“Farzana”, a Pakistani Christian woman, tells Barnabas Fund how she left Islam to follow Christ. It all began when, at the age of 17, she was working as a receptionist in her uncle’s orthodontist clinic.
“A young Christian man worked in the clinic. One of the other receptionists greeted all the staff very politely as they arrived, but the Christian man was always greeted with a contemptuous ‘There’s the sweeper.’ This intrigued me,” said Farzana, who had had little contact with Christians before then. She asked her colleague why she called him a sweeper, when the man was clearly well educated. “Because he is a Christian,” came the answer. Many Christians in Pakistan are very poor and earn their living sweeping the streets or cleaning the sewers. Farzana also noticed that the entire office treated the Christian badly and made him use separate utensils and facilities.
“At the time I was very religious,” Farzana explained. “I carried the Quran around everywhere and prayed five times a day. At school I had studied Christianity a little but wanted to know more.” During the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha, when Muslim families ritually slaughter an animal as a sacrifice, she approached the Christian man, asking him if Christians also sacrifice animals. His initial reaction was to put her off: “Please don’t ask any questions like that. It will just cause problems.” But she begged him to tell her more about his faith.
One of the first things he told her was that in Christianity a man can be married to only one wife at a time. This puzzled her: “What happens if there are no children?” He replied that no matter what happened the husband would stay faithful. This attracted her to Christianity and made her hungry to ask more.
Over a period of a year the pair talked regularly about the Christian faith. Eventually he gave her a New Testament, pointing her to the verse, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7). Farzana noticed that he always talked about “our living Lord”, which she did not understand. He explained that Jesus had died for her and risen again. This was something Farzana had never heard before. He suggested, “You go to shrines of dead people. Why not go directly to the living Lord?” and encouraged her to follow a Bible correspondence course.
Their colleagues had started to notice them talking and informed Farzana’s uncle, who promptly ordered them to stop. She testified to him, “I believe Christ is the living Lord in heaven.” Dire threats from her family soon followed; unless she repented they would cut her throat or electrocute her. Farzana said, “I was terrified. All contact with the Christian young man was finished.”
She locked herself in her room and fasted for many days. “I was still very confused about the Trinity and prayed to God, “I believe Christ is alive in heaven. Please show me in a dream if I am on the right path.” After many tears she fell asleep and dreamed. “I looked into a bright sky and heard a voice saying, ‘Why are you confused? The path you have chosen is right.’ When I woke up I was so happy. In my heart I was convinced.” The next day she told her family, “You can kill me if you want, but I know I’m right.”
When the Christian man heard what had happened, he went to her uncle and asked for her hand in marriage, because he knew that she would be destitute if her family rejected her. Surprisingly, her uncle gave his permission and arranged the marriage. But the rest of her family continued threatening to kill her.
Although her uncle had helped them, he soon dismissed the young man from his job. The couple went through two years of great hardship, often going without food, until a pastor took them under his wing and cared for them. Like many Christians in Pakistan, he could not find another job, leaving the two destitute. Now eleven years later they still receive death threats from her brothers and father. Farzana testifies, “We have been through many trials. But God saw us through it all.”
Reprinted from Barnabas Aid.