Persecution in Ethiopia
When Belen decided to leave Islam and follow Jesus, her husband left her and their three children and married another woman, leaving Belen without financial support. Her situation was then made harder when her brother accused her of stealing money from him, and had the courts force her to 'repay it'.
"You are losing in all directions," her brother told her. "I suggest you repent and return to your original faith. You should have agreed to do so long ago."
But Belen refused to deny her faith in Jesus, saying: "Jesus may appear slow in responding to my plight, but He is working quietly but surely."
Opposition to converts is common in Ethiopia, particularly for believers from a Muslim background. Members of mosques and converts' own families will monitor their activity and fabricate false accusations to take to the police. In areas where Muslims make up the majority, they often deny Christians access to communal resources and Christians can be overlooked for employment or promotion.
The government also restricts freedom of religion, as they fear that the influence of religious groups could easily bring about a regime change; Christians are seen as foreign agents. Laws have been brought in to limit the activities religious groups can engage in, and security and administration issues are used as a reason to discourage missionaries from travelling within the country.
Sadly, the church itself is also a source of persecution in Ethiopia, with some fanatical elements of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC) restricting other denominations. Members of the EOC have used government connections to do this - for example, non-EOC churches must register with the government - but they have also physically attacked members who have left the EOC for (mostly) Protestant churches.
But life for Belen has improved. With the support of Open Doors, she now has a small business running a coffee shop, and is able to support her family. She says: "I would have been in prison and my children would have wandered in the streets if you haven't reached out to me... The hands of God are with me. I am tested, and people hate me and tell me to leave Jesus, but that will not happen because I have seen His mercy."