Written by: Open Doors 
Article source: www.opendoors.org.za 

What is it like to raise a Christian family in the Middle East? How do you stimulate a relationship with Christ when under persecution? We talked with Middle Eastern parents and their children throughout the region to find out what they had to say.

MAGID’S FAMILY – ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT
Magid: My wife died two years ago when an extremist bombed our church. Ever since then I have tried to be both a father and a mother to the children. I changed my job so I could work closer to home and not work evenings. But my children miss their mother, her tenderness. It hurts to see that.

Maryam: My father takes good care of us. He works but he is also with us a lot. He is very kind, forgiving and peaceful. He has a lot of love inside of him. I want to be like him when I grow up.

Magid: I try to be like a friend to my children. I play with them, and try to give them as much love as possible. I want them to always feel loved.

Maryam: When I grow up I want to be a nun. Then I can be in God’s house and pray all the time. I thank God for giving us life and for comforting us.

Yousif (13), Magid and Maryam (8). Mother Hanaan was killed in a church bombing in 2017.

Yousif (13), Magid and Maryam (8). Mother Hanaan was killed in a church bombing in 2017.

SOFIA’S FAMILY – NORTH AFRICA
Sofia: “I converted from Islam to Christianity. There are no Christian schools where I live. It’s a challenge that all children are taught about the Quran in kindergarten from the age of four. I let my children receive Quran lessons at school but, at the same time, they attend house church with me and participate in church activities. I think the best thing to do is give them the freedom to make their own choices. I sincerely believe that if they really read the Quran, then they will never actually believe it. I could officially ask at school to not let the children attend the Quran lessons, but the children would be harassed by other children and by the teachers.”

Ayoub: “I like singing songs in church.I also sing them at school and my teacher likes the songs.”

Sofia* (39), widowed, pictured with her daugther Silvia (3). She has two other children, Ayoub (5) and Marc (baby).

Sofia* (39), widowed, pictured with her daugther Silvia (3). She has two other children, Ayoub (5) and Marc (baby).

JACKLIN AND ASHTI’S FAMILY – DUHOK, IRAQ

Jacklin: “Life isn’t easy in Iraq with four children. As a parent you need to be patient to help them with their everyday needs. Our faith helps us. We are witnesses to them in how God’s hands are with us during difficulties. Through that, our children get the power to deal with difficulties in the same way. I encourage them to look at God, also when people hurt us. God will protect us during persecution.”

Eiliana: “What I love most about my parents is that they serve people from the deepest place in their hearts. Despite the difficulties, they just do it. And God blesses them. That is what encourages me.”

Daughter Eliana (19), mother Jacklin (43), father Ashti (46), son Eilia (17) and son Elmar (5). Not included in the photograph is younger daughter Eilnour (11).

Daughter Eliana (19), mother Jacklin (43), father Ashti (46), son Eilia (17) and son Elmar (5). Not included in the photograph is younger daughter Eilnour (11).

NANCY’S FAMILY – MINYA, EGYPT
Nancy: We have a very close extended family. We often go on outings together. On one of those trips, my husband and 15-year-old son were killed when terrorists attacked our minibus as we left the monastery. I was badly injured and spent months in hospital.

Yousef: I stayed with aunts while my mother was in hospital. But I was very happy when she came back home.

Nancy: It was very hard to come back home and not find my husband and oldest son there. But I feel God is with me. He is stronger. Whenever I feel down, I pray. I don’t think too hard about how I will raise my son alone yet, but I trust God and so my extended family will be with me.

Yousef: I really miss my father and brother. But my mother taught me to be thankful to God under every circumstance. Each night before I go to sleep we pray together.

Mother Nancy and son Yousef (10). Father Reda and son Bushoy (15) were killed by extremist after a trip to the nearby monastery.

Mother Nancy and son Yousef (10). Father Reda and son Bushoy (15) were killed by extremist after a trip to the nearby monastery.

RACHEL’S FAMILY – IRAN
Rachel: “Me and my husband were leaders in a house church in Iran. Most house churches don’t have special activities for children, but we did. We called it the ‘Happy Club’. Children learned about the Bible. They also learned that they shouldn’t talk about Christ at school, because that would be too dangerous.”

Kimya: “I love my mom and dad the most. They are very important to me. I also like Iran, but the memories I have from the last few days there are very bad.”

Rachel: “I was arrested and put into prison. I was thinking a lot about my daughter in my cell. She was affected very badly by the situation. Praying for her helped during that time. The experience made me even more passionate to teach my daughter about God.

“Kimya is still recovering from her bad experience in Iran. But it didn’t make her lose her faith. Apart from the pain, she has also seen that God was with me in prison all the time. It was a testimony for her.”

Kimya: “I like to play worship songs on my guitar. When I have bad feelings, I play my guitar and they go away. I love God very much.”

Rachel* with her daughter Kimya (11). Rachel, her husband Kamal, along with their daughter are no longer in Iran, living instead in a neighbouring country.

Rachel* with her daughter Kimya (11). Rachel, her husband Kamal, along with their daughter are no longer in Iran, living instead in a neighbouring country.

DYALA AND ESAA’S FAMILY – LATAKIA, SYRIA
Dyala: “We fled from Al Thawrah a small, quiet and conservative village. We had a simple life that consisted of work and church. Now, in displacement in Latakia, our life has completely changed. The boys go to school with kids from various backgrounds. Smoking, the use of drugs, and watching porn are spreading in a scary way in school. Our boys want to be like the other children, and sometimes they imitate the bad habits of the friends they meet.”

“Sunday School was the solution we found for the boys. A Christian community where they can find answers to their unanswered questions and a place that could bring them closer to God. They made new Christian friends and stayed away from the bad friends. Every time they misbehave now, I say, ‘is this what you learn at Sunday school in church?’ They then correct their behavior. I always pray to God to protect Reemon from the wrong people he might encounter or wrong thoughts and ideas his friends might plant in his mind. He is a role model for his brothers, and when they see him walking along the right path they will follow.”

Reemon: “I have a few Muslim friends. We hang out after school sometimes, and connect through social media. I tried to invite them to Sunday school a couple of times, but they always say that their parents would never let them enter a church, so I stopped asking.”

Dyala and her husband Esaa have three sons; Reemon (14),  Michel (6) and Karim (10).

Dyala and her husband Esaa have three sons; Reemon (14), Michel (6) and Karim (10).

FATHIL AND EKHLAS’ FAMILY – ZAKHO, IRAQ
Fathil: “We teach our children to be committed to the church, to spend time with friends who know Jesus too and to obey God. 

Ekhlas: “We as parents live out our faith at home. That’s how you can really transfer the faith, I think. We have been persecuted and threatened, but nothing changed our faith. Our children saw this, and it made an impact on their lives.

Fathil: “As a family you are a light to the world when you live out your faith.”

Dawod: “I am a Christian, not only by name, but also in my heart. I know God has a plan for my life.”

Makram (14), Fathil, Oneyl (11), Ekhlas, Dawod (18). Not on the picture: Son Philip (21).

Makram (14), Fathil, Oneyl (11), Ekhlas, Dawod (18). Not on the picture: Son Philip (21).

HOW DO YOU SUPPORT FAMILIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST?
A strong church needs healthy families. However, research shows that throughout the region there is a lack of knowledge in the field of parenting, especially parenting based on God’s kingdom values. This is especially true for believers with a Muslim background. That’s why, with your support, Open Doors is investing in projects such as family camps, Sunday School training and marriage courses. Through TV programs via satellite and follow-up done online through the internet, even the most isolated families are now being reached. Thank you!

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Date published: 06/12/2019
Feature image: Open Doors

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