J and P, you've met Christians living with various amounts of persecution all around the world. I understand that most of the countries you visit are majority Muslim?
Yes - we mainly work with Christians in the Middle East and North Africa, and these countries tend to be Muslim.
We want to emphasise before we begin that the culture in these places is so different to our own, and the media doesn’t always portray things accurately.
You would think Islam is a very religious religion but it’s not - we have met lots of nominal Muslims, who believe in God, know about sin and heaven and are not fundamental or hostile to Christians. In fact, many are very open to Christianity. So the attitudes of some of these governments and extremist Muslims are not reflective of all people living in these countries.
Can you tell me a bit about what it's like to live as a Christian in a country that is closed to the gospel?
Christians face the most pressure from their governments and, if they convert from a Muslim background, their own families.
In many countries it is illegal for a Muslim to convert to Christianity. People will be issued with identity cards and their religion will be clearly marked. It would be impossible for these identity cards to be changed, and Muslims will generally receive preferential treatment. In some countries if you are a Christian there will be very open discrimination and you might find it hard to get a place at university or to get a job.
A painting of martyrs in North Africa
It's often also illegal to evangelise in public, and it's common for the government to watch Christians and try to catch them out.
In one country Christianity is called the 'virus' because the government keeps trying to get rid of it (even with specially designated government roles) but it just keeps growing.
In one country Christianity is called the 'virus' because the government keeps trying to get rid of it but it just keeps growing
In places where there is extreme persecution, you hear stories of Christian girls being stolen and raped and forced into marriage. There is a certain prestige for a Muslim man who marries a Christian woman.
Sadly the culture of shame and honour means families also put converted family members under a lot of pressure. We have met many Christians who have been turned out of their houses by their families.
A church in the Middle East that was set on fire by militants
You even hear of family members killing those who convert, and this is overlooked by the authorities.
On one trip we met a girl in her mid-20s. She seemed nervous and told us she had been a Christian for about three years. We asked if her parents knew about her faith. She said they knew there was something wrong as she stopped going to the mosque and stopped wearing the Hijab. Her family won’t eat with her and she is forced to sit separately to them at mealtimes.
When we asked what would happen if they found out she was a Christian, she motioned with her finger across her neck. It's a very real danger.