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Permission to be Christian!

About twenty years ago, I traveled to the country of Kyrgyzstan where I taught two courses in the capital city of Bishkek. I was teaching one course entitled, “The Gospel and Islam,” and another entitled, “Cross Cultural Communications.” Eighteen students attended the Islam course, and sixteen of them were converts from Islam. One young man shared that Muslims threatened his life. They demanded, “Either renounce your faith in Jesus Christ and return to Islam or we will kill you.” When he told his pastor what had happened, the pastor offered to go with him to the authorities. The police then proceeded to go with them to the leading imam in the city. The imam is the prayer leader at the mosque, and he delivers sermons to the devout Muslims every Friday. The police authority reminded the imam that the Kyrgyz Republic was not an Islamic state even though the majority of the people were Muslims. Christians comprise a small minority of the population in Kyrgyzstan. The official then went on to tell the imam that if anything happened to this convert, the police would not only arrest the offender, but the imam would also be held responsible. That remarkable solution ended the threats.


A couple of years later, I returned to Kyrgyzstan to teach a course on Islam in a new extension class in the city of Jalal-Abad in the southwestern area of the country. Jalal-Abad is a very Islamic city. A former student hosted me, and I ate my meals at a quaint Christian café, staffed by graduates from the Bible school in Bishkek. Every evening after dinner, I returned to my apartment—walking a mile on dark streets.


A nicely refurbished room in a local church served as our classroom. The freshly painted room, equipped with a new white board, was exciting for the students, but more importantly, they were overjoyed to have a training hosted in their city! Sixteen students attended this class, and fourteen of them were from a Muslim background.


On Monday, as is my habit when I have a small class, I had each student share something about themselves and how they came to faith in Jesus. On Tuesday, one of the young men, I will call him Hasan, told us that he lived with a couple other young male converts from Islam. A few young Muslim guys they knew came to visit. During the visit, they shared Jesus with them, but unexpectedly, the young Muslims told them, “We know who you are, and we know where you live. If you do not come back to the mosque, we will kill you.” Then Hasan asked the pressing question: “What should I do?” Then he said, “By the way, I told them about these classes and about you!” At that very moment, I remembered the testimony I heard in Bishkek two years earlier, so I suggested that he do the same. It is amazing how the Holy Spirit prepares us for situations, even though we are not aware of it at the time.


Hasan was not in class on Wednesday. We prayed, continued teaching the class, and I kept looking over my shoulder on my walks home after dinner. On Thursday, Hasan was back in class. I asked him what had happened. He had followed my suggestions, and then he said, “The imam gave us permission to be Christian!” 

The Word of God clearly teaches that those who follow Jesus will endure persecution. At times, God presents a way out of the persecution, as in the story of God’s protection for believers in Kyrgyzstan. At other times, the Lord makes a way through the persecution, while sometimes believers lay down their lives for the sake of Christ.

If you were presented with an ultimatum to turn your back on Jesus Christ, how would you respond? Pray that God will strengthen your faith so that you will be able to stand in the day of adversity. Also, pray that God will protect our brothers and sisters in Christ who daily face severe persecution for their faith.

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