(Her faith was so secret, she couldn’t even invite her family to her own Christian wedding)

“I’ve seen Nora’s* face. I have her photos on my memory cards. But I will never be able to show you her face. I can’t reveal her true identity, because that will put her life in danger. She could face persecution and imprisonment for what she is doing .” ( Julia*, trip photographer)

Nora is the first indigenous woman from a Muslim background to be ordained as a priest in Malaysia. Because she was born a Muslim, it is illegal for her to believe in Christ; even more so to serve Him in an official capacity.

Because of the law in Malaysia forbidding anyone to evangelise to the indigenous people, for a long time there was no one brave enough to tell Nora about Jesus’ free gift of salvation. But God did not forget her.

When Nora was an adult and started to work, she met her future husband, Daniel*, a Christian. He took her along with him to his church, where she attended Bible Study classes at weekends.

“When I learnt about Jesus, I decided to follow Him because I believed He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). I knew that this decision would change my life forever. But because of God, and with Daniel by my side, I am prepared to face it. Whatever happens, Daniel and I will take it as God’s test and training for our faith,” shared Nora.

Nora and Daniel eventually decided to get married. But this presented a big problem because he was a Christian and she was from a Muslim background. In Malaysia, it is a legal requirement for non-Muslims to convert in order to marry their Muslim spouse. If not, the marriage is considered illegal and Muslims will be charged in a Shariah court. Therefore, to be married officially in the eyes of the government, Daniel needed to convert and become a Muslim.

“I didn’t want Daniel to change his faith. I am the one who wants to change my faith. We are both Christians and we wanted to marry the Christian way,” said Nora.

Through a friend, they found a Muslim Background Believer (MBB), Pastor Ishak*, willing to marry them. Pastor Ishak remembered telling everyone on the day of the wedding: “Poor Nora. Today is her blessed day, her wedding day and she couldn’t tell her parents. Then we all cried. Even before I formalised the wedding, I cried. So did the small number of MBB’s who attended the service. We all cried. This is the cross we have to carry. We cried for her and for ourselves. We are a crying church,” he said.

Nora could not invite her parents to the wedding because they didn’t know that she had renounced Islam and accepted Christ. They still don’t. “My siblings might have done something to stop me. They can kick me out of the family. I don’t talk about my faith, not because of fear, but because I don’t want to lose my relationship with my family, especially my parents, who are getting old.”

Nora with her husband Daniel

Nora and Daniel have been married for 10 years but they are without children. “I don’t have children. Of course, I want to have children. Every married couple definitely wants children. But for me to … we can’t … have children now,” she said.

Hearing Nora share her thoughts on not having children illustrates powerfully how difficult this journey has been. The absence of children is an on-going struggle and cuts very deeply into her heart.

“My husband is a Christian. I am born Muslim. We were married in church. We did not have a civil marriage and our marriage is not official. If I were to have a son or daughter and they discover I’m now a Christian, the child would be taken away by the Islamic authorities. To have children is impossible for us!” she wept.

After photographing Nora, Julia remarked, “I removed my camera, which was between us, and we hugged. I don’t know how long we held each other. Thirty seconds? A minute? Maybe longer? Eventually we each had to go our own way. I prayed that the Lord would soften her pain and make her strong to fulfill her calling. I also hoped that the Lord would give a spark of joy each day to her and her husband, so that they can carry on with joy in their hearts.”

“But I haven’t let go. Dear Nora, I will never let go of you, but carry you close to my heart for the rest of my life.”

Despite her struggles, Nora still finds hope and strength to persevere. “I was in the discipleship class of the church for many years. We use your materials for the discipleship training. What I learnt from the course really strengthened me. I now know the Biblical principles [related to persecution]. It gives me hope for the future. Even though it is difficult to obey all of the Bible’s teaching, it still gives hope. And that’s what strengthens me.”

Nora is the first ordained Associate Pastor from a Muslim background in Malaysia. On the day of her ordination, the lead pastor told the congregation, “She is the answer to our prayers. You must be responsible. You must protect her. You must take care of her. If any religious department were to arrest her, or the MBB believers among us, we, as the church, must stand together with them. That is our responsibility.”

Open Doors supported Nora in her three-year theological studies at Bible seminary. She completed her training in 2017, and was ordained as an Associate Pastor in her church in March 2018.

As part of the international body of Christ, you can also stand together with persecuted Christians in Malaysia.

Malaysia ranks no.42 in the 2019 WORLD WATCH LIST. Source of Persecution: Islamic Oppression/Dictatorial paranoia

Please pray:

  • For God to raise more local indigenous leaders and believers to be theologically trained.
  • Pray for Nora to reach out, disciple and serve her own people.
  • Pray for unity and solidarity between the officially recognised church and the MBB church in Malaysia.

*Pseudonyms used to help protect identities

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Open Doors’ goal is to “strengthen what remains and is about to die” (Rev 3:2). Without your support, many Christians in these underground churches would not survive. 

Your PRAYER and DONATION is valuable to our persecuted brothers and sisters.