Anwar* in Syria was thrown out when he became a Christian - he didn\'t have a home or family, but he had the incredible hope of life lived with Jesus. Thanks to Open Doors supporters, a Centre of Hope was able to give him somewhere to live, and the chance to teach the next generation of believers. Here\'s his story of courage and hope.
Hope hasn’t always been easy for Anwar - not until he found a Centre of Hope in Syria. Growing up in that country, he was immersed in the life of a strict and secretive Islamic sect where his father was a sheikh – a Muslim leader. As a teenager, Anwar started to doubt the religion he’d been raised in: “I was very curious about who Allah really was – does he love me? What should I do to please him?” But Anwar’s father wouldn’t – or couldn’t – answer his questions.
\""I wasn\'t supposed to let any Christian enter my life\""ANWAR
There was one thing that Anwar did feel certain about: that he shouldn’t be friends with Christians. “I was sure that Christianity is a lie – to us, Christians were deluded; they worship a human not a God, they are infidels. I wasn’t supposed to let any Christian enter my life.”
But when Anwar went to college, he met a Christian girl who shared her faith in Jesus with him. He responded by mocking her. “I didn’t believe a word she said, especially when she told me that He is alive now and I can speak to Him myself.”
Life got really hard for Anwar, and he stopped seeing the possibility of hope. “I went through deep depression. At that point, I believed that Allah hated me, and I hated him for allowing all this to happen to me.”
Despite being mocked, the Christian girl kept telling Anwar the gospel, and encouraged him to try talking to Jesus.
“I thought to myself – why not try this?” The girl explained to Anwar how to pray to Jesus, and he went to his room and tried. “At first, nothing changed – but after a while, I became addicted to knowing Jesus. I poured my heart out to Him, and suddenly I wasn’t alone anymore.”
That was the turning point for Anwar’s life. The moment that hopelessness turned into hope.
\""I fell in love with Jesus - He is my best friend\""ANWAR
Amazingly, many Muslims are having the same encounter with Jesus in the Middle East – thanks largely to the courageous witness of the church, like Anwar’s friend. That’s despite a decade of war and persecution significantly depleting the number of believers in the Middle East. Praise God, the remaining believers, and those who are returning to rebuild their lives, are spreading the good news of Jesus with extraordinary courage.
But believers from a Muslim background, like Anwar, are the most vulnerable to persecution. They face rejection, violence and social isolation. Some lose their inheritance and property. When difficult periods come, like the pandemic, these believers do not have any support from their families and the communities they grew up in.
It was a secret that couldn’t be kept. Word got out that the son of the sheikh was attending church, and the news was devastating for his family. Anwar was disowned by his family, he had nowhere to go.
Left with nothing, Anwar found a new start at a Centre of Hope – a church equipped to help people in the community in their darkest moments.
“If it wasn’t for the Centre of Hope, I think I would be homeless, hungry and alone.”
The Centre of Hope helped Anwar to rent a room and find a job. And now he works at the centre, giving hope to the next generation and teaching children English. Anwar’s favourite part is to talk to children about Jesus and pray together at the beginning of every day. He says, “Children don’t just need a teacher; they need someone who has a relationship with God and can influence them positively.”
Mourad*, co-ordinator or Open Doors’ work in Syria, sees the impact that support has, giving hope in emergencies and over generations: “When a hungry person gets a food package with love and respect, it gives him hope. When someone can start a small business, that gives hope. When a believer from a Muslim background is offered training, it gives hope. And giving hope is contagious. Someone who has hope, spreads hope.”
Christians in the Middle East desperately needs hope at the moment – facing the continuing impact of Covid-19, on top of the legacy of lengthy conflict and ongoing persecution. Hope is the most powerful force – and you can keep hope alive in an environment where it could so easily die.
With your support and prayers today, that contagious hope can keep spreading.
*Name changed for security reason
Every HK$500 could provide food and medical support to a believer struggling to survive
Every HK$650 could give Bibles to five children to help them grow in faith
Every HK$1200 could pay a month’s rent for a persecuted Christian, giving them somewhere safe to live.