Rekha Khatoon, 22, was thrown out of her home this month for daring to give thanks for healing in Christ’s name in a predominantly Muslim village in India’s West Bengal state. Her enraged parents helped Islamic extremists beat her nearly unconscious in an attack on March 9. “I boldly told those who beat me up that I may leave my parents, but that I will not leave Jesus,” Khatoon said. “Jesus has healed me, and I cannot forget Him.”
Khatoon was returning from worship at Believers Church when her parents and Muslim extremists attacked her, she said. The mob also harassed Aimazan Bibi, the Christian woman who encouraged Khatoon to trust Christ as Lord, said Bashir Pal, pastor and founder of the village Believers Church. After finding herself alone on a road after the beating, Khatoon took refuge in Aimazan Bibi’s home.
Khatoon met Aimazan Bibi last year and told her about a reproductive condition that caused her to bleed heavily. Pastor Pal continued, “After Rekha Khatoon came to know about her ailment, she met one of our church members, Aimazan Bibi, and she shared her physical problem with her and told her that her illness was getting worse as she was not able to purchase medicines anymore.” Aimazan Bibi shared both the gospel of Christ and His healing power with Khatoon and invited her to attend church.
On December 23, Khatoon came to the worship center, where Christian women laid hands on her, he said. The pastor and congregation prayed for God’s healing touch in Jesus’ name.
“She received healing from Christ, and thereafter she attended the worship services whenever she could,” Pastor Pal said. “On January 17, Khatoon attended one house church meeting in her village and once again testified that Jesus has healed her, and that she had not taken any medicine since December 23.” The pastor said the Muslim extremists warned Khatoon not to have contact with Christians. Upon learning that she was attending Christian worship meetings; her parents strictly warned her not to have any relationships with Christians and not to attend their fellowship. “However,” according to Aimazan Bibi, “she told them that she cannot forget Jesus and His love for her.”
Khatoon and her mother had previously attended worship services at the church, until area Muslims, furious to hear that several women were attending worship services, warned them to cease all contact with Christians or else they would face harm. The local mosque then offered Khatoon’s mother a job carrying food for the local Islamic leader to ensure that she ended all contact with Christians. She also stopped Khatoon from attending Christian meetings.
Since the attack, Khatoon has relocated to another area and lives largely in confinement for her own protection. In addition, Islamic extremists have ruined the business of Aimazan Bibi’s son, Sirajul Shaike, by throwing away all of his vegetables and chasing him out of the village market. “It is very difficult for them now, since selling vegetables was the main source of income for the family,” Pastor Pal said.
West Bengal is 25.2 percent Muslim, with Hindus making up 72.5 percent of the population in the state, according to Operation World. The state, which borders Muslim-majority Bangladesh, is only 0.6 percent Christian. Tensions continue to rise in the area. After hard-line Muslims threatened to kill the 25 village families who initially showed interest in Christ, only five frightened Christian families chose to remain firm in their confession of Christ.
Father, we lift up Rekha Khatoon. Thank You for the physical healing You have brought her as well as the spiritual life Your Spirit has breathed into her soul. Protect her and give her opportunity and boldness to share the power of Your presence within her, to speak out the truth of Your Word. And we pray for the handful of believers who remain in her village, fearful and threatened. Give them courage and boldness as well. We pray especially for Aimazan Bibi, thanking You for her bold compassion for Rekha and ask that You would protect and sustain her and her son and the rest of their family. Pour out Your peace in this place. In the name of Jesus who is our peace, Amen.