In the Middle East, Muslims are converting to Christianity in unprecedented numbers. This is what several pastors shared with Open Doors.
Somewhere in Lebanon we meet with a young woman named Karima*, a refugee from Aleppo. She still covers her hair, but the change in the way she dresses compared with when she first arrived in Lebanon is obvious. She became a Christian more than two years ago. Karima and her husband, also a convert, are now working with one of the churches in Lebanon, both as teachers to Syrian refugee children. They had their doubts about Islam before they came to Lebanon. She saw miracles happen in her life because the pastor of a church prayed for her. God provided a place for them to live, a job and even healed her seriously sick son.
“Up until now, my parents didn’t know about my conversion because they fled to another country. My family is very conservative; they are Shiites. If they heard about my conversion, they would kill me. We would lose our children.”
Since her conversion, she has participated in discipleship groups. “The biggest change in my life is that I know I have eternal life. My name is written in the book of life. God gave me peace in my life and He gave me joy. Life is beautiful, even in the midst of all the trouble.”
Her husband Fadi* became a Christian because he read the New Testament. “I read about the teachings of Jesus, the high values and virtues. The high standards Jesus teaches are the biggest evidence that these are teachings of God. What also attracted me is the loving environment of the church; that is something impossible to find outside. The man who discipled us considers us his family, he is ready to protect us.”
After becoming a Christian, Fadi was attacked by two people. “They hit me, and one of my eyes was damaged as a result. My parents know that I am a Christian and because of that they rejected me.” The couple wants to move abroad with their two children. “We applied for visas to a Western country. We cannot go back to Syria as believers from a Muslim background. A normal life for us as converts will be impossible; they could take away our children.” Karima isn’t surprised by the persecution. “The Bible teaches us that we as Christians will be persecuted.”
A pastor of a church in Lebanon explains that they are certainly not the only ones coming to Christ in this period of war. “The church has grown dramatically in the past years. We had one worship service on Sundays, now we have two. Both services are packed. We now have some 25 house churches.” His church is helping refugees. “We have separated this work from our church building. People who give their lives to Jesus don’t do so because they want a food package. They come to church because they feel comforted. I heard people testify: ‘Thank God for the war in Syria; it brought us to Jesus.’”
“Churches have changed a lot because of the refugee crisis in Lebanon,” he continues. “God is at work in a special way. We see a lot of new faces being baptized. In the coming few years, we will be the minority, and believers from other backgrounds will be the majority.”
The pastor confirms that consequences for these new believers are enormous. “They have to leave their context and their families. They know that whoever leaves Islam should be killed. These wonderful new believers will become preachers all over the Middle East. God is waking up a sleeping church; a new nation of new believers is being born.”
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*Names changed to protect identities