KHARTOUM, Sudan (Compass) -- Every Friday, during the Muslim holy day, a special group of Christians meet in a house.
"Friday is the day for meeting people and gathering to talk or share entertainment," said the group's leader, "so our group does not attract attention."
The reason for the group preferring not to attract attention is that it consists of Muslims who have become Christians. The group is one of a few in Khartoum and neighboring Omdurman that caters especially to people from other religious faiths.
"It is hard for a Muslim to become a Christian here," said the group leader. "He or she will not be able to continue in their environment without their family noticing. That is when the trouble starts. They believe that someone born into Islam has no right to choose for themselves. Leaving Islam is like betraying your family and God and is blasphemy. All blasphemy in Islam is punishable by death," he explained.
The house church leader gave the example of a man called Al-Faki who was a teacher in a government school. He had spent five years in further education in Saudi Arabia. It was on his return that he became interested in Christianity.
"When this man became a Christian, he tried to witness to his family, but then he suffered terribly," said the church leader. "He spent a year in prison where he was tortured by the security police. During his time in prison, he suffered a stroke and his right side was partially paralyzed.
"Fortunately we were able to get him out of the country. ... He is just one of several cases who have been persecuted and tortured for becoming Christians."
Some years ago, when religious persecution was even worse, a Christian leader was arrested and taken to the headquarters of the security department.
"They wanted me to stop my work of evangelizing and distributing Scriptures," he explained. "They took me around the place, showing me rooms where people were being tortured. I saw some of the terrible things that they were doing to people, and some of these people never made it out alive. 'That could be you,' they told me. I know that people who convert from Islam to Christianity are treated in this way," he said.
If a Christian convert from Islam wishes to make his new faith public, he will face persecution and rejection in Sudan. That is why many hesitate to declare their Christian faith and choose to believe in secret.
"We have to help the new believers to have a solid grounding in the Christian faith; otherwise, they are likely to renounce their Christian faith under pressure and return to Islam," explained the group leader. "It is only through showing our Muslim brothers continued love and tolerance that we will win them over, however. Opposing them physically would only produce violence and hatred."
Although the group leader said persecution against Christians in Khartoum has lessened in the last year or so, Islam is aggressively attempting to win converts and often promises good promotion prospects, education and help with business or farming in return for conversion.
"Some churches will not get involved with evangelizing Muslims and turn away converts," another church leader told Compass. "It is sad, but you have to have courage to face the backlash and a heart's desire to win Muslims to Christ. Otherwise you will be paralyzed with fear and give the excuse that you are keeping quiet in order to survive."
The church leaders who work with Muslims in Khartoum believe that there is no other way to face the Muslim challenge than to tell them about Christ.
"No amount of argument will win a Muslim to Christ. It is the conviction of the Holy Spirit based upon the knowledge of the gospel message that will be effective. And the more Muslims that find the truth, the more difficult it will be to persecute them," he added.
The churches also say they are praying for government leaders.
"Only when the power of Christ is released among our national officials and government members will we see an end to persecution," a church leader commented.
Out of Islam into Christianity