On the frontline in the Middle East

As a Christian, Amar faced persecution in various forms in his home town in the Middle East. As well as being barred from promotion to higher positions at work, he was forced by law to give Arabic names to his newborn baby.

“In 2002, I wanted to name my eldest Maroun, which is a Christian name, but the local authority refused. So, I said, OK, and I named him Karam, which means generous in the sense of generosity from God.”

“The whole house shook and there were dead and injured people. My children were on the floor.”

Despite facing such discrimination, Amar waited until the last minute before fleeing the beautiful home he had built for his family. With his family and some neighbours squeezed into a car, they fled with only an hour to spare before armed extremists arrived in town.

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“We were 12 people. Some climbed on top of the car,” he recalls. “Tens of thousands were in the streets, leaving. It was an unbelievable scene – very hard to imagine everyone either driving or walking, old people, children and women – it was a mass departure.”

Now living in a refugee camp, Amar has lost everything but he is grateful for his family’s safety. At first he felt God had abandoned him and became uncertain about his Christian beliefs.

“I asked him: ‘Where are you? Why did you leave your children to suffer?’ I stopped praying or reading the Bible for a year, but then with time I felt myself losing peace and happiness and felt useless. I thought about my family and children, so I prayed and felt that I am connected again to God and back to faith. I feel much happier and in God’s care.”

“We were in a severe ordeal, but Jesus was backing us. He saved us and kept us safe, me and my six children,” she says.

This month Bible Society is making a special appeal for help to Christians in countries where it is a challenge to practise their faith – a situation that’s difficult and discriminatory at best, and at worst, risky to the point of incarceration, physical harm or death.

We can’t name these countries because of political and religious sensitivities, and Bible Societies operating there do so with great caution. In many cases, they are not able to fundraise for themselves, counting entirely on the support of other Bible Societies and their donors.

Bible Society was able to give Bushra, a mother and grandmother, a new Bible after she had to leave her home in the Middle East after enduring intense shelling from extremist forces.

“While we were following the news, we heard a sound of an explosion that hit a nearby house,” she says. “The whole house shook and there were dead and injured people. My children were on the floor.”

In a panic, Bushra grabbed a small bag with all her documents, and left in a car with her husband and six children.

“We were all crammed in one car – me, my husband and my six children,” she recalls. “We left with only our casual clothes. We didn’t even have time to get water.”

All night and until the next afternoon, the family had nothing to eat or drink and it was very hot weather, but Bushra held on to the promises of God.

“We were in a severe ordeal, but Jesus was backing us. He saved us and kept us safe, me and my six children,” she says.

Although she was tempted to lose her trust in God, Bushra says she sought and received strength from Jesus.

“I entered in a hard temptation in the beginning,” she says.

“The biggest gift was God’s love. Without our Christian brothers and sisters we could be losing hope. I sought strength from Jesus and stuck to my Bible.”

Bible Society Australia is asking for your support of Bible Societies that work in these countries that are in critical need. When we think of the freedom we enjoy, it makes sense to give freely to those who are not free to live as Christians.

If you would like to give to the Oppressed Church appeal, call 1300 242 537 or donate at biblesociety.org.au/sustainep

Please give to the Bible Society Australia’s Oppressed Church appeal.