Christian relief organizations in the Netherlands recently raised the alarm about the fact that Christian refugees in the country are being threatened or bullied on a regular basis, especially when they used to be Muslim. Three of these refugees were willing to share their story.
Faradoun Fouad: ‘I’m still getting threats every single day’
Faraidoun Fouad fled Kurdistan in northern Iraq. Once safely arrived in the Netherlands, he came into contact with Christianity.
“I converted in 1999,” he said. “In 2002 God called me to reach out to my own people. Directly after my conversion to Christianity I received the first threats. People who I thought were my friends, became my enemies.”
It got to a point where he had to flee the asylum seekers center he was staying in to go live with a family he knew from church. Although the center is no longer a safe place for him, he still returns there on a regular basis to evangelize.
“Even Muslims who are not very conservative told my wife that they would kill me,” Fouad said.
He tried talking to them. “I chose the peaceful way and spoke to them in private. Some did not react, others were willing to listen to me, but it has never been the same.”
Fouad fled Iraq when Saddam Hussein was still president. He said he still misses Kurdistan and returns there regularly to tell people about the Gospel. Fouad said many Kurds in the Netherlands, and in Kurdistan as well, converted to Christianity. “I want to encourage them and help them to walk with Jesus,” he said.
Even though he has been a Christian for twenty years and is married to a Dutch woman, he still gets threatened. Still, he cannot stop evangelizing.
“I receive threats every day. When I post something on Facebook, I often receive hateful reactions,” Fouad said.
Sometimes they call him, sometimes they text him. He has reported the threats to the police several times. Fouad is convinced that everyone who openly professes to be a Christian will sooner or later get threatened. Nevertheless, he keeps opening up his house to all.
“We’re Christians, this is a house of God. Come eat, come drink. Everyone is welcome here.”
Esther Mulder: ‘My father told me I am no longer his daughter’
Esther Mulder used to be Muslim. In 1992 she fled Somalia together with her family and came to the Netherlands. At the age of fourteen her parents decided to marry her off. Mulder fled the house and lived on the streets for two years, going from one shelter to another. She married a Dutch man and came into contact with the Church through a friend.
She remembers the first time she came to church like it was yesterday: “I immediately felt welcome.”
At the same time, she felt guilty for even being in a church.
“I constantly looked around thinking: ‘What if one of my family members comes in or someone from Somalia?’ That first day at church I just started a conversation with God. I said: ‘If You’re God and if it’s true what they say, will You let me feel it in my heart? Then I will follow You and serve You.’ It took six months and then I felt it in my heart. The preacher asked and I came forward, because I knew for sure. My heart was pounding in my chest, but I felt so happy.”
At the same time, she felt a sense of peace that she never felt before.
“After my conversion, the threats started. Especially on Facebook. Most of the time they’re coming from other Somalis,” said Mulder. “They write to me in Somali, so no one else is able to understand what they’re saying. We once posted a picture of a Somali conference where everyone was standing in front of a cross. People didn’t like it and we received several threats. I was really sorry about that.”
For ten years she worked for a Christian relief organization in the Netherlands called Gave and has shared her testimony on many occasions.
“I want to tell my story, because it’s a story of things being bad but then becoming better. That’s the story of the Christian faith,” Mulder said.
A couple of years ago, she was back in contact with her family.
“I prayed for that to happen.”
Still, it isn’t as it should be: “When I’m there, my father leaves the house,” she said. “The last thing he ever said to me, is that I’m no longer his daughter.”
She feels sad about it: “A miracle is needed, in order to make that right again.”
Brother Jassim: ‘I went to the police with eight pages full of threats’
Brother Jassim is originally from Morocco. He didn’t want to use his last name.
“My family lives in Morocco and could get in trouble over this,” he said.
He talks about his faith on his website as well as on YouTube. He used to do the same on Facebook until he got blocked. He said it happened because there are people wanting to silence him.
People call him names in public, but it doesn’t bother him. He said he feels freed since his conversion.
“In 2015 I became a Christian. I was baptized on April 24, 2016, on my birthday,” Jassim said
Jassim came to the Netherlands, because as a Muslim he was openly critical about Islam.
“My mother taught me to respect everyone and to be kind. That was in stark contrast to what Islam was teaching me. I had to hate and curse Jews and Christians. Muhammed was my big role model, but his life was bad. He killed Jews and married a girl of six. How could he be my role model?”
Once in the Netherlands, Jassim received two visions.
“After the first one I distanced myself from Islam. A couple of months later I received another vision and that led me to my search for the truth and to God.”
He said it ended his spiritual battle: “I finally found peace in my heart, and now I’m honestly happy. I’m now also praying for my family members who are Muslim. When I was a Muslim myself, I wasn’t allowed to pray for my Christian partner or for my atheist friend.”
He printed out eight pages full of threats and took these to the police. Still, Jassim keeps on telling people about his faith. “The police advised me to delete my picture from my website. I prayed about it and the Lord told me to keep the picture, ‘for you belong to me.’ It’s strange isn’t it: I’m not doing anything wrong, why would I need to hide? I live in a free country.”
According to Jassim, he gets threatened especially because he is an ex-Muslim. “You’re seen as a heretic.”
Threats aside, he is a positive man: “My life with Jesus goes on.”
What can people do?
All three refugees are clear about what other Christians could do to help Christian refugees who are being threatened: “Pray.”
“But it’s also good if Christians are aware of the fact that it’s not easy for ex-Muslims,” said Jassim.
“If fellow Christians are able to do it, they could help by taking in people who are in danger or who are being threatened,” added Mulder.
“We have to become one in mind and spirit. If a Catholic gets threatened, I get threatened as well, and vice versa. That’s why I call on all Catholics to pray heart and soul for all Christians who are unable to live a safe life,” Fouad said.
This article was originally published in the Dutch Catholic weekly Katholiek Nieuwsblad on Feb. 8 20,19. It was translated for Crux by Susanne Kurstjens-van den Berk.