A TEENAGER COUNTS THE COST OF EMBRACING CHRIST
Turning to Jesus can lead to homelessness, hunger and death threats.
If you were my daughter, I would have slaughtered you, killed you here, you bastard infidel, for turning away from Islam. These were the words of Malam Kasimu, the uncle and guardian of 15-year-old Salamatu Hassan, because she had embraced Christ.
Kasimu and some Islamic clerics ambushed her on her way to school, gagged her, and threatened to kill her on that day in 2003, said Hassan, now 18. He then threw her out of his home and dumped her back at her parents house. They had already objected to her faith, and it wasnt long before she was homeless.
How does a child marooned on an Islamic cultural island in Akwanga, in the mixed Christian/Sunni Muslim state of Nasarawa in central Nigeria, become a Christian?
Sharia (Islamic law) has long been practiced by Muslims in Nasarawa, but its criminal code has not been officially imposed as it has in 12 northern states of Nigeria. Hassans father, Malam Hassan, is a Sunni Muslim who has three wives and 20 children. Hassans mother is his second wife.
In part for economic reasons and because of practices in that culture, at age 7 Hassan was entrusted to her fathers sister, who is married to Kasimu. Hassan came to know about Jesus Christ at age 8 through a college student who was a tenant in the Kasimu house, Comfort Auta.
She used to call me Salmy Baby [from Salamatu] she was very kind, loving and caring, Hassan said. She was peaceful at all times and never seemed to have problems. This attracted me to her. Most especially, I loved the way she prayed.
Moving into Comforts room, Hassan became involved in daily devotional life with her.
When I moved into her room, there was another small girl there too, named Ashe, Hassan said. Comfort would always lead us in prayers, teach us how to read the Bible and then pray. Every time Comfort prayed, I would always tell her that I wished to be a Christian like her, and she would tell me, Salmy Baby, you can become a Christian if you want to be. All you need do is pray to receive Jesus into your heart.
Hassan welcomed this word but waited anxiously for the day when she would be ready to become a Christian. Only after studying the Bible daily for five years, and much meditation, did she decide to receive Christ. Comfort led her in prayer to invite Him into her heart.
When my Auntie found out that I could pray and sing Christian songs, this made her angry with Comfort, Hassan said. Hassan had roomed with Comfort for five years before her mentor was forced to move out of the house.
Though not a clear majority, Muslims have large populations in Nasarawa state. At secondary school in the Akwanga suburb of Alushi, Hassan had the opportunity to mix with other Christian students for the first time. Beginning a deeper search for biblical truths, she joined the schools Fellowship of Christian Students (FCS) and began evangelistic outreaches to nearby villages.
A pocket-size New Testament became her prize possession.
I had to hide before reading the Bible, because I had a cousin Mamuda in the same school with me, Hassan said. If he had known I was attending Christian programs or reading the Bible, my auntie would definitely find out, and this would cause problems for me.
[u]Out of the Closet[/u]
Mamuda did find out about her activities, which he reported to her mother. Hassans aunt and uncle punished her, beating her and forcing her to go without food for days a harbinger of persecutions to come.
Under the watchful eyes of her aunt and uncle Kasimu, Hassan was daily pressured to recite Islamic prayers, though most of the time she found excuses to avoid doing so. But whenever I was forced to do so, I would not do the customary washing of hands, eyes and legs before saying the Islamic prayers, she said. Instead, I would face the east, bend down and pray in my heart saying, Lord Jesus you know my heart; you know that I have received you into my heart as my savior. Do not hold this against me, but forgive my shortcomings. Amen.
Soon Hassan received the gift of a complete Bible from a young Christian neighbor who heard about her conversion. She devoured every page. Reading the Bible gave her courage to pursue a relationship with Christ without looking back. She began to fast, pray and even secretly attend Sunday worship services.
One day while at school, her family members ransacked her boxes and found her New Testament and complete Bible. When I returned from school, I was questioned, beaten up, denied food for days, she said. I became bold after this ordeal and openly told them that I was now a Christian.
Revealing her faith came with elements of teenage rebellion. To her aunts shock and disbelief, Hassan demanded to know why she had become a Muslim when her parents were idol worshippers, a practice in the native religion of their ancestors. This infuriated her as well as Kasimu, who went something akin to blind with rage.
That day he chased me around naked he was so angry that he did not know that he was naked, she said. His desire was to kill me.
To ensure that she remained a Muslim, Hassan was forced by her uncle to take evening courses at an Islamic school and received instruction in the Quran. But she renounced the Muslim faith and abandoned the classes.
When it became apparent to her uncle that she would not recant her new Christian faith, they chased her out of their home but not before her aunt had seized her clothing and books. A student with no home, food, books and clothes, Hassan stayed with friends. Her aunt and uncle threatened those friends and families too, however, and Hassans life became that of a fugitive. Wherever she might be hidden, she had to sneak out early in the morning to avoid being spotted on her way to school. It was during such sneaking that Kasimu and some Islamic clerics ambushed her and dumped her at her fathers house in Alogani village. Hassan later escaped from the village and returned to Akwanga, where she hid with friends.
[u]Her Desire and Prayer[/u]
Later she was taken into the house of an Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ pastor in Akwanga, the Very Rev. Dio Adamu. The support given her by the church has enabled her to complete her secondary education, and she is now a beginning student at the College of Education in Akwanga.
A girl who from a very minor age encountered such difficulties because of becoming a Christian cannot be said to have had a pleasant experience, said Rev. Adamu, in typical understatement. Such persecution abounds in Nasarawa and in northern Nigeria, Rev. Adamu said.
Salamatus case is one example of such cases of persecution that are confronting the church today in Nasarawa state, he said.
Persecution not withstanding, Hassan said she will never recant and return to Islam. I have found true salvation in Jesus, the right way to God, and cannot see how I can go back into the darkness that is Islam, she said. Never will I go back.
Her desire and prayer is that her Muslim friends and family members will come to know the truth that is in Jesus. I know that quite a large number of Muslims have discovered the truth of the Bible, but the fear of persecution has forced them to remain in darkness, she said. It is my prayer that God will touch their hearts and they will come to accept the truth and be liberated. Nobody wants to remain in darkness.
Thanks to Intercessors Network