5 Things Following Christ Can Cost You
All over the Middle East and North Africa, Muslims who have converted to Christianity risk everything to follow Christ. Leaving Islam often leads to exclusion, isolation and sometimes even violence or death. Converting to Christianity can cost you these five things:
1. Your Family
In a culture of honour and shame, leaving Islam and converting to another religion brings great shame to your family. In moderate families, Christians can be ignored or excluded. In a strict Islamic family, converting to Christianity can lead to forced divorce, losing your children and being exiled. Some family members even believe that killing a convert is the only way to remove the shame from the family. Whether through isolation or violent persecution, there are no Muslim cultures where conversion to Christianity is easily accepted by family members. Losing your family is almost always part of the cost when accepting Christ.
2. Your Friends
Family members may not be the only ones to turn against you in the Middle East; it is more likely that a whole community will put pressure on you to renounce your newly found faith in Christ. In Iran, Christians from a Muslim background are considered to be unclean, especially in rural areas. Muslim’ in these regions will not shake hands with Christians, touch them, or eat their food. Believers also experience harassment and discrimination in their workplace if their faith is known. Finding a spouse is difficult as in some Muslim countries it’s illegal for Christian men to marry women from Muslim families.
3. Your Church
It’s almost impossible for Christians from a Muslim background to meet as a church in public. In most existing Orthodox, Catholic and other traditional churches in the Middle East, Muslim converts are not welcome. These churches are heavily monitored by governments and forbidden from accepting believers from a Muslim background. In Iran, the fear amongst believers is increasing because the government has recently increased surveillance of the house church movement – the only place Muslim background believers can gather. In 2015, more than ten house churches were raided by the police. Over a hundred leaders were arrested, imprisoned, and even tortured.
4. Your Country
In Syria and Iraq, millions have been forced to leave their country because of ongoing violence. It’s a heartbreaking and dangerous journey to leave everything behind and become a stranger in a foreign land. In refugee camps across Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, the church is growing rapidly as Muslims have the freedom to attend church for the first time. Losing their home country means losing one identity, but because of local churches embracing refugees, many are finding an eternal home and identity in Jesus.
5. Your Life
Christians from a Muslim background pay the highest price. Some strict Muslims are convinced that every Muslim leaving Islam should be killed. In countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, this is literally the law. In Saudi Arabia, all expressions of religion other than Islam are forbidden. Anyone who commits apostasy by leaving Islam is, in theory, punishable by death. But there is also a growing number of Christian converts from Islam, with a boldness in sharing their new faith. Whilst fewer governments are putting Christians to death for leaving Islam, they are handing them over to their relatives.
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