FAISALABAD, Pakistan — Kids as young as 2 years old are working in the brick-making fields of Pakistan. One man with a free school wants to change that.
Sarfraz Anwar’s father and brother started in the brick fields. To make bricks, they squat and grab a ball of moist clay-rich earth. They form it into a loaf, cover it with dry dust, and plop it into a mould. It is turned over and dropped onto the ground in long rows to bake under the blistering sun.
It’s a grueling job, and most who fall into this line of work never get out. Some get indebted to their employees when they borrow for their weddings (Pakistanis love 3-day ceremonies with much expenses). They spend the next decades of their life trying to pay off that debt, much like a student loan in America — only they become almost like slaves.
But Dad and Umar escaped the fields. They had a vision to work as Christian laborers. First Dad took at a double shift in security to raise money to launch a school for children that could be free. With whatever free time, he pedaled his bike to the brick fields and sprend the message of hope. Read the rest:
Six years after Bashir Sengendo converted to Christianity from Islam, his Muslim family beat him and cut him so severely that he died 12 days later.
Sengendo, 35, of Namutumba, Western Uganda, left a family of four when he passed away in the hospital on Jan. 25th after succumbing to wounds inflicted by his own brother and uncle.
“The family needs a lot of financial, moral and psychological support,” a Kiboga area pastor told Morning Star news, which tracks persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Africa.
Bashir Sengendo was raised a Muslim and trained to become a mosque leader. But he converted to Christ after he spoke with a former Muslim. Sengendo left his native town and studied at a Uganda Bible college before serving as a pastor in Kiboga for six years.
His immediate family sent messages to him to return home and take care of the farmland that was his portion of the inheritance. Sengendo was reluctant to return because he wanted to continue fulfilling his call to Kiboga.
After six years, Sengendo acceded to his family’s pleas to return home. He had no idea what awaited him.
He arrived Jan. 12th. If he thought the family would receive him warmly, he was badly mistaken. The family was openly hostile.
He was shocked by their cold reception and slept without food.
Early the next morning, his brother and uncle fell on him with violence.
“They beat me badly. They cut me with an object in the head, back and hand,” Sengendo told Morning Star News following the attack, while he hovered between life and death in the hospital. Read the rest: Persecution of Christians around the world.
Yassir and four cohorts hid behind a tree on a dark night in the jungle. When a Christian they hated named Zachariah walked by, they jumped out and began to beat him — nearly to death. After “pleasing” Allah with this attack, Yassir returned home, washed himself and prayed.
“We broke his arm. We broke his leg. He started to bleed,” Yassir says matter-of-factly on a One for Israel Video. “Because he started to scream begging for help, I put my hand over his mouth, so that no noise would come out of his mouth.”
Yassir grew up in a strict Muslim Sudanese family and prepared to join jihad, the bloody fight against “infidel” nations and “infidel” peoples.
But every night in his bed, he wondered about eternity.
Such hatred for Jews and Christians began in school. There was only one Christian classmate who was intelligent and talented: Zachariah.
“Because I thought as a Muslim I must be better than him, we started to beat him every single day,” Yassir remembers.
Their malevolent hatred festered and grew until Yassir with four other young men agreed to kill him. They knew the path Zachariah took through the jungle on certain nights. They laid in wait for him.
“It was like slaughtering a sheep. He was shivering. He was crying. We left him for dead,” Yassir admits. “I felt very proud. You’re actually doing something for Allah. You want to please him.”
On Laylat al-Raghaib — the Night of Wishes — during Ramadan, nine-year-old Hussain asked Allah for — what else? — 100 tacos.
“On the Night of Wishes if you asked for anything, Allah was supposed to give it to you,” he says on a StrongTower27 video. “Because I had lived in America and then moved to Holy Land, one thing I really wanted was tacos. I used to eat tacos a lot, but there were no tacos over there. You’re supposed to stay up until 2:00 o’clock and then everything turns upside down and you ask for anything you want, you’re supposed to get it.
