Mariam* is keen to combat people's fears around the coronavirus - for Christians in North Africa, it comes on top of the persecution they already face. Together with her team, she started a series of daily devotionals to help bring hope. Their impact is felt beyond North Africa and across the Arab nations of the Middle East.
Islam is the majority religion in North Africa and those who follow Jesus often have to do so secretly. Most believers would face extreme persecution from government, community and family members if their faith were widely known. In normal circumstances this is bad enough but now, due to coronavirus measures, Christians here face further isolation.
Covid-19 is making face-to-face discipleship and training extremely difficult across North Africa and many Christians have also lost their jobs and have no income. In this environment, social media is proving to be a lifeline, enabling persecuted Christians to connect with other believers and ask questions about life and faith.
Mariam is one of the young women leading the way in this ministry. “I saw a lot of people on social media with anxiety because of the coronavirus,” she says. “Some people explain the Bible differently and believe the coronavirus is a punishment from God. Another feared that he was too far off from God to be forgiven.”
Most would probably read these comments with sympathy and move on, but not Mariam. Together with her team and the support of Open Doors partners, she started a series of daily devotionals addressing different fears related to Covid-19, such as that of losing a loved one or the fear of isolation to help believers understand the situation with a proper theology of the loving God.
Every day, subscribers receive an audio message containing a Bible verse, a reflection on the verses and a prayer. Sometimes a question is posed to help subscribers consider how they can apply the message in their everyday lives. “Someone told me that every day she had been waiting for this audio message to be sent to her,” says Mariam. “I encouraged her not only to listen to the prayer, but also to actively pray on her own, to talk to God and read the Bible. This was a new experience for her.”
Mariam’s team also engage in deep conversation with subscribers via social media, often over several days. One teenager that the team have been in contact with is Nizalah*. She doubted God’s love for her. Today, thankfully, she is able to say: “Now I know deep in my heart that I am not saved by my own acts but by grace. I learned the difference between mercy and grace, but also that there is nothing I can do to make God’s love even more for me, because He already loves me to the max.”
“We try to help people discover that God loves them. We want to give people hope." Mariam
In an area of the world where Islamic conservativism dominates and women often have fewer rights than men, Mariam’s entrepreneurial spirit is striking. She says: “Till now, we have been in touch with around a hundred people in deep conversations and so far nearly 3,000 people from several Arab countries have subscribed to this series.”
“We try to help people discover that God loves them. Yes, it is a big crisis and it is normal to be afraid. But we want to give people hope.”
Thank you for making this work possible. Please help us equip more enterprising women like Mariam to bring hope and the love of Jesus to persecuted Christians.
*Name changed for security reasons
Every £28 could enable four women to attend empowerment training, so they can understand their healthy, Bible-based role and true value in the family, church and community.