A Saudi convert from Islam is living her life in fear that her husband will one day find out that she has accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.
The Christian persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA has shared the story of Nawal (an alias given to protect her identity), a Saudi woman in her late 20s who is living two separate lives.
Her first life is one of a Muslim housewife and mother and the other life she lives is as a closeted follower of Christ in the Sunni-majority kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where her faith could get her legally killed by her loved ones.
According to Open Doors, Nawal is like many other women who convert to Christianity in Muslim-dominated nations.
She is struggling with the fact that she wants to live out her life as Christ wants her to but has to keep her faith under wraps so that her husband won’t find out about her hidden identity in Christ.
Living under Sharia rule, Nawal’s husband is likely to beat or even kill her as an honor retaliation if he finds out about her love for Jesus.
“Each day, she faces the terror of fear, silence and isolation,” according to Open Doors.
One of the few ways that Nawal is able to communicate with fellow believers is through WhatsApp on her mobile phone. Although she frequently receives messages from other Christians on the app, she rarely responds to them out of fear that her husband or anyone else might find the conversation and see that she has converted.
On the rare occasion when Nawal responds to her Christian friends, it’s only through short, vague messages that don’t allow outside readers to know that she has converted or that she actively considers herself Christian.
Even though it might seem as though Nawal is ignoring her Christian friends, she assures them that she reads every message that she receives, according to Open Doors.
As Open Doors ranks Saudi Arabia as the 12th-worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, Nawal has also taken other precautions.
She has stopped reading her Bible on her laptop because of fear that her husband will look up her internet history.
“According to Saudi law, if her husband discovers her faith, he is entitled to beat her, divorce her or even kill her. Nobody will come to her rescue,” Open Doors reports. “The strict Islamic laws in her country show little mercy for those who leave Islam, and the Saudi state leaves Saudi families the freedom to ‘handle’ these matters in private.”
According to Open Doors, Nawal first came to Christ when she was young after she began searching for “more meaning in her life” and more “appreciation” as a woman in Saudi Arabia.
“Like many Saudi women, she grew up feeling like a second-class citizen,” Open Doors states. “On the internet, she quickly encountered the teachings of a foreign Christian preacher, a woman. The way this pastor spoke about God’s love — about Him accepting sinners and being a loving Father to His children — touched her heart.”
It was through an online follow-up network run by Open Doors, an NGO that operates in 60 countries across the globe, that Nawal initially got connected with other Christians in Saudi Arabia.
Through the network, Nawal has been sent discipleship materials and directed to read the Bible online.
“Gradually, she felt the Lord speaking to her, and one day she gave her life to Christ. She still vividly remembers the sheer joy and peace she felt in her heart that day,” the Open Doors report states.
It was the words of Matthew 28 that spoke directly to her: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
However, Nawal’s parents didn’t approve of their daughter’s conversion to Christianity. To prevent her from disgracing the family, Nawal was placed “under house arrest” by her parents.
She was kept inside the house for years but was still able to access her network of Christian friends through her laptop and phone, according to the nonprofit.
It was when her family started pushing her to get married that Nawal saw the opportunity to finally leave the house. After rejecting the first two candidates her parents had picked for her, Nawal agreed to marry the third suitor because she believed he was less strict as a Muslim.
“Marrying him would mean that she could leave her house where she was a prisoner. After significant prayer, Nawal accepted the marriage, hoping and trusting she was following God’s lead,” the Open Doors report reads.
According to Open Doors, as a mother and wife, Nawal behaves like your typical Muslim woman as she goes through the process of praying five times a day.
“But in her heart, she is still praying to Jesus and asking Him to give her the strength to keep believing, even though she’s completely isolated,” Open Doors reports. “But the reality is that fear, depression and the feeling of being isolated are continuously threatening Nawal’s faith. On her wedding day, she grew so afraid of being exposed as a believer that she felt she had to say goodbye to the believers who were still in touch with her through social media.”
Open Doors is calling on Christians to pray for Nawal’s situation and pray that God will comfort Nawal during her times of isolation and loneliness.