Naida* doesn’t celebrate Ramadan in the same way anymore. As a Christian from a Muslim background in Central Asia, she knew that leaving the practices of Islam behind would expose her to exclusion and discrimination from angry relatives and friends. She wanted to find a way to use Ramadan to share Jesus with her family and friends. The question was, how?
Naida, now in her 70s, came to know Jesus through her children. When they first became Christians in the ‘90s, Naida was angry and upset: “I thought my children were attracted to a sect. I was so worried for their safety because we had a lot of relatives and they were all Muslims. I thought my daughter and sons could be beaten or even killed by their Muslim father and uncles.”
Sadly, this fear meant that Naida became what she describes as ‘the main source of persecution’ for her children.
“I tried to stop them visiting church and forced them to stay at home,” she says. “I threw away their Christian books and Bibles, talked to them with a lot of threats and even beatings… I didn’t know that God protected them; now I feel so sorry about that. I can see that Jesus came to save our family through my children and I am so grateful.”
Naida came to know the Lord herself when God healed her after a period of ill-health. Her children prayed with her, and that’s when she chose to invite Jesus into her life. “Since then, my life has completely changed,” she says.
For several years after becoming a Christian, Naida didn’t celebrate Ramadan – a festival which used to mean so much to her. Like most Muslims, she had respected Ramadan as holy, fasted for several days during the month, and celebrated with her wider Muslim family. She would visit neighbours and relatives, cook many traditional dishes and host a lot of guests in her house during Ramadan.
When Naida stopped celebrating Ramadan, it made her relatives angry. They stopped inviting her to their homes, and wouldn’t come to her house. Naida became upset and worried. While she felt that Christians couldn’t follow Muslim traditions, it was important for her to reach her Muslim sisters and brothers, cousins and other relatives with God’s love.
"I can see that Jesus came to save our family through my children and I am so grateful.” Naida
After a lot of prayer, study and advice from her pastor, Naida decided to celebrate Ramadan again, but this time it was in a completely new way. During the festival, Naida cooks different traditional dishes and invites her Muslim sisters, brothers, cousins and neighbours. In this way, she shows them her respect for their religious traditions and values, and at the same time she is able to share the gospel. She has found these celebrations really fruitful and an effective way to reach her Muslim friends and family – while remaining true to her faith and to Jesus.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, Naida couldn’t celebrate Ramadan in the same way in 2020, but she prepared the table anyway and invited again her Muslim neighbour Galia*. They celebrated Ramadan and spoke about Jesus together. This year, again, she won’t be able to hold a big gathering – but is hoping to have a small celebration with another neighbour, and to share the good news of Jesus. Praise God for Naida’s courage!
*Name changed for security reasons
What if? is a six-part resource for small groups. You can work through it remotely online or together in person - and it’s completely free! It features videos, challenges, Bible studies and prayer pointers.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.