To become a refugee is not an easy decision. It’s not easy to leave the place where you grew up, the family and friends you know, with nothing but a few possessions. However, for many persecuted Christians in the Muslim world, it is the only choice they have so that they can escape persecution and give themselves and their families a chance at peace and stability.
For many of the persecuted brothers and sisters we help through Help The Persecuted, fleeing their home country and becoming a refugee is part of their story. This choice doesn’t always result in trouble-free living in a new country. Often, persecution continues, yet, in different ways.
“Christ is God”
Kareena was born into a large Muslim family in Iraq. Her father, being an army veteran, had many friends who were Christians. Kareena remembers going on family outings with these believers and being exposed to Christian beliefs and customs at a young age.
When she was 10, one of her father’s friends told her, “Christ is God.” Curious about the Christian faith, Kareena began secretly reading the Bible in her father’s library. She also began talking to Jesus every day. This went on until she was 15, despite a total lack of formal Biblical teaching.
About this time, Kareena’s older sister, Layan, attended a church meeting as part of an academic research project for school. After the meeting, she announced to her family that she had become a Christian. The girls’ father strongly objected to her conversion. Kareena, who had been interested in Jesus and the Bible, saw the way her father and sister argued and decided there was no God. Sadly, she remained an atheist for the next six years.
Finding Jesus and Finding Trouble
At 21, one of Kareena’s young friends passed away unexpectedly, which prompted her to explore the claims of Christianity once again. After two years, she emerged a devout believer in Jesus Christ. She then joined a house church where sermons were taught by a pastor who lived in Finland and taught via Skype video.
During a church meeting, intelligence agents from the Iraqi government entered the house and arrested several worshipers, including Kareena. They searched the home and confiscated Christian books and anything else related to the Christian faith that they found. Kareena was then required to go to the Ministry of Intelligence offices for interrogation. Each time she went, she was insulted and threatened. She’d heard stories of rape and violence against women in her situation, and fearing for her life, she decided to flee Iraq.
Seeking Refuge in a Foreign Land
Kareena’s sister Layan was expelled from the local university after Kareena’s arrest. She left Iraq, forfeited her citizenship, and sought asylum in Turkey. Kareena decided to join her there. A court order from Iraq was issued, sentencing Kareena and Layan to five years in prison, a punishment that would be carried out quickly should they ever attempt to return home. They were now refugees, unable to ever return to their homeland.
Life has not been easy for the sisters in Turkey. For a while, they held church meetings in a café, but after some time the police arrived and forbade them from continuing. They tried gathering at their house for worship, but their neighbors informed the police, who shut down the service and threatened Kareena and Layan with deportation. At that point, they were living under police surveillance.
With Your Help, Sisters Rebuild Their Lives
Today, the sisters are attempting to find work and make ends meet, knowing that the Lord they follow can provide what they need. For two young women, converts to Christianity, unwelcome in their home country, the need for the Body of Christ to come around them is great. When our Help The Persecuted team was introduced to them, it was a joy to begin meeting their practical needs and encouraging them spiritually.
We have provided living expenses for the sisters, as well as new prescription glasses for Layan and a computer Kareena will use for working remotely. This support allows these sisters to regain stability and pursue meaningful work and community as they rebuild their lives.
From the world’s perspective, it appears Kareena and Layan have lost everything—their family, their home, their country—but looking through Kingdom eyes, they know they have more than they could ever ask for…because they have Christ.