What would life be like to be given the choice to follow Jesus or lose everything? To decide between faith in Christ or your own baby? This sounds like an impossible choice for many Christians, but for believers like Sameda* in Central Asia, it is all too real.
Three years ago, Sameda was a Muslim. But an encounter with Jesus changed her life. Today, she is a 23-year-old young Christian woman living in Central Asia facing persecution for her newfound faith.
Just because Sameda discovered the truth of the gospel doesn’t exempt her from cultural pressures or realities. In her culture, an unmarried woman is an oddity and spoken about in whispered asides. At age 20, she was regarded as an “old maid” by her relatives—most of the girls in her region marry at age 13-17, especially in rural areas.
So, despite her newfound faith, Sameda found herself under the constant expectation to marry. Unfortunately, there were few Christian men living around her. Which meant that, two years after she became a believer, she married a Muslim man.
Sameda was happy with her decision: “I married Rashid* because he seemed to me to be a good man,” she says. “Initially, we were very happy until he became more interested in my faith. Certainly, I did not hide the fact that I am a Christian and told him that God touched my life one day. After these words, my husband seemed to change.”
An Unimaginable Ultimatum
When Rashid and Sameda married, they moved from the capital city to his parents’ house in the countryside. Rashid didn’t mind her faith, because he was not a strong Muslim. But later he understood how serious her faith and following Christ were to her. It started to irritate him. He began to pressure her and demand that she return to Islam.
The pressure grew stronger day by day. He beat her several times, even when she was five months pregnant. But she still was strong in her decision to follow Christ.
“Of course, I told him I would remain faithful to Christ,” she says. “I can’t imagine my life without Jesus anymore.”
After Sameda gave birth to their daughter, Rashid gave her an ultimatum: She was to refuse Christ; otherwise he would divorce her and take the baby. But Sameda still refused to deny Christ. Rashid kicked Sameda out of the house—fortunately, with her baby—and she moved to be with her mother, Ariza*, in the capital city.
“It was so hugely stressful and such a tragedy for me,” she remembers. “My beloved husband, who always seemed so kind and caring; he kicked me out of his house with a month-old baby without any means of subsistence!
“People say that I am born as a Muslim [because I am Asian] and should be this all my life. Now they call me a betrayer of the ‘pure religion and true prophet Muhammed,’ but how can I betray something or somebody I never knew and understood? Yes, I am a Christian, but also still an Asian woman.”
No Other Means of Resistance
Now Sameda lives in Ariza’s narrow room with her small baby.The authorities refused to give them a new flat with good conditions because they are Christians. In the next couple of months, she must make a decision, or Rashid will take her daughter. According to the laws of her region of Central Asia, men usually take the children from their wives after the divorce.
Sameda can only hope that God will defend her—there are no other means to resist Rashid.
An Open Doors team began to visit Ariza and Sameda from time to time to encourage and support them. The team asked her what she needs most. Her response shows the depth of faith that has grown in her.
“I don’t ask God to give me back my husband, to keep my family,” she says. “Most of all, I need to be strong in my faith. I don’t want to lose it, to lose the relationship with Christ, but sometimes it is too hard. I need to have contact with other believers.”
‘I Saw That God Is Alive’
Through your gifts, Sameda received basic necessities for her baby along with Christian literature and, most importantly, prayer and support.
Seeing that Sameda didn’t have a baby stroller, they gifted her with one and a Christian book. The stroller makes it easier for Sameda to care for her baby.
A team worker shares: “She was so glad and grateful for this gift,”
“Thank God for you, for your help at the right time!” Sameda says. “You brought the baby carriage which I never even dreamed of. Thank you for your prayers and fellowship. Thank you for this good Christian book, which helps me to have more knowledge about God and be stronger in my following Christ. I saw once again that God is alive, and He cares about His children.”
Praying With Sameda and her family
- Sameda asks you to keep praying for her situation; her husband, Rashid, still wants to take the baby and divorce her if she won’t refuse Christ. She doesn’t want to lose her baby. Pray that Sameda could live with her small daughter. She is still in her “valley of the shadow of death,” as she says.
- Sameda, her mother, her sister and her baby are without support. Their relatives don’t communicate with them because they are “betrayers of their faith.” And it’s very difficult for them to find any Christian community because there is no official church in the city. They only communicate with believers when our teams visit the place and their home too. Pray for opportunities to communicate with other Christian believers.
- A couple of weeks ago, Sameda’s mother Ariza* had a stroke. She is recovering but is still too weak and cannot walk normally. Pray for healing and improved mobility.
- Pray for the safety of these women and peace in the midst of these trials.
Your support helps provide critical resources, basic necessities, Christian literature, and prayer to encourage believers—and reminds them they are not alone. Thank you for your support of your brothers and sisters in Central Asia and around the world!
*Representative names and photo used to protect identities