If they find a Bible in the specific language of the country, you are fined, because it is illegal to have a Bible in a very specific local language.
Christians in the Middle East are continuing to share the Gospel even in highly dangerous areas where the Islamic State terror group remains on the minds of the people.
William, a Christian ministry worker who has been serving various countries in Central Asia and the Middle East for years, said in a webinar with persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA last week that even though IS fighters have been defeated throughout Iraq and Syria, dangers remain.
“They (Christians) are telling us that ISIS has been defeated, but ISIS is still in the minds of the people,” he said of Mosul, where thousands of Christians were forced to flee four years ago when IS captured the areas.
“You have the Muslim villages around the Christian area, where some of the Muslims don’t want the Christians to come back, and they are very vocal about it,” he added.
William said that some areas in Iraq and Syria remain under IS’ control, and it is extremely unsafe for Christians to go there and show their faith visibly, such as by wearing a cross.
“If you go into those areas you have to be extremely careful in sharing the Gospel,” he said, adding that neighboring countries like Iran are also dangerous, as believers can end up in jail.
“The encouraging thing is that people are still going. No area is closed to the Gospel because God puts it on people’s hearts to go into those areas” and preach despite the dangers, he added.
William noted that in 2014, when IS launched its attacks in Iraq, 70 to 80,000 Christian families had to flee the Nineveh region, with the Islamic radicals threatening to kill any follower of Christ they encountered.
Many fled to Erbil and stayed for years at refugee camps, being helped my ministries like William’s and other NGOs.
When Nineveh was largely liberated from IS in 2016, the Christians started returning, only to find their homes and communities destroyed.
“When ISIS retreated, they put fire pots in 70 percent of the houses of the Christians, and put fire in with chemicals,” he explained.
“The houses [were] burned, the glass melted, everything inside the homes was destroyed.”
Most of the remaining homes had also been destroyed due to bombs from the fighting.
William said his ministry has helped repair close to 1,500 homes there, but noted that many families still need assistance.
However, other problems abound too, he continued.
“There’s no job, there’s no infrastructure, there’s no water, no electricity, the sewage system is broken,” he said of the various challenges believers have faced.
And those who live in Muslim-majority areas face the threat of death if their Christian faith is revealed.
“The minute it is known, the family will kill the person” or be attacked, he said, speaking of some cases where families have become violent when a Muslim relative decides to become a Christian.
One clear sign that a person is engaging with the Christian faith is owning a Bible, William said, which is why many try to hide such books.
“We know of one of the Kurdish Christians, that his brother found a Bible under his pillow while he was on duty fighting on the frontlines. His wife had to call him and told him ‘your brother found the Bible, you have to run.’ So he started running and he escaped because his brother wanted to kill him,” he shared.
In other places, it is permitted for Christians to own a single copy of the Bible, but if they have two, they get in trouble — “if you have two copies, it means you have one copy to give away, and so you’re evangelizing,” William explained.
“If they find a Bible in the specific language of the country, you are fined, because it is illegal to have a Bible in a very specific local language,” he noted.