Persecution of faith is still a reality under Muslim groups in the South of Russia. Some of these people groups are proud of the fact that Christianity didn’t root at all in their people group and they are willing to maintain the pure identity, culture and religion of the people group at all cost. Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ is the same as becoming a betrayer of their own people group. A new convert does not only have to fear social exclusion, but also life threats.
An OM team member shares the story of Leyla:
“Not long ago I met Leyla*, a grandmother from a people group that is known as very closed for the gospel. When I heard she was a Christian, I was truly touched and rejoiced that God shows his mercy to this people group. So many times, people have been me telling that this people group is closed for the gospel, but I could not believe that God would have created people without a way of opening the gospel to them.
Leyla has 5 children. When we talked about her oldest daughter Mirna*, she became very sad. Her oldest daughter is still living in her hometown in very poor conditions. She is only thirty years old and has six children. Leyla explained that Mirna was abducted for marriage when she was only sixteen years old. According to the customs of this people group, the abducted girl can be returned when the father or oldest brother demands her back, but that needs to be done within a couple of hours. If the girl stays the night in the house of the abductor, she is supposed to marry him, otherwise it is very shameful for the family. In Mirna’s case her father was drunk at the time of abduction and not able to demand her back into his house. And that is how she got into marriage at such an immature age.
Some years ago, Mirna got to know the Lord through the testimony of her mother and her sister. All these years Mirna has been a secret Christian, although her husband might guess that she became a Christian. We immediately understood that it must be very difficult to be a Christian in a Muslim world, without having any interaction with other Christians. Together with some local believers we felt the need to support Mirna. We decided to see if it was possible for Mirna and her children to visit their mother and grandmother, where she could have a rest and spend time with other believers. It was a huge blessing that her husband agreed with this idea and let her go with four of the children for two weeks.
When she arrived, we helped her with some new clothes, food. Mirna enjoyed that she could freely visit a church and sing and pray with other believers. The love of a Christian community was for her a true testimony of God’s care for her. Brothers and sisters that she didn’t know waited for her at the railway station and helped her with the children. After three weeks Mira had to return to her husband and children that stayed behind. Two of her children got permission to stay for the summer at their grandmother Leyla’s place. It’s such a joy to see them playing in the church grounds.
With financial help of Freedom Challenge, it became possible that Mirna and her children could travel, could stay for a while with her mother and engage with other believers. Three weeks was a short time, but very significant for Mirna.”
* Names in this article are not real names for security issues.