Siti* opened the front door of her family’s home, tired and ready to rest after work. She expected to greet her mother as usual, but as soon as she walked inside, her mother was waiting with a paper in her hand and a very angry look on her face.
“Where did you get this?”
Her mother wadded up the paper in her hand, and Siti’s heart sank. She knew that nothing would be the same after this. The paper in her mother’s hand was a devotion she had read that morning, something she had been reading every morning since she put her trust in Christ as Savior.
“Mom, please…” Siti began, but she wasn’t able to finish.
“Why are you reading this? It is shameful. You are a Muslim. You should not be reading this!” Her mother’s face started turning red as her voice got louder. Soon her father came into the room to see what was happening. Her mother shoved the paper at him, and his expression soured.
“Explain this, now!” her father demanded. “Why are you reading this? Are you still a Muslim?”
It had been one month since Siti decided to leave Islam to follow Jesus. She kept it a secret from her Muslim Malay family, knowing they would be angry if they found out. The moment had come for her to confess her faith in Christ and face whatever her family would do to her.
“No, Father, I am sorry, but I am not a Muslim anymore,” she said with her head bowed, afraid to look him in the eye. “I have become a Christian. I believe in Jesus now.”
The next thing she knew, pain shot through her jaw and she fell to the floor. Her father was yelling at her, but she couldn’t hear him over the ringing in her ears. He grabbed her by the arm and forced her into her room, locking the door behind him.
“You will not be a Christian!” he yelled as the lock clicked. “We will put you on the right path again!”
In the weeks and months that followed, Siti’s life was turned upside down. Her family reported her to the religious police. She was dragged to place after place in attempts to get her to recant her decision to become a Christian.
Her family even took her to the most powerful religious medium to make her come back to Islam. She was hit with a white cloth in an attempt to beat the demons out of her. The medium made her take ritual baths to cleanse her of evil. He gave her no food and tried to make her drink urine. However, no matter what the medium did, he could not make her renounce Jesus.
“In all my life, these methods have worked,” the medium told her. “But why won’t this work on you?”
“Jesus lives in me,” Siti answered. “You can kill my body, but my soul will go to God.”
After many tries, the medium gave up, and Siti’s parents had no other plan. They wouldn’t allow her to leave home and planned to keep her there until she agreed to return to Islam. Siti knew that her life could not continue this way.
One night before going to sleep she prayed for God to show her how to escape her family. As she slept that night, Siti claims Jesus visited her in a dream, showing her the way out of her house.
She woke up early the next morning before anyone else. She decided to act quickly and follow the way she was shown in her dream. As she went through her house, no one stirred. She opened the front door, looked once behind her, and ran as fast as she could through her neighborhood and escaped her family.
Siti has had no contact with her family since that day.
When an ethnic Malay leaves Islam to follow Jesus, their families may continue to love them and accept their decision. However, families may also turn on their loved ones, believing they have shamed the family and Islam. Muslim background believers in Malaysia have been turned in to religious authorities by their families, had their children taken from them, and experienced treatment that is similar to Siti’s story.
Muslim background believers need discipleship and support as they try to follow Jesus under difficult circumstances. Pray that ethnic Malays who choose to follow Jesus will have fellowship with other believers. Ask God to strengthen them in the midst of persecution.