something to say about my case. I am the only female in the family who has had the opportunity to go to school, and people in the village told my father this had happened because he allowed me to go to school. My father accused me of allowing myself to be influenced by the Christians at school. They tried everything to convince me to return to Islam.”
Achiam faced hardships every day of that three-month-long school holiday. On at least one occasion her older brother beat her with a cane. And every single holiday since then, life has remained challenging.
“When I am on holiday, living my faith is difficult. If I want to pray, I wait until late at night when everyone else is sleeping. Then, I know I can pray without anyone stopping me.”
It’s the isolation which Achiam finds so difficult.
“Two years ago, when I returned for the holiday, I realised that the thatch roof of my hut had been removed. No one agreed to help me rebuild it… I can’t share about my faith with anyone. No one wants to listen to me. So, during the holiday period, there is no one to discuss my faith with. I am all alone.”
And when her holidays coincide with Ramadan, it only makes things worse. She says, “No one cooks during the day because everyone is fasting, except the children. Mothers would warm up leftovers – called pap – from the previous day for them. I eat pap with other children. Sometimes, when there is no pap, I stay home and ask children to find me something I can cook for myself.
“When I returned this year, we went to the farm and I heard someone asking my brother why I wasn’t fasting with them, since it was the period of Ramadan. It was embarrassing for him to have to answer that question...”
Despite all this, she refuses to give up.
“I know the end of this situation is not for tomorrow, but I also know my God will continue to sustain me. I was very clear with my family about my faith. I told them I am with Christ and that nothing in the world would make me change my mind. My God has been sustaining me since then, so I fear nothing.”
Achiam is able to support herself in other ways; she learned embroidery in school, and during holidays at home she stitches caps and socks which she sells in order to buy soap and cover her travel to school and back. She also hires workers to help her work the farm. The harvest helps her father fund her next school year.
Open Doors local partners recently visited Achiam to encourage her. She says, “Thank you for coming! My parents will know that my Christian brethren support me. May God bless you!”
During that visit, we learned that Achiam’s loneliness and vulnerability increased yet again. A while back, she was introduced to a young Christian man, also blind. The two were engaged to be married, but before they could set up a home together, Azarak* died. Afterwards her father arranged for her to get married to an elderly Muslim man, but Achiam refused. Her father was furious and ordered her to leave home. Thankfully, she was taken in by the family of a pastor, and she is back in school, determined to complete her education.
She says, “Please pray for my studies. This year I will be writing the advanced level exam. Also pray for my family. The tension has eased somewhat, but please continue praying for God to change their hearts so that they can discover the way of Christ. Pray for my entire community and my family to accept me as I am.”
Find other stories exploring the experience of persecuted Christians during the fast. Each story is accompanied by prayer points, and questions for reflection, so they can be used as the basis of a Bible study or discussion group. There is also a simple Ramadan factsheet, giving some background on the fast.
At this time of Coronavirus, isolation is even more of a problem for Christians like Achiam in Sub-Saharan Africa. Countries across sub-Saharan Africa are just beginning to feel its impact – and many of the countries that are affected are places where Christians suffer some of the worst persecution in the world.
At all times, but particularly in the current crisis, your support could be the answer to the prayers of a believer facing extreme persecution.
*Name changed for security reasons