Have you ever wondered how it feels to live as a young believer in Brunei, where Christians are a minority and Sharia (Islamic law) has been made the law of the land? This is a testimony from Elora*, a believer in her 20s. She shares about the challenges she faced growing up and the hope she has for the future.
“Why do you want to be a Christian?” “Why is being a Christian so important to you?” These are not questions that every school child has to answer. But Elora was the only Christian in her school. She was constantly being bombarded with questions like these about her faith. Her teachers and her peers took every opportunity to question her religion, but Elora, though young, had this resilience about her. She knew that she had to be bold with her answers and her faith – to stand , even though, there was no one else who would stand with her.
Elora’s mother taught her about the Bible from a very young age and her late father was very active in church. She grew in her knowledge of Christ and the Bible in Sunday School as well. But she also learnt about Islam in school-this was a mandatory subject for all students in government schools, and still is today.
Greatest challenge came
But her greatest challenge came during her university days, when Elora developed feelings for a Muslim man. Knowing it wasn’t the wisest decision, she pursued the relationship anyway, justifying it by saying that he was kind and a good guy.
Every night, right before she went to bed, Elora would pray and ‘argue’ with Jesus. God kept reminding her how unsettling this relationship was for her faith and that she should let it go. “Some nights I would yell, ‘Can you give me a break, God?’ But God never gave up on me,” says Elora, now 25.
After a few months of wrestling with God, Elora broke off the relationship and cut off all forms of communication with her boyfriend of one year. “So many tears were shed in that year. But that year was the year I truly encountered the love of Christ. I was 21 years old.”
Not the Only One
Many young adults in Brunei share a similar story. Growing up in church does not necessarily shield them or adequately prepare them to face pressures and temptations to turn away from their Christian faith.
Time and time again, Elora saw her peers going through similar situations. She is one of the few who grew stronger in their faith in the face of such temptations. Sadly, many fell away from Christ, married their Muslim spouses and converted to Islam. In Brunei, a non-Muslim must convert to Islam in order to marry a Muslim.
With the further implementation of Sharia, Elora also noticed her Christian friends hold back in their passion for Christ. Those who were once bold and confident in the confession of their faith have become quiet.
Sharing the gospel is forbidden
Sharia applies to all Bruneians – Muslims and non-Muslims as well, including those who come from outside Brunei. Under these laws, everyone is absolutely forbidden to propagate any other religion than Islam. Therefore, sharing the Gospel with those born into Muslim families and seen as Muslims from birth, or indigenous people who follow traditional religions, is forbidden under any circumstances. Teaching the Gospel to Christians is still allowed, but only inside the four walls of the church.
“Believers are not willing to take risks. Parents choose not to send their children to public church events either. Some of my friends have even said that they don’t see a place for themselves in the church anymore,” says Elora.
“Awake, Brunei, Awake”
A pastor laments if Church cannot propagates the Gospel, it will die within one generation. He means a vibrant church does not stay indoor. It shares the good news with people around them. If not, eventually the church will die. Matthew 5:14 where it says:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. “
Though the road is narrow, it isn’t completely shut. There is still hope. A Christian prayed quietly for Brunei, “ Awake! Awake, oh city of Brunei for God isn’t any less God in the shadows! ”
“My heart beats faster when it comes to Brunei. There is a burden I can’t explain,” Elora says.
Elora now serves the young adults in her local church. She is passionate about teaching them to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and treat everyone with kindness, no matter how unkind they are.
*Name changed for security reason
- Pray for young people like Elora who have a heart for their nation. Pray that God would instil creativity and brand new initiatives in how to encourage youth to stay faithful to Him.
- Pray also for the Church in Brunei, that God would bless them and use them for His kingdom.
- Pray for wisdom for pastors and church leaders on how to encourage their members to be faithful to Him as well as be salt and light for the nation.
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