Living in constant fear of persecution for their faith, Christians in Southeast Asia will pretend to observe Ramadan this month.
One Christian who is forced to hide his faith told persecution charity Open Doors that he pretends to fast in front of his Muslim colleagues so they don't suspect his conversion.
"To do otherwise would result in suspicions and questionings. It is only when I'm alone or with other secret believers that I can be myself. It is not easy to live such a double life," he said.
"Many secret believers like me dare not reveal our faith because if we are caught we will be sent to Islamic rehabilitation centres. I've heard stories of brainwashing, torture, and mental abuse to make believers from Muslim backgrounds recant their faith in Christ."
The holy month of Ramadan is observed by Muslims around the world to mark the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Mohammed. Followers of Islam abstain from eating and drinking in daylight hours during Ramadan, choosing instead to eat before sunrise and after sunset.
The calendar is based on the lunar cycle, so the date of Ramadan changes every year. This year, it begins today, June 6, with the sighting of the crescent moon this evening, and the first day of fasting will commence tomorrow at sunrise. Ramadan will then continue for 30 days until July 5.
Open Doors' source explained that he used to take part in Ramadan every year until he became a Christian. Muslims believe that they gain 'pahala' – spiritual merits – for fasting, and if their merits outweigh their sins on judgement day, they are allowed into paradise.
"But praise God I am now a Christian, and I have Christ's assurance that my sins are washed away by his blood. I don't have this nagging fear any more. Now I fast to deepen my relationship with God and to know Christ more," he said.
He added he is worried about being found out, and demanded to recant his faith. "I'm terrified of denying Jesus. Therefore, please pray for me and my fellow believers from Muslim backgrounds, that he will give us the strength not to deny him."