A pastor from Central Asia boldly spoke to Faithwire this week, describing some of the dire and heartbreaking scenarios facing Christians who openly practice their faith in his majority-Muslim country.
Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, the preacher described what it’s like to live in a country where openly speaking about one’s faith — or opening an unregistered church — can lead to major social and legal consequences.
While he said persecution in his undisclosed country isn’t as “radical” as it is in other Central Asian countries, he described in detail how “the rights of Christians are limited.”
“You cannot share about your faith publicly. You cannot share faith openly,” he said. “Many churches do not get official recognition from the government (so) 50 percent of churches go underground.”
And while people in his country generally don’t pay with their life for sharing their Christian faith (though he said that’s certainly possible in some regions), they face other penalties, including being fired from a job or being abandoned by friends and family. In other nearby countries, though, he said being openly Christians “means to risk your life on a daily basis.”
“In my country, if you share your faith publicly it is prohibited,” he continued. “You can’t share the gospel openly. You cannot go to the street and start talking to the people about Christ … you’ll be fined.”
But despite possible persecution, the pastor said Christians must still share their faith, discussing the “great commission” mentioned in Matthew 28 — Jesus’ message to the disciples that they go out and “make disciples of all nations.” And despite government restrictions on the exercise of faith, the pastor said the gospel is still permeating the culture in his country.
“The church … is growing and it will grow no matter what’s going to happen, because the church is witnessing about Christ and people get to know Christ more and more,” he said.
It’s a growth he said the government is keenly aware of, as officials seek to stop Christianity’s spread, taking particular issue with Muslims who convert to the faith. While books have been banned and other restrictions have been put into place to try and stem the tide, the pastor said he’s convinced the church in Central Asia will eventually be dominated by former Muslims.
The pastor also had plenty to say about the impact of living in a place where persecution is ingrained in the culture.
“You realize when you become a believer … you’re not the majority of people. You realize the uniqueness of Christ,” he said. “This is not something that everybody follows. It brings some challenges in your life.”
But the preacher said there’s another unintended effect of such persecution.
“(It) makes you actually be more serious about what you follow and what you believe in,” he said. “So, actually the status of being a minority religion makes you to actually be serious and be real. When you realize that you pay the cost for your faith, you want to know what are you paying the cost for.”
In the end, persecution is a part of daily life for many Christians, with the pastor sharing a story about a friend who recently took a cab ride and decided to share his faith with the driver. That driver, who had radical Muslim inclinations, responded by telling the man, “We need to kill people like you, so you won’t spread the deceit of Christianity in the world.”
Despite what he’s seen, the pastor told Faithwire he wants people to know that persecution isn’t something to be afraid of, explaining that the Christian faith was founded amid intense persecution.
“The New Testament was written by persecuted believers to the persecuted church,” he said. “Jesus told us that we will suffer for the gospel, and today, seeing persecution of the church, I realize this is exactly what Jesus was telling us about.”
The preacher is boldly speaking out during a time in which Christian persecution is on full display in many areas of the world, perhaps most notably in the Middle East, where the Islamic State has harassed, killed and driven out many Bible-believers.
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