Secret Church Leader Shares the Dangers of Witnessing Deep in the Muslim World
Editor’s Note: We can’t share the country this story takes place in due to security reasons, but it’s deep in the Muslim world.
In Hameedullah’s* country, Christians don’t exist. Or so says the government, which refuses to acknowledge the existence of the Christian faith. Operating in secret, Hameedullah helps thousands of Christians learn how to tell their families and friends about Jesus, as well as care for new believers. Constantly under threat of being imprisoned or killed, Hameedullah lives on the fringes of society, isolated from his own country. It’s a situation he’s lived in his whole life.
Hameedullah grew up a refugee, living in the foothills of a mountain range not far from the border of the country where he was born. Both his parents converted to Christianity through meeting a Christian midwife. She showed them compassion and sensitivity, dealing with their physical and emotional needs as they settled into a new and hostile culture. Hameedullah’s father was given a copy of the Bible by the midwife, and since he didn’t know how to read, the midwife sent him to literacy classes.
“He was taught by Christians and noticed how they treated each other and worked together. He liked it and felt that’s how life should be. He and my mother were baptized. Naturally, I became a believer in Christianity, too,” Hameedullah said.
In Hameedullah’s country, refugees are illegal and unwanted. He faced constant scrutiny from members of his own family, some of whom became radicalized and were recruited into terrorist networks.
“We were in a foreign land that would never really be home,” Hameedullah says. “People spat at us and cursed us for coming to their country and living off the ‘blessings of their land.’ We were thankful their government opened their borders to us. But the people were not comfortable with our language, temperament and ways.”
Life was a constant struggle, keeping his faith hidden and hoping people didn’t notice some of the choices he made in the camp. He refused to marry more than one wife, refrained from readily-available drugs and did not steal or engage in fraudulent behavior.
“I was born a refugee, so I was often in turmoil about my identity,” Hameedullah said. “But I did not want to break the law. I believed that the Jesus of the Bible stories we heard wanted us to act differently from the depravity and confusion that was considered normal and acceptable around us.”
Hameedullah met Qareem, a missionary, who caused Hameedullah to think about telling others about his faith too, though he felt afraid about what might happen to him. Ten years later, Qareem was kidnapped and is still missing. Hameedullah believes he was killed for evangelizing in a place where people kill those who convert from Islam to Christianity.
“When brother Qareem disappeared, the fellowship group of secret believers was at severe risk, and so we dispersed,” said Hameedullah. “We were languishing in loneliness, isolation and spiritual hunger. I joined an underground Christian organization, helping it distribute Christian literature and translating their work. Often, I went into the mountains of my homeland and explained Christianity to others who had converted, too. Qareem’s death changed my life. I became an evangelist, just as he wanted me to be,” Hameedullah said.
Many of the workers Hameedullah trains take care of the widows and families of Christians killed because of their faith, or teaching in schools to influence young lives and minds. Hameedullah fears for his own safety, that of his people, and also for the young people tempted by radicalization.
“Many of our children are recruited by extremist organizations, or become addicted to drugs. We are vulnerable to those who watch for non-Islamic activities and are willing to report to the authorities. This is how Qareem was found out by an extremist organization and taken away from us.”