“It never happened,” he adds.
Today Hussain is a Christian, but he once was a very confused child. Born of a Brazilian mother and Palestinian father and raised in San Francisco, Hussain says he loved Jesus intensely as a nominal Muslim. Jesus, according to Islam, was only a prophet.
When his parents divorced, his dad took him to the West Bank of Israel and enrolled him in Muslim schools in the Palestinian territory. He learned to hate Christians so much that he would avoid looking at telephone poles. The lateral bars formed the image of the cross, a hated symbol for Muslims.
“They taught me, ‘You need to be very careful: Jesus is NOT the son of God.’ I was 100% convinced about it,” he remembers. “I was so spiritually hungry, I ate it up. I became the most religious Muslim in my family. I became very committed.”
As an American citizen, Hussain planned to return to America and convert untold multitudes to the truth of Islam.
He planned what he would say to his friends: “The Jews only accept Moses. The Christians accept Moses and Jesus. But Muslims accept Mohammed, Moses and Jesus, so everybody should become Muslim.”
At age 12, he had the opportunity to win America for Allah. He continued reading and memorizing the Koran.
“I was very committed,” he says. “One thing I used to do because I hated Christianity… Read the rest: muslim hated Christians.
A Muslim extremist tried to kill Ramazan Arkan in Antalya Evangelical Church, the only Christian church in Turkey’s fifth largest city.
“One nationalist guy, he came to our church service to assassinate me and he was planning to kill me, but we had police protection during that time,” Ramazan says in a Stefanus video. “Police realized that guy was there and they arrested him and they put him in jail.
“After that, police thought that behind this guy there is some group that wants me to be dead. When I was single, I didn’t care very much. But now I am married; I have two kids. When you face persecution and when you know that there are people that want to kill you, that is scary. Sometimes I feel scared and sometimes I feel worried.”
There’s a price to pay for converting to Christianity from a Muslim background in Turkey. Sometimes your family disowns you. Sometimes you can’t find a job because of religious discrimination. When the church first opened, Muslims threw stones at it, Ramazan says.
But the 200 Christians who attend Antalya Evangelical Church remain undaunted.
The only thing Ramazan knew about Christianity was what the Muslim propagandists had told him, for example, the Bible was corrupted and unreliable.
So, when a co-worker came out as Christian, Ramazan was curious to ask for himself.
“I was a member of one of the conservative Islamic groups,” he says. “I practiced my faith five times in a day, and I was a very serious, devout Muslim. I never met any Christians until that time, and then we start to talk about Christianity, he told me a lot of things about Christianity. I was shocked by what he told me because what I had learned all those years from my society about Christianity, everything was wrong.”
At the time, there wasn’t a single church in Antalya, a city of 2 million and a resort destination on the Turkish Riviera. So Ramazan started one in the year 2000.
“Jesus changed my mind and he changed my life,” Ramazan says “Now my goal is to serve Him. I’m pastoring this church, I’m teaching and preaching. But most of my time is more like spending time with people, and there are a lot of visitors that they are coming and visiting our church during the weekdays and I usually sit with them and talk to them hours and hours, because Turkish people are very much interested in spiritual stuff.”
Order up a Turkish coffee and while away the time with Christian apologetics.
Alper Gursu was one of the Turks who engaged in long conversations with Pastor Ramazan about spirituality. Today, he is one of the leaders of the church.
“I had dozens of questions, like is the Bible real? Because I heard that’s changed,” Alper says. “So he started explaining that starting from the third century and the Nicene council he explained to me all the history. He gave me this circle of evidence. All my questions were being answered.”
Pastor Ramazan gave Alper a Bible, and he started reading and ended up getting saved.
Melis Samur is now one of the worship leaders. She got into God because she liked architecture and studied churches. When she found one in her city, she begged her parents to let her go.
“It was a really peaceful, really really beautiful place,” Melissa says. “They got really upset at me. They were like, ‘Why do you need another religion?’”
