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Zanzibar: Harsh Treatment for Christian Kids

Tanzania is on the coast of East Africa. On the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar where most of the people are Muslims, Christians have faced persecution for a long time.

Workers from The Voice of the Martyrs recently encouraged Christians from Zanzibar. The workers learned more about the struggles faced by the Christians’ children. Read below what one of the workers said.

Islamic Classes for Christian Students
The Zanzibar government requires that every public school teach Arabic and Islamic studies. [Islam is the religion of Muslims.] Every student must pass exams on Arabic and Islam. If they fail either exam, the students will not be allowed to graduate.

[The official language of Tanzania is Swahili, but many people also speak Arabic. Muslims believe that the true meaning of the Quran can be fully learned only in Arabic. The Quran is the Muslim holy book.]

Free to Be Bullies
Teachers are also encouraged to single out Christian students with harsh discipline and constant rebuke of their beliefs. They are discouraged from punishing Muslim students who harass their Christian peers. One Christian told us the story of his elementary-age son. The boy is one of only two Christians in his entire school. One day a group of Muslim boys locked him in the outhouse [outdoor toilet] for hours. Not even a word was spoken to reprimand the Muslim boys.

Tanzania Sunday school

(Source: VOM contacts. Edited for length, clarity, and age-appropriateness.)

Myanmar (Burma): “We Are Not Ashamed”

Young Buddhist monks

The previous post told about a Christian family in Myanmar (Burma) whose house was destroyed by a mob throwing big rocks — while the family was inside!

A VOM worker talked to two girls who were inside during the attack: Memesan, age 12, and Nunuway, age 9.

Read the previous post about the attack, then read below what the girls told the worker.

The Girls’ Story

We were praying. We were very quiet. And then they started throwing the rocks.

When they started to throw the rocks, we went into the inner room. We opened the lid of the clothing box and put our heads in to protect them from the rocks. Our main door was broken, and also the back door was broken. That’s why we went into the inner room.

We heard very loud sounds from the rocks hitting the roof. We heard people cursing us from outside. “Where is your God?” they said. We were afraid, but we did not cry. We prayed. I was with my grandma. The side of the wall near us was suddenly broken, so we ran to the other side of the room with the rest of the family.

Broken parts of the rocks hit our back and our feet, but not our head. The backs of our neck hurt because we stayed too long putting our heads in the box.

The people outside stuck bamboo poles into the house to see if we were still alive. Our youngest brother, 4 years old, was very thirsty, and he asked for water. There was nothing to drink because all the pots that had water in them were broken.

They stopped throwing rocks for a little bit. During that time we peeked out of the holes, and we could see even children standing out there. Even high school students and children-aged [Buddhist] monks were there. Our house was dark because all the lights were broken, but we could see the street where they were standing.

We went to school in that village, but because of this we have to move to a different school. [They are the only Christian children in the school.] In school we are forced to chant Buddhist chants every morning. We do not say anything. We just put our hands together, and we just stand there with everyone and wait until it’s over. At lunchtime or when we pray at school, people look at us like we are very strange. They ask, “What are you saying?”

Many people bully us. Many people make fun of us. They say, “We can’t even see your God.”

We are sad.
We are not ashamed.
We are not afraid.
But we don’t say anything back.

(Source: VOM contacts. Edited for clarity, length, and age appropriateness.)

The Voice of the Martyrs is helping and encouraging Memesan and Nunuway’s family. Read more about VOM’s Family of Martyrs fund here.

Myanmar (Burma): Nine Truckloads of Rocks

A Christian from Myanmar (Burma) told VOM workers what happened after two girls in his country gave their lives to Christ.

Read his story below.

Two sisters learned about Jesus and they joyfully accepted Him as their Lord and Savior. Then they eagerly shared the gospel with their brothers, other sisters, and parents. After a few months, the whole family became Christians and were baptized!

The Buddhist leaders in the town were not happy. One leader told them, “If you don’t give up following Jesus, we can’t protect you, and your life may be in danger.” The girls’ father replied, “Jesus gave His life for us. We will follow Him whatever the cost.”

Later that day, after the family returned home, a large truck pulled up and dumped a load of big rocks in front of their house. Four times the truck drove away and came back with another load of rocks. Then the driver brought four loads of rocks to the back of the house.

The family didn’t know what was happening. The next day, as they sang quietly and prayed together, a mob of about 200 people came to their home and begin throwing the big rocks at the house. The children lay on the floor, and the parents covered them with their own bodies. The mob threw rocks for about four hours, and the house was destroyed.

