“Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.” (Luke 6:22)
A recent report released by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics states that the Christian population in Israel is growing at a rate of 1.3 percent, which is similar to the 1.8 percent growth rate of the Jewish population.
Israel is the only place in the Middle East, however, where the population of Christians is increasing.
Even in the disputed areas of Gaza and the West Bank, Christians are finding themselves under pressure to leave. Not too long ago, Bethlehem, the town in which Yeshua (Jesus) was born, was 90 percent Christian. Now Muslims are in the majority at 65 percent. (Stand for Israel)
What is perhaps even more alarming, though, is the escalating end-time persecution of Believers in Muslim lands.
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of Me.” (Matthew 24:9)
Ex-Muslims Face End-Times Persecution
“‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.… They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.” (John 15:20–21)
Evelyn Mulinde walked through the open-air market of a rainy Jerusalem this past week, her face moving between a soft, courteous smile and a tense, faraway look as she listened to a companion describe the medical progress of her husband, Ugandan Pastor Umar Mulinde.
He is here in Israel recovering from a vicious attack that happened in December 2011.
Israel opened its doors to help this preacher after he was caught off guard by multiple attackers who pretended to need his help as he left the Christmas Eve meeting at his Namasuba Gospel Life Church.
It happened at the end of a seven-day event that resulted in about 300 new Believers in Yeshua (Jesus).
Catching Mulinde’s attention by calling, “pastor, pastor!” the attackers doused him in the stinging liquid, shouting in Arabic, “Allah Akbar!” (God is great).
He was targeted because he had converted from Islam to Christianity and because of his very public pro-Israel preaching.
“I was a beautiful African man and now my face is disfigured. My right eye has been blinded. Not because I am a thief — not because I am a criminal — but because of my love for Jesus and because when I became a Christian I began to promote the support of Israel in my country.” (Maoz)
Because of the inadequate medical facilities in Uganda and the danger he was in from radical Muslims, Mulinde was brought to Tel Aviv’s Sheba Medical Center, one of the foremost burn treatