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.
Born and raised in a non-Christian household, Illi* accepted Jesus as her Savior without her family’s knowledge. To grow in her faith, she would listen to TWR’s Kabyle-language programs in private, away from her family.
Illi lived her early life as a follower of the religion of her country. However, it was only in appearance and not in heart. Her family members were religious fundamentalists, especially her two brothers and father. Illi was forced to cover her face with a veil whether she liked it or not.
Her mother, on the other hand, has a tender heart. She was the only one who noticed a change in Illi when she came to Christ.
She asked, “What has happened to you, my daughter? Your look has changed.”
Illi asked her mother, “Are you sure you like the change that God has brought about in me?”
She said, “Yes, I, too, would like to have the wonderful loving eyes you have.”
Illi boldly declared, “What you see in me is the wonderful Aissa El-Masih [Jesus Christ], to whom I gave my heart and my life.”
At these words, her mother fell to her knees, and her eyes were filled with tears of joy. She said, “I’d also give my life to Jesus, but if your father and brothers found out about this, they would certainly kill us.”
The Kabyle people, self-labeled as Imazighen, are more than 6 million in number. A non-Arab people, they have inhabited northern Africa for more than a millennium. With communities scattered across Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Niger and Mauritania, most Kabyle reside in Algeria. Historically they have lived as shepherds and farmers in small communities high in the Atlas Mountain range to protect themselves against invaders, though today many have moved into large cities and even emigrated to southern Europe.
The Christian Church once flourished and had deep roots in Algeria until the Arab invasions in the 7th century. Augustine and Tertullian, both ancient church fathers, were of Kabyle ancestry. Today the number of Christian believers is estimated at a mere 0.28% of the population and persecution is an increasing reality. Witnessing and professing the Christian faith freely and openly remains illegal. While government officials claim that current laws are meant to keep religious extremists at bay, some officials have also publicly announced that Christian evangelism is equal to terrorism.
TWR’s media outlets proclaim messages of hope to the Kabyle people. The teaching programs Thru the Bible and Women of Hope are delivered through high-powered AM (or medium wave) radio, websites and social media.
Late in 2020, audio production and broadcasting of The Way of Righteousness began in Kabyle. This program, and a few others in development, share the gospel via elements common to the Bible and Quran such as the Old Testament prophets. These topics help bridge the divide to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition to evangelism, TWR’s programs provide opportunities for growth to local believers like Illi who are living in difficult circumstances.
A Startling Entrance
While Illi and her mother were talking, they realized her father was standing behind the door and had been listening to the conversation. He came out of hiding and saw the two women trembling.
He smiled and said, “Don’t be afraid. We are not those who kill, but those who have been led into error by our religion.” He turned to her mother and said, “I know that our daughter, Illi, has been listening to the radio in secret. But I noticed the peace of God in her, so I decided to let her be.”
Then Illi’s mother cried out, “Blessed be Christ, the Lord of lords, the God of all gods, who breaks hearts of brass and fills with tenderness and love!”
Her father’s heart was touched immediately. He asked Illi, “Could you sing again the song of joy that I heard you singing softly the other day while you were hiding in your room?”
As she was singing, her two brothers came in and found the family overjoyed. They asked, “What has happened? How did joy come into this house that we only know as one with arguments and squabbles? Please share your joy with us.”
The Household Transformed
Their father said, “Jesus the Lord of joy himself has brought the joy you see into our house, so let us rejoice together.”
The brothers were surprised to see that their father had changed his cape, which is a traditional way of indicating the adoption of a different faith. After a minute of silence, their faces lit up and they said, “Only Jesus can change our sadness into joy, so let us adore him with all our heart!”
The Bible says that if you believe in Jesus, you and your household will be saved. That day, Illi witnessed the fulfillment of God’s promise in her house. Even amid great persecution and resistance to the gospel, the Lord of joy is calling people to himself. Via media, TWR is speaking hope to the world because hope knows no barriers.
* A pseudonym and stock image are used to protect the person’s privacy.