Forced to Pray a Muslim Prayer—Jen-Jen’s Persecution Story
Growing up, Jen-Jen loved attending Sama Kitab Iskul, or Vacation Bible School, in the southernmost region of the Philippines. Here, she learned Bible stories, sang songs, played games and memorized verses. But more than anything, she loved to hear about Jesus.
In 2014, during a worship service in her community, Jen-Jen heard a pastor talk about salvation. This was the first time Jen-Jen remembers fully understanding what Jesus’ sacrifice and death really meant. Overcome with emotion, she recalls how she raised her hand to pray with the pastor, accepting Jesus into her heart.
Jen-Jen felt good about her newfound belief in Christ, but sadly, she quickly learned that her faith would not always be applauded by locals. By 6th grade, adult authority figures were already belittling her for trusting Jesus.
Although she performed well in nearly every subject, for instance, Jen-Jen encountered pressure in Arabic class where the teacher required students to memorize a Muslim prayer in order to pass. Despite being uncomfortable, Jen-Jen learned the words of the prayer to recite to the teacher. But rather than asking Jen-Jen to say the words in an oral test, the teacher later announced students would be required to go to a mosque and pray the prayer aloud.
Jen-Jen and another Christian classmate tried to explain to their teacher that they now prayed to Jesus and could not pray in a mosque.
“I don’t care,” The teacher angrily replied. “You must comply or else you will fail in this subject. You should revert to your Islamic faith.”
When the day of the mosque visit arrived, Jen-Jen felt sick. She was worried she would not pass the Arabic course and would incur more disapproval from her teacher. And by the time she completed the long walk to the mosque while wearing the traditional Muslim dress and veil covering, Jen-Jen’s skin burned with a fever. She tried to tell the teacher about her illness, but the teacher refused to budge on the requirement to pray the Muslim prayer. “Do it,” she said, “or you won’t be able to graduate.”
Frustrated and growing sicker by the minute, Jen-Jen returned to her place among the students preparing to pray. As the ceremony proceeded and the call to prayer began, however, she felt even woozier. By the time the students rose to their feet to pray, Jen-Jen’s body was overwhelmed. Suddenly, she blacked out completely.
Jen-Jen remembers coming to consciousness in that moment, lying alone on the floor of the mosque. No one, except for one fellow student, moved to help her. After her classmate persisted, the teacher eventually allowed the student to retrieve a juice for Jen-Jen. The teacher refused to excuse Jen-Jen from the rest of the ceremony, however, or from listening to the entirety of the Muslim imam’s message.
Miraculously, this pressure-filled experience has not jaded Jen-Jen however. “Despite what happened, I did not hate my teacher nor my classmates.” She explains. “I just prayed for my teacher that God will bless her.”
Since the day at the a Muslim place of worship, Jen-Jen has been pressured to conform to many other Muslim practices, such as fasting during the month of Ramadan. In addition to requirements from the school staff, other students have also teased and bullied Jen-Jen because of her faith, sometimes bombarding her as she walked to and from school and pushing her or insulting her.
The kids call Jen-Jen names such as Kafir (which means “good for nothing, filthy infidel”) and “pork eater.” Jen-Jen feels she has no choice but to quietly endure the mistreatment, as she is greatly outnumbered. Still, the girl insists, she and her family have no ill-will toward the people who bully her due to her faith.
Amazingly, Jen-Jen’s mother resolves to do the same. “I pray that God will bless those people who persecuted my daughter.”
Instead of spending her time fostering animosity, Jen-Jen looks for ways to improve life for Christian children in her region. She continues to attend church and even helps the Pastor read Scriptures to the congregation that is mostly illiterate. And Jen-Jen has set the goal of becoming a teacher. “I want to help children like me. I want to show them the love of Jesus that I experienced. Also, I want to help my people read and write so that they will also read the Bible for themselves.”
In the meantime, this June, Jen-Jen continues her study. She is now in grade 8 and in need of ongoing prayers for the strength and support to live her faith in a community where she is persecuted even as a child.
*representative image used