Release warns of persecution threat against British Muslim converts
A growing number of Christians in Britain from a Muslim background are facing harassment and persecution, warns Release International.
They include 'Yasmin', whose ex-husband planned to kill her. She's been attacked in the street, driven from her home and was taken under police protection.
Yasmin became a Christian after receiving a vision of Jesus during the difficult birth of her son. She tried to keep her faith a secret from her family, but eventually told her mother.
"When my mother found out I had become a Christian she went to the local mosque and told them that I had gone crazy," Yasmin told Release International, which serves the persecuted church in 30 nations.
"She went to get some holy water to heal me of my madness. A campaign was set up against me; people would come and bang on the door every ten minutes during the night."
The police set up a panic alarm but finally told Yasmin they could no longer protect her and moved her into a women's refuge.
Yasmin relocated to another part of the country, but her ex-husband tracked her down and demanded custody of their children as he objected to them being brought up by a Christian.
She says: "He continually intimidated and harassed me and hired someone to beat me in the street. Wherever we went there would always be a car following us and watching us."
Her son yielded to pressure and went to live with his dad. "He only stayed one night," says Yasmin, "as his dad told him that he had arranged for someone to kill me and was pressing my son for details of the layout of our home - where the alarm was and where I slept."
Yasmin went into hiding with her son and took out an injunction against her husband. The harassment stopped, but that was not the end of the trouble.
"Everyone in the local Muslim community knew I was a Christian and didn't want to know me. People would cross the street rather than greet me and often spat in my face. They tried to pressure me to leave town. But I had already been chased out of one town so I was determined not to let them intimidate me."
Yasmin is now working to support other Muslim background believers who are experiencing the same pressures and persecution.
She adds: "One of the most difficult things about becoming a Christian from a Muslim background is losing your family. There are such tight family networks in our communities. If someone becomes a Christian then they are considered to bring shame on the whole family and the only response is to cut them out of the family."
Some Muslim background believers in the UK lose their homes, possessions and even custody of their children - a picture replicated in many nations around the world, where former Muslims may even lose their lives for changing their faith.
Release International's patron, Bishop Michael Nazir Ali has also been under police protection after receiving death-threats for expressing his concerns about some aspects of Islam in Britain. He endured similar threats in his homeland Pakistan, but never expected the same thing to happen in the UK.
Bishop Nazir-Ali said: "The story of the church is a story of persecution. The blood of the martyrs has been, and is, and will be the seed of the church."
Release International's CEO Andy Dipper said: "Release has seen many such cases around the world. Now these things are beginning to happen in the UK.
"Converts from a Muslim background may be traumatised, having faced intense pressure, threats, blackmail and the loss of their families and homes. They often have to cope with either secrecy or intimidation, and may need emotional and spiritual counselling.
"These new Christians may have material needs, such as for shelter, food and clothing. We need to be hands-on in our help and to open the doors of our homes. We also need to equip and train more churches here in Britain in how they can best support new church members from a Muslim background."
Through its international network of missions Release International supports Christians imprisoned for their faith and their families in 30 nations. It supports church workers, pastors and their families, and provides training, Bibles, Christian literature and broadcasts. Release International is a member of the UK organisations Global Connections, the Evangelical Alliance and the Micah Network.
Yasmin's story is in the latest edition of Release International's Witness magazine, available from www.releaseinternational.org