The crisis of faith came for Hormoz Shariat when Iranian authorities arrested and executed his 18-year-old brother for a minor political crime. Hormoz, who was living in the United States after getting a PhD, wanted revenge.
“Then I realized, ‘Oh, God says, vengeance is mine.’ You’re not supposed to do that,” Hormoz says on a Huntley100 video. “Ok, I hate those people who killed my brother…I’m not supposed to hate. I’m supposed to even love my enemies. Ok, I’m angry…I’m not supposed to be angry in my heart. So I said, ‘God, can I at least cuss?’ No, no bad words because you worship with your mouth. Finally I asked God, ‘What can I do?’”
The loving Father impressed the following on his heart:
Those people who killed your brother are not your enemies. They are victims in the hands of your enemies. When you look at those Muslims killing others, don’t look at them as enemies. They are victims. We have to love them. We have to share the gospel.
Today, Hormoz presides over an evangelistic outreach that is part of the tsunami of salvation washing over Iran, likely the fastest growing church in the world. While Iran’s regional ambitions and nuclear program dominates the news, widespread underground revival is occurring and going mostly unseen.
It may seem ironic that Hormoz Shariat’s beginnings were very much in the anti-American, pro-Islam movement that swept the Shah of Iran from power, instituting an extremist Shiite government.
Hormoz was a naïve young man caught up in the fervor of multitudes in the streets shouting, “Death to America!” It wouldn’t take long for him to see the error of his ways. People were executed on the streets summarily for any association with the previous regime. Austere religious laws were imposed denying people freedom.
Hormoz now says he was being moved by the masses, who mostly wanted democratic change to oust a corrupt dictatorship.
When he came to America to pursue a PhD at the University of Southern California, he saw how blessed America was and changed his mind.
He was achieving the American dream. He had a well-paid career, a house and an American wife. But it seemed empty. He chafed at the grind and a lack of purpose.
So he embarked on a quest to find the truth. He would dedicate his life to serving the true religion, he decided.
Raised Muslim, he gave Islam his first attention. But after reading the Koran in a systematic and scientific way, he didn’t find God.
Next, he purposed to finish the Bible in three months. He started in Matthew.
A Palestinian son of an imam did not sleep for three days after receiving salvation in Jesus.
“He was crying all the time, calling and crying, and said that he was betrayed, that he had been living in a lie,” due to his upbringing in Islam. “And then he just knew what is the truth. His life was so changed that he wanted to tell everyone about Jesus.”
Despite the risk to his life, this joy-filled young convert began sharing Jesus on the streets of Gaza, a Palestinian city off the southwestern border of Israel, according to a One For Israel video that documents his conversion.
To question Islam is a great sin for Muslims. Jews are often derided as “dogs” who deserve death, and Christians are said to follow “corrupt” teachings of the Bible. Since Palestinians frequently engage in terrorism, to abandon Islam, embrace his enemies and then preach Jesus on the streets of Gaza is tempting death. The fact that his father is an imam, a preacher of Islam, made things worse.
The young man came to Christ after watching an Arabic video about Jesus produced by the One For Israel Bible College in Netanya, Israel. It is a Messianic Jewish institution of higher learning and all the course work is taught in Hebrew.
One For Israel also spearheads an online effort to win Israelis to Jesus. What not many people realize is that there are Palestinians who from the foundation of Israel in 1948 decided to become Israelis and not move to Gaza and the West Bank along with their countrymen.
One For Israel has a department that reaches out to Arab/Palestinian Israelis. And their evangelism and discipleship, via the internet, ranges throughout the Middle East and northern Africa. They employ a simple Arabic that everyone can understand (there are variations through all the Arab world of the original Arabic spoken by Mohammad).
When Muslims call in with questions, they answer them at length and engage any objections. Many of these Muslims wind up becoming born-again. A lot of their short videos are oriented towards young Muslims.
