How do you see persecution? According to Open Doors, 1 in 8 Christians worldwide experience persecution for their faith. That’s 1 in 8 of us whose faith can come at great cost — in some cases, even at the cost of life itself. This month, in response to this painful statistic, we will be sharing stories in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who so often live out their faith in the shadows. We pray this would shine a light in the otherwise-darkened corners of our world and connect us all to these hidden members of the body of Christ.
Imagine a small village in Central Asia: simple dwellings, kids playing on unsurfaced roads, mountains looming on the horizon. The sun is hot and scorching the plants left by spring.
A woman named Nahal* lives here with her family. Like most of the population, she was raised as a Muslim. She speaks only the dialect of her region, like many others in the surrounding area. Her children work on the streets to earn money — just a bit for the basic daily necessities. Their father left years ago to find a job in Russia. Afterward, they lived with his family, but he divorced Nahal some months after his departure. Mother and children moved out.
Now, Nahal lives with her own mother again. Her life is hard, especially so because her husband abandoned her without income. She is not the only woman divorced in this way. It has become such a common practice for men to go to Russia and start over with a new family that Muslim religious leaders started to teach against divorces like Nahal’s.
The women suffer even more severely when the economy is poor. Nahal’s mother says that times are going to get better and poverty is declining, but this doesn’t make her sorrow any easier to bear. If it had not been for one particular day and what seemed like a chance exposure to a broadcast from afar, she may not have discovered the source of eternal hope.
As had happened countless times before, her mother turned on the radio one day. Nahal normally listened only if there were songs playing, but this afternoon there was a voice coming from the radio that grabbed her attention. Someone in her mother tongue — the only language she understands — talked about Jesus. For her whole life, she had been sure that no Christians lived in her country — they could be found only further away in regions such as Russia and Europe. But here was someone speaking of Jesus in her own language — and out of the radio?
Christian sermons in Tajikistan are always in Russian, which is known as the language of interethnic communication. If Nahal or others like her attended a local church, they wouldn’t understand much. That’s why many Christians gather in small groups to worship God in their own heart language.
According to Open Doors, a ministry that aids persecuted Christians, new Tajik believers often experience duress from their own families through confinement, physical violence and exclusion from their communities. Many young believers also don’t have the opportunity to listen to sermons, as their families won’t let them. However, they can hear about the Lord through TWR radio receivers and online broadcasts.
TWR speak hope every day into the lives of Tajiks and others across Central Asia in their heart languages. In one moment of an otherwise ordinary day, a woman can hear of Christ and become his follower. That’s what happened with Nahal when one radio voice in her mother tongue brought the good news directly into her heart.
* A pseudonym and stock image are used to protect the person’s privacy.