You can’t know the name of the person who wrote this article – or the country he’s from. It is too dangerous to share. But that anonymity might help you understand him as representing so many secret believers from the Middle East.
My name is ‘Secret Believer’. I grew up, and still live, in a Muslim majority country. Many things have happened that you in your country have never heard of. So much turmoil, so many changes, so much violence.
When I was young, I wanted to become a superhero, so I could fight for my friends who were taken and used by the extremists. Many of them never came back. I wanted to be Superman for the many women who were all by themselves and had no protection from the government, from the system, from evil men. When I played on the street, I pretended to be strong and powerful.
I didn’t realise it, but most of my family members were secret Christians. I wasn’t.
I trained hard to become physically strong, and was selected for special forces training. It was really hard, but I passed. One day I had to go to an interview with a government leader who was looking for a chief bodyguard. Everyone thought he’d pick me, but he rejected me. “When I look in his eyes, I see questions,” he said.
Looking back, God saved me here. Had I been recruited as a bodyguard, I would have gone through a severe brainwashing programme to stay faithful to the leaders of the country. But that one leader sensed something was off with me.
"Jesus didn’t order me to follow Him – He simply invited me."
He was right. I had many questions. You see, just before I joined special forces training, I had a dream. Many of my dreams were bad, where I would relive the violence I had witnessed as a young child. This dream was very different: I saw a man in white clothes and He invited me to follow Him. I realised this was Jesus. He was so nice and peaceful and His eyes were like fire. He didn’t order me to follow Him – He simply invited me. I wasn’t used to that at all. In my country, people tell you what to do. If you don’t listen, they beat you. Jesus was already showing me He was radically different.
Jesus kept appearing in my dreams, and I couldn’t wait to meet Him each night. I didn’t know much about Jesus, only what the Quran teaches about him. I had been brainwashed and thought the Bible was a falsified book and Christians were misplaced in their thinking.
I wanted to know more about this ‘Jesus’. Those questions were growing like a tree in my heart. I needed answers. What was the best place to learn? My Christian relatives, of course. But nobody would engage with me in a conversation. They all thought I had been brainwashed by the army and that I was sent back to spy on my family.
One day, I was wandering around town and I came across a small church building. Not many Christians went to this church and it was a coincidence the priest was even there that day. I walked in, greeted the priest and asked if I could ask him some questions.
"And then my fear came true: I was arrested and imprisoned."
He immediately knew I was a Muslim and that he could get into big trouble if we were to have a conversation about faith. I could be a government spy, for all he knew. Even while we were talking, he constantly looked around to see if anybody was watching us. Then I asked him: “Can you pray for me?”
“That I can do,” he replied. He knelt down and prayed.
As I was leaving, I saw a Bible and I flipped through the pages. I knew I was likely to be interrogated as I left the church – some secret agent would come up to me and ask me what business I had going to that church. But if I carried a Bible, it would be much worse. Arrest, torture, long imprisonment. I couldn’t take this copy – but I did memorise the name of a town that was a on a handwritten note in the Bible. Maybe I could go there one day.
After I came out of the church, I was indeed questioned. For a while, I was watched by the authorities. And then my fear came true: I was arrested and imprisoned.
I cannot share too many details about my time in prison. I was tortured because I was looking for Jesus, a Jesus I didn’t even know. The beating was painful, but it made my determination stronger. I made a definite choice: I was going to find this Jesus, no matter what happened.
My whole life I had been forced to comply with the ‘system’. And they always found a reason to beat me, like if I listened to the wrong music or if my daughter’s headscarf accidentally fell off. In my dreams, Jesus never forced me. Instead, He extended His hand. Nobody in my life had ever extended their hand to me before.
After my release, I was forced to stay and work nearby the prison. That was where I met a foreigner – he was from the town that I’d seen written on the note in the Bible. I asked him questions about this town and eventually our conversations deepened and we became friends. He was a Christian, and he was able to tell me more about the Jesus I was seeking. Finally, I chose to follow Jesus and became a Christian myself.
We decided to illegally cross the border and go to his hometown. God blessed our attempt and we reached the town safely. We found a building that was a house of worship, but looked like an ordinary house. Thirty years earlier, when the circumstances in my country were different, the owners had visited my hometown and left the Bible in the church where I found it.
I learned much about God and the Bible in this house. I couldn’t stay too long, however. I needed to return to my country and my family. I returned as a follower of Jesus.
"As a secret believer, my life is always at risk. I’m still being watched."
As a secret believer, my life is always at risk. I’m still being watched. I can’t go to a church for fellowship, not even a secret house church meeting. I meet other Christians in hideout places. I go through the Word with them, pray for them and hug them – or I did, before the pandemic. It’s harder now. Most of these people were like me: secret believers who had met Jesus in dreams and visions, but had no access to God’s Word.
Your organisation [Open Doors local partners] has visited me and my family and prayed with us. Thank you so deeply for the relief aid, and the ongoing discipleship. And it’s thanks to your financial provision that I am able to support underground Christians. Particularly those suffering in prison.
God is doing powerful things in my country, but He has given us a ‘night vision’. That’s what we call it. The night will get darker before day comes. In other words: we expect more violence and destruction before things get better. Please pray for us. We need God’s strength.
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