Where missionaries cannot cross borders, the internet is providing an open door for evangelism and discipleship.
When anyone gets saved, they continue to disciple them online, since born-again churches may not be easily accessible.
In some cases, when a convert is threatened, they counsel his next moves to spirit him away from danger and relocate to a safe haven.
The Palestinian young man started as a seeker, asking questions. When doubts filled his mind, he sought answers from the imams in Palestine, who either counseled him to not talk to Christians or promised answers at a later time but never followed up. Carlos Damianos, an Arab Israeli convert to Christianity, leads the online evangelism and discipleship.
“Carlos was giving them all the answers he needed from the scriptures,” said Hadil (no last name was provided), who also works on Arab outreach.
The video outreach started in January of 2020 with a series of eight videos which focused on the Muslim’s main rejection of the Bible: that it supposedly was corrupted and altered through the years.
Entitled “The invention of the myth of Biblical corruption,” the series of twice-weekly videos showed the integrity and reliability of the scriptures. They cite the Dead Sea scrolls, which were hand-copied from before Jesus’s day and validate the accurate preservation of holy words from ancient times. Read the rest: One For Israel outreach to Arabs.
The reason why so many Saudis fill the ranks and leadership of terrorist organizations today is because teachers and preachers in Saudi Arabia praised the “holy war” of Muslims against non-Muslims in Afghanistan in the 1980s, says a convert to Christianity.
“A whole generation was brought up this way and taught to think this way,” says Nasser al’Qahtan. “Sadly the world is reaping the fruit for what we were taught when we were young.”
Nasser, who was born and raised on the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia, longed to die for Allah by waging jihad, and thus improving his chances of making it into Paradise. But along the way he converted to Christ and now exposes the diabolical beginnings of today’s world upheaval.
Nasser’s parents were opposed to the idea of their 12-year-old going to Pakistan for training and being smuggled into Afghanistan to fight the Russians, but many of his older friends did join jihad.
“God had other plans for me,” he says on a Your Living Manna video.
In the summer of 1990, Nasser plotted to run away and join jihad, but Iraq’s Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. At the time, he was actually in the United States with his mother visiting relatives and the ensuing world chaos prevented him from leaving “this evil nation” of America.
Nasser hunkered down for the long haul, playing the role of the religious police with his younger siblings to make sure they still prayed and read the Koran. He didn’t want them to come under Satanic influences in America. Eventually, he worried about himself and eyed with suspicion the Americans around him.
“What was I going to do? I was surrounded by infidels. You either make a war against them or you try to bring them into Islam another way,” he says. “I thought Allah brought me here to evangelize them.”
Nasser’s English was very good and he thought his Islamic apologetics weren’t bad either.
“I began to tell everybody about Islam, my fellow students, my teachers, my neighbors, everybody I came into contact with,” he says. “I started to see some fruit. I started to see regular American people abandoning their prior beliefs and becoming Muslims. Some of them grew up in the church and they renounced Jesus. I thought I was fantastic.”
As he learned about American culture, he eventually perceived that born-again Christians were different than the rest of Americans (who he wrongly assumed to all be Christians), and he began to target them because he figured it would be easy for them to switch since they already lived clean lives.
One of those loving and clean-living Christians was a woman with whom Nasser fell in love.
“That was my undoing,” he admits.
Only after marrying Daisy did he begin to correct her beliefs about Jesus. She should no longer idolize Jesus, who was nothing more than just another of Allah’s prophets, he said. Mohammad was the main guy.
The pressure he put on her grew in time and caused great strain on their marriage, and even some Christian friends counseled her to divorce for being “unequally yoked,” a mistake she had made while being a nominal Christian.
But Daisy, pressured to evaluate her childhood faith, wound up affirming her relationship with Christ. Encouraged by an aunt who had been a missionary for decades in Brazil, she not only prayed for her husband but mobilized thousands of Christians in mega churches in North Texas to pray.
