Middle East (MNN) — In some areas of the world, following Jesus means incurring the wrath of family and community. A still-unfolding situation in the Middle East comes as a critical prayer request.
Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs says, “We received last week an urgent request for prayer from one of our contacts living in a Muslim nation. A female university student whom he had contact with who was a Christian suddenly broke off contact. She suddenly kind of disappeared.”
Since then, the contact has learned that the young woman is under heavy surveillance from her family. Upon learning that she was a Christian, they forced her to their mosque and made her break her engagement with her Christian fiancé.
She is now waiting for her father, who is currently out of the country, to return and decide how she will be punished.
Nettleton says, “She’s very concerned about what happens when he comes home.”
Sadly, this woman’s story is just one of thousands.
In strict, traditional Muslim cultures, individuals turning to Jesus will face pressure from families if they are not cut off completely.
“For someone in your family to leave Islam and become a Christian is a shame, not only on that person, but it’s a shame on your entire family,” Nettleton explains.
They must take care of the problem in order to restore honor to the family. Sometimes this might even result in murder, something evidenced in several recent news stories.
According to CNN, a young Pakistani woman was reportedly strangled by her brother last month for bringing shame on her family through her social media posts.
While the shame culture does occasionally drive people to murder, Nettleton says it isn’t as big of a deal for a woman to be killed as it is a man.
Strict rules starve the soul
In some of the strictest Muslim communities in the world, the Gospel message is like fresh rain falling on parched ground.
“One of the great things about the Gospel is that message of salvation, that message of love.”
Nettleton explains that the god of Islam is a rule-giver, and that anyone disobeying the rules will be crushed. He contrasts this with Christianity.
“The God of the Bible, Jehovah, sent His own Son and sacrificed Him in order that we can have relationship with Him. There was nothing we could have done — God did it. He did the work, He gave His Son.
“That love, and that sense of God rescuing us, and loving us enough to rescue us just really speaks to the heart of Muslims.”
This message welcoming people into a relationship is so wonderful and necessary that it trumps the fears of going against society. That is why people follow Jesus, even knowing the social consequences.
Nettleton says it’s encouraging to know this woman found a Christian man she wanted to marry. It signifies the potential for Christian families to grow in Muslim-majority areas.
For believers all around the world, this is a call to prayer for our brothers and sisters.
In this particular instance, be praying for God to soften the hearts of this woman’s family. Ask God for her protection and witness to her persecutors. Pray there would be reconciliation with her family and with her fiancé.
“It’s ultimately the Holy Spirit that softens people’s hearts and makes them receptive to the Gospel message,” Nettleton reminds us.