Because Muslim-Background Believers (MBBs) in China face strong persecution from their families and communities, many remain silent and live as secret believers. In spite of the danger, Amanda* and Bella*, a courageous pair of sisters, decided to step out and share Christ with their family and community.
“I am so glad that I don’t have to live with guilt,” Amanda said. “We were afraid of what our uncles would do if they found out, so we hid our new faith for many years. But I kept asking myself how I would be able to share the gospel with them if I didn’t say anything.”
“Our father passed away when we were little. Our mother shouldered the family burden until she got really sick,” Bella said. “A neighboring couple was kind enough to visit my mom regularly and spend time with us. We found out that they were Christians.”
This couple shared the good news with them and their mother decided to follow Jesus. “She got better and better. I never saw her so alive. She dyed her hair and took some fun trips with her friends,” Amanda said. “But one day she never woke up. We believe the Lord provided an eternal place for her to rest. She sacrificed so much for us.”
According to Muslim culture in China, Amanda and Bella came under the protection of their uncles after both of their parents died. “My mother has five brothers. If we had told them what happened, they would have definitely blamed her death on our new faith. This is especially true of our oldest uncle who used to be the head of the local Islamic association.”
The sisters agreed to remain silent and attended church in secret. One of their uncles knew they had Christian friends. “Sometimes he would ask if we still spent time with Christians,” Amanda shared. “We always used to change the subject when he asked this.”
As years went by and their faith grew stronger, they felt increasingly convicted about not sharing the gospel with their uncles. “We had been living with this guilt for many years,” Bella said. “Yes, I was a good Christian when I was with Christian friends, but when I was with my uncles I became someone else,” Amanda added.
They knew the cost might be high, but they finally agreed that they could no longer remain silent. When they went to visit their third uncle in a neighboring city, they greeted and hugged him as usual. Everything was normal until near the end of their visit. During dinner, their uncle unexpectedly asked: “Do you still hang out with those Christians?” Amanda looked at Bella before replying, “Yes.” Silence filled the dining room, and then Amanda began to share how Jesus had changed their lives. Their uncle kept eating his dinner using a sharp knife.
“When we tried to persuade him to follow Jesus, he immediately stood up and waved the knife at us. He accused us of being deceived by the Christians and complained about all the shame we had brought to the family,” Bella said. Suddenly, a report about the 21 Egyptians who were brutally killed by the Islamic State came on the television, shifting their uncle’s attention. The sisters slipped out of the house while their uncle caught his breath from shock.
The news of their faith spread quickly. Not only did all of their relatives know, but also their neighbors. Amanda and Bella went home after visiting their uncles, relieved that their faith is no longer a secret. “They have scolded us. They might hit us next,” Amanda said, “but we are glad that we finally told them.”
“Please pray for us; pray that we will be courageous to face what’s coming next,” Bella said.
Among the 85 estimated million Christians in China, there are only a few thousand Muslim-background believers (MBBs). The few thousands MBBs living in western China are the most persecuted group in China. The government imposes tight control over this sensitive region in order to prevent terrorist attacks and reiterate its position of anti-Islamic extremism and anti-infiltration of religious influences by overseas forces. The MBBs in this area face intense persecution from their own family, friends, and neighbors. Conversion to Christianity is seen as a disgrace to one’s family and betrayal of the community. If Christians are discovered, they run the risk of being disowned by their families and thrown out.
*Names changed for security reasons
Father, we do not know what Amanda and Bella are facing today, but You do and we lift our hearts in prayer on their behalf. Thank You for the courage Your Spirit has granted them. May You continue to give them faith and strength to “stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:27) Soften the hearts of their family and neighbors to turn to You and may all around them see that You have done it, that they might see Your glory and praise the name of Christ! In the name of Jesus who is preparing a place for these precious ones in glory, Amen!