In Ethiopia (#29 on the World Watch List), government regulations restrict the freedom of religion, while in some parts of the country conservative Muslims pose challenges for believers, especially converts from Islam. Arrests and disappearances of believers are common in Ethiopia, and those who leave Islam face harsh mistreatment from family members. For Ibrahim*, family has become the source of his persecution.
“I was taught that killing Christians was good,” says 20-year-old Ibrahim*. “My Muslim family taught me that it was the way to get a ‘ticket straight to Heaven.’”
But the cross always fascinated Ibrahim.
“I never really knew what it meant other than the fact that it was a Christian symbol,” Ibrahim explains. “But I kept researching it, and secretly started attending a local evangelical church. Finally, I understood that the cross was my salvation. The cross was my ‘free ticket’ to Heaven, to salvation.”
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A Secret Faith
Ibrahim remembers the day he gave his life to Jesus, knowing what his parents had taught him about Christianity. He knew his decision to follow Jesus would be potentially fatal.
My father had even warned me as a child that if I ever became a Christian, he would kill me,” Ibrahim says. “I knew my conversion would bring utter shame to the family. There would be no other response from them than to seek to kill me. I knew I couldn’t tell them, I knew their threats would not only be verbal. They would really seek to kill me.”
Ibrahim kept his faith a secret. When he went to church, he would tell his parents that he was going to a football game.
“When football season eventually ended, I kept attending ‘football.’”
Until one day when Ibrahim came home. He saw his parents’ faces and knew this would be the day his life would change.
“There was no match today,” his father said. “You have deceived us! You lied to us! Where have you been?”
Ibrahim tried to avoid answering their questions. His father said he had heard from others that his son had been attending church. He told Ibrahim he would confirm with his sources before he took any action.
“I knew I had to run away. I took nothing but the clothes on my back.”
No Turning Back
For a while, Ibrahim lived on the streets until an evangelist called, saying he could stay with him. The teenager stayed there for seven months before a relative reported his whereabouts to his father.
“He had been watching me for a while and knew exactly where I lived and worked and attended church. He told my father exactly where to find me.”
Still angry about Ibrahim’s decision to convert from Islam, his father came to Ibrahim’s work and openly shouted at him, harassing him in front of everyone.
“He accused me of betraying the family and bringing shame on them. I had to leave again.”
Again, Ibrahim had nothing but the clothes on his back.
That’s when Ibrahim met a contact from Open Doors who arranged a place for him to stay. Currently, Ibrahim remains in hiding. His brothers are searching for him to kill their brother and the evangelist who protected him, Ibrahim says.
“But there is no turning back for me,” Ibrahim says resolutely. “Before coming to Christ, I hated people. I was mistrusting. When I gave my life to Christ, I had to leave my home and all that I loved behind. It is then that I began loving people.
“Peace filled my life. People measure their lives by what they own, but I know that peace comes from Jesus.”
Pray With Ibrahim
Recently, Ibrahim took part in a youth ministry trip, where he was able to spend time with other persecuted young people and learn from them. Please pray that Ibrahim will continue to find fellowship and community with persecuted believers like him.
Pray that Ibrahim will continue to stand strong in the face of persecution from his family. Pray for protection as his family hunts for him.
Pray for Ibrahim who now has no ties to his family. Ask God to be near to him and to send others to be his family.
Pray for Ibrahim’s family, especially his father, that their hearts would soften toward Ibrahim and ultimately, they would come to know the Jesus that Ibrahim met.
Christian persecution is increasing worldwide—more than any time in modern history. And Open Doors is on the frontlines—with more than 60 years’ experience—standing with suffering believers to strengthen the church. Join us and stand with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Sign up here to receive news delivered to your inbox.