Those prayers began to take effect. Outwardly, her husband appeared secure in his beliefs, but inwardly he was struggling. He knew his sins were too great and the mountain of good works and prayers needed to offset them too much. He began to ponder again the easiest and most and most assured path to Paradise — jihad.
Finally, his wife ventured to invite him to church, which, out of curiosity, he accepted. His consciousness of his sin was so great that he concluded, “If I’m going to go to Hell, I might as well find out what they do in church.”
“I thought it was the most Satanic thing I had ever seen,” he says. “But I was so drawn to keep coming back by the love I felt there. Eventually he broke down and asked God for the truth.
“Immediately I had a vision. Everything before me was wiped away and I was transported to this rocky hill, looking down at this man who was so brutally beaten to the point of being unrecognizable,” he says. “He was being nailed to a cross. I knew this was Jesus.
“I watched as the cross was lifted up and He’s hanging there bleeding and struggling for breath. I’m looking Him in the eyes. He’s looking at me and through me. He sees all of my junk, the hidden things in my life. I feel this wave of shame.
“But he’s not looking at me with disgust, which is what I expected. He’s looking at me with this fierce love. As He’s fighting for every breath on the cross, He’s fighting with every breath for me.”
The darkness from all humanity was put on Him on the cross.
“The darkness wasn’t overcoming Him. He was overcoming it.”
Then Jesus said, “It is finished.”
“The reason I did this is that you and all the people that were meant to be my children were snatched away from Me, and you sold yourselves to other powers. To buy you back, this was the cost. This was the price that I paid for you Nasser.”
“I knew that I was extremely hated by Allah,” Aisha from Jordan says.
Born of an American mother into a conservative Muslim family, Aisha had racked up a lot of sins: first she questioned Allah, Mohammad, the Koran and salvation.
Then she came to America with her mother looking for better opportunities and got an abortion.
“I was feeling so much fear and hopelessness,” she says on a StrongTower27 video.
Even though her family was entrenched in Islam, her dad was an alcoholic who kicked her and spat on her. “He called me names that no father should ever call his daughter,” she says.
Other than his besetting sin, he tried to keep the traditions of Islam religiously.
Aisha found no love in her family or in her religion.
“I felt like I could never keep up or measure up to what was expected,” she says. “And my family wasn’t too keen on my asking questions.”
Mom was mortified by the downward slide of the family. She even feared for her own life. So she asked her husband to move the family to America where her kids could learn English and have better job prospects.
He agreed, and they moved in 2000, while he stayed in Jordan. His alcoholism only worsened.
Longing for love, Aisha got a boyfriend in high school and got pregnant at age 17. Lying on the bathroom floor with the positive pregnancy test, she cried. She couldn’t tell her dad; he would kill her out of Islam’s call for “honor killing.”
“He would have murdered me, literally,” she says.
Aisha couldn’t tell her Mom; she would tell her Dad.
Feeling like she had no options, she made the terrible choice to kill her baby.
“That was very hard for me because I always valued life,” she says. “I always daydreamed about what it would be like to hold my baby one day. To have gone through that was very devastating for me. I struggled with shame, embarrassment, depression, anxiety and self-worth.”
Her attempt to fill the void with things of the world left her empty.
“I was going down a dangerous and dark and downward spiral,” she admits. “I knew that my sins were deep and unforgivable in Islam. I knew that I was so extremely hated by Allah.”
In her quest for forgiveness and hope, she actually opened the only “holy book” she knew and read Surah 4:168-169: Those who disbelieve and commit wrong Allah will never forgive them, nor will he guide them to a path. Except the path of Hell.
“I remember reading that and feeling so much fear and hopelessness,” she says.
“Allah, I don’t know who you are. I don’t know if you even exist,” she prayed. “I’ve been praying to you for 27 years, and I’ve never felt your presence.”
She wept bitterly. In the depths of despair, her mind began to consider suicide.
“If there’s no form of forgiveness for me in Islam, what’s the point of me living?” she reasoned.