The attackers listened closely, but they heard no sound from under the rubble. “Everyone must be dead,” they thought. Then they gathered firewood and gasoline to burn the remains of the house. But neighbors stopped the plan — they were afraid the fire would spread to their houses.

A policeman and the family’s pastor heard what had happened and came to the place where the house had stood. They found everyone in the family alive! God had protected them! But the parents were seriously injured.

The family and several of their relatives now live in their church. The Voice of the Martyrs is providing food and other necessities for them. They are grateful for the help and encouragement they have received.

(Source: Edited and paraphrased for clarity, length, and age appropriateness.)

To Think About
*Set a timer or alarm for a four-hour period. After the time has passed, think about the family that was inside for that length of time while rocks were hitting their house. Pray for strength for Christians who are being persecuted right now for their faith.

*Why did the girls’ father say he would not deny Jesus?

*What do you think the people in the mob thought when the Christians were found alive?

In the next post, read what two of the children who were inside the house said about the attack.

Egypt: Secret Marriage, Secret Faith

Asim and Zarah, who live in Egypt, fell in love and decided to get married. Like most of the people in Egypt, they grew up in Muslim families. But before they even met each other, they had both realized that they no longer wanted to be Muslims.

Asim had visited a Christian church where he heard a song that said, “You died for me, and You took my burden for me.” He began studying the Bible to try to discover the meaning of the mysterious words. He prayed for guidance, his faith grew, and he gave his life to Christ.

When his family found out about his new faith, they locked Asim in his room and often abused him. After days of abuse, he agreed not to talk about Christianity anymore. His family believed he was no longer a Christian. But outside of the house, he was telling friends about Jesus. He and the friends who came to Jesus started a Christian fellowship group.

Zarah was a missionary — a Muslim missionary. She learned everything she could learn about Islam, the Muslim religion, to find new ways to prove that Christianity was wrong. But the more she studied Islam, the more she doubted that it was true.

Finally, Zarah left Islam. Someone invited her to a Christian fellowship group, where she met Asim. The group taught her the truth about Jesus, and Zarah gave her life to Him.

A New Life Together
Zarah’s family thought Asim was a Muslim. Asim’s family believed Zarah was a Muslim. So their families were happy that Asim and Zarah wanted to get married.

They were married in a Muslim ceremony with their families’ blessings. But before the ceremony, they were secretly married by a Christian pastor.

Asim and Zarah attend church together without letting family members know where they are going. But relatives and neighbors are suspicious of them. They know they will be in danger if others find out that they are not Muslims.

Asim and Zarah trust in Jesus and put their future in His hands every day.

To Talk About
*Asim was puzzled about the words to the Christian song that said, “You died for me, and You took my burden for me.” If someone who was not a Christian asked you what those words about Jesus mean, how would you answer?

*If relatives and neighbors find out that Asim and Zarah are Christians, they may be kicked out of their apartment, and family members might attack them. Do you think they should tell everyone that they are Christians anyway?

Pakistan: “Spring Is Coming”

For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. — Song of Solomon 2:11-12.

Today is the first day of spring. Spring is often seen as a symbol of new beginnings, joy, and hope. Read the story below, and talk about what the man meant when he said, “Spring is coming into my life.” Share a time when you experienced a new beginning in your life.

Hasan is a Christian in Pakistan. One day when he got up in the morning, he prayed, “Oh Lord, today I will not do anything until You lead me to someone or bring someone to me who has lost hope and wants to know You. I want to be used by You directly.”

For several hours, nothing happened. “Nothing is going to happen,” Hasan thought. Just then, a man knocked on his door. Hasan invited him into his house.

Houses in Pakistan

The man was a Muslim who had walked three miles from his village to visit Hasan. “Someone told me about you, and I have come to you for prayer,” the man told Hasan. The man said he had been looking for a job for five years, but could not find one. “I am tired of my life,” he said.

Hasan was grateful to Jesus for answering his prayer for guidance. He told the Muslim, “You did not come here by chance. God brought you here. He wants to give you peace.” Hasan shared the truth about Jesus with the visitor and prayed for him. “I want to come back tomorrow,” the man said.

The next day, he returned. Hasan told him more about the God who save people from sin. The man was very excited! He wanted to know more about the one who gives people peace.

Now the man is going to church regularly. “Spring is coming into my life,” he said.

Thank God for leading the man to Hasan’s house. Pray that more people in Pakistan will learn about new life in Christ. Ask God if there is any way He wants to use you to reach someone else.