Raina in Egypt became a Christian after her son was miraculously healed and saw a vision of Jesus – today, she is learning to see her true value as God’s beloved daughter.
“If I would show you my face, this could cost me my life.” Rania* grew up in a devoutly Muslim community near Cairo, Egypt. Becoming a Christian has endangered her – but she knows it is the best decision she ever made.
Growing up, Rania was taught to wear strict Islamic clothing as a teenage girl and, later, as a woman. “When I went out, I would be fully veiled, always afraid that even my fully covered body would be seen as seductive, and I would bring shame on my family,” she says. “From an early age I was told that my purpose was to get married, have children and satisfy my husband. I didn’t feel like I had much value.”
Rania did get married, and had a son. She did not feel close to her husband Sameh*, and she was horrified when he chose to follow Jesus. Everything she’d heard about Christians was bad. “My husband came to Christ first; I did not like it at all,” she says. “I had always learned that Christians were dirty and that converting to Christianity was a sin.”
Things changed when their son became very sick. He was so ill that Rania and Sameh were worried that he would die. “My husband prayed for him – I didn’t think much of it,” Rania remembers. Like any anxious parent, they were desperate for their child to recover. But even Rania’s husband didn’t anticipate exactly what God would do in response to his prayer.
“As my husband was praying, my son suddenly stopped shivering and his temperature went back to normal!” This miraculous healing would have been wonderful enough – but God also sent the young boy a vision that changed the life of his family. “My son opened his eyes and told us: ‘I saw Christ on the cross looking at me, and He called me, saying: “Child arise”’,” Raina remembers. “I couldn’t stand on my legs anymore. I fell down, kneeling next to my husband crying and thanking this God I never knew. At that very point I gave my life to Jesus.”
Raina wholeheartedly knew that she wanted to put her faith and trust in Jesus – but she also knew that openly being a Christian in her community would be extremely dangerous for her and her family. “We were living in a strictly Muslim village,” she says. “From the outside nothing had changed: I couldn’t stop wearing my veil all of a sudden. Converting to Christianity is seen as a shame for the family, something that fanatics say should be forbidden. If we wanted to live, we had to become secret believers.”
"Converting to Christianity is seen as a shame for the family, something that fanatics say should be forbidden." Raina
Egypt is number 35 on the Open Doors World Watch List, and converts from Islam face enormous pressure from their families to ‘re-convert’. The state also makes it impossible for new believers to get any official recognition of their conversion. But Raina and Sameh are persevering, learning more and more about Jesus and the Bible. It has helped change Raina’s understanding of herself as a woman, which had been damaged by the extreme views of her community’s version of Islam.
“If you’re a secret believer in a family, that family is your first church. Sameh and I do Bible study together, share about Jesus with our children, and pray together. It’s a journey. We were never very close [before my conversion]; now we are learning what it means to support each other in marriage.
“The things I learned about myself ever since I was young - harmful things - are engraved deep into my soul: ‘You have no value, you have to hide yourself’. It takes time to fully let go of those convictions.”
Part of this new understanding of her identity in Christ comes from seminars by Open Doors local partners that are run for women, particularly for women from a Muslim background, many of whom have faced discrimination for their gender because of the culture they live in.
“The women's seminars of Open Doors local partners here, that I was invited to, were so helpful for me,” says Raina. “The sisters helped me to overcome the traumas of my past and God Himself told me that I am of value, that I am in fact His beloved daughter!”
"God Himself told me that I am of value, that I am in fact His beloved daughter!" Raina
While these seminars have been very helpful in Raina’s faith, life as a secret believer is really hard. “The hardest part of the journey was watching my children suffer,” says Raina. “They had to leave behind their family, their friends and their school, and get adjusted to a different life with less money. They are raised as Christians inside the house, but outside the house they have to live as Muslims, like us.
“It broke my heart when my oldest son said to me one day: ‘Why did God save me from death? I’d rather have died than have this life.’ He became depressed and didn’t want to go to school anymore, he was too afraid to make a mistake and reveal he was a Christian. Being new believers ourselves, Sameh and I found it hard to deal with these questions.”
Thankfully, he has been able to go on a camp for other young Christians from a Muslim background like him. “He made a lot of friends there,” shares Raina. “He doesn't feel so alone anymore and is happy again. He even tells his little brother Bible stories now.”
Despite the difficulties she has faced, and is facing, Raina is passionate about supporting other believers who’ve converted from Islam. She is now able to do that, thanks to support and training from Open Doors local partners: “Recently, a new chapter in our story started: we now have a discipleship group in our home, a house church,” says Raina. “I am a clever lady, I just never had the chance to develop myself. The ministry [Open Doors partners] is offering us leadership training, and I am excited to start it.
“Please pray for us if you read this. Changing everything in life was not an easy step, but God was supporting us all the time and we were able to move on. We decided as a family that we will not give up. God is good.”
Please join Raina in these prayers, and ask that other women who are persecuted for their faith and vulnerable because of their gender would be seen, heard and empowered to reach their God-given potential.
*Names changed for security reasons
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