Then something happened that was totally unexpected.
“As I was crying I heard an audible voice,” she remembers. “I heard the name, ‘Jesus.’”
With tears streaming down her face, she looked up to Heaven and raised her hands.
“Jesus, I don’t know who you are, but if you are who they say you are, please reveal yourself to me because I can’t go on living life like this anymore,” she prayed. Read the rest: Freed from the wrath of Allah
To make their soldiers fearless, Mohamad Faridi’s Iranian superiors made them sleep in empty graves.
Since a boy, Mohamad was fervent Muslim, praying 10 times a day, way more than the regimented five times. But nothing could ease his fear of death and his apprehension that he might be judged unworthy of being admitted into Paradise beyond the grave.
“I was in a lot of despair, a lot of depression, and I was hopeless. The only hope I had was to die, so I contemplated suicide,” he says on a Your Living Manna video “But I was afraid because if as a Muslim you commit suicide you end up in hell.
“I was living in hell in this world.”
The Tehran-born boy was taught to never question Islam.
“I went to my mom and ask her, ‘Mom, does this god, the god of Islam, speak Farsi (the language of the Iranians)? Can I speak to him in Farsi?’ My mom said, ‘You do not want to be tormented by Allah. You do not want to be tortured by Allah. A good Muslim only surrenders, only submits.’
“From that moment on, I just put my blinders on.”
Mohamad memorized entire chapters of the Koran, washed himself religiously, prayed ritually and fasted during the 30 days of Ramadan.
But the question nagged him: Would he ever be good enough to merit Paradise?
Allah, according to the depiction, weighed your good actions against your bad actions on judgement day. Nobody ever knew for certain who would get into eternal glory and who would be cast into torment.
The Shia sect of Islam practiced in Iran also has the ritual of self-flagellation with chains containing barbs and knives. By drawing blood in penance, they hope to curry the favor of the imams in Paradise so that they may pray for their souls, Mohamad says.
“Someone recites a eulogy and provokes the crowd to beat themselves, weep and cry,” he explains. “That’s how we’re gaining points and how we punish ourselves that maybe one of these Imams would intercede for us at the day of judgement. We beat ourselves so much that we bruise and bleed with chains on our backs.”
At age 19, he joined the Revolutionary Army to fight in the decade-long war against Iraq. The nation’s imams said that it was jihad, or holy war, which meant that if anyone died in it, he would be taken straight to Paradise.
His uncle and brother were part of the mass deaths of Iranians, but Mohamad was spared.
Back from the war, he resumed his rituals of desperately trying to appease Allah. During one 10-day stretch of self-flagellation, he beat himself so badly through nine days that he could not rise from his bed on the tenth to carry on.
“I was so broken and I was so bruised that I could not get out and go beat myself more on the tenth day,” he recounts. “I was ashamed of myself. I said this is the least asked of me and I cannot fulfill that.”
Light finally broke into the darkness. Mohamad rekindled a childhood friendship with a friend named Rasul. He noticed Rasul was uncommonly light-hearted.
“What is going on with you? What is happening to you?” asked Mohamad.
Rasul responded that he became a Christian.
“That was the first time I was hearing about Christianity without bad-mouthing it or without saying that it is corrupted,” Mohamad remembers.
“God loved his creation,” Rasul said. For two hours, he elucidated the free gift of grace through faith in Christ and his death on the cross.
Mohamad raised every objection he had heard at home or in the mosque.
Rasul tired of two hours of arguing, so he said he needed to go.
“The last thing I’m gonna tell you is Jesus was beaten, he was bruised, he was crucified, his blood was shed for your sin so that you can have everlasting life,” Rasul said.
Then he quoted to him John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The concept of Jesus being beaten and bloodied instead of Mohamad beating and bloodying himself left him astounded. It was an utter contradiction of everything he knew from Islam.
It resonated deep within him, and Mohamad decided at the end to accept Jesus as his Savior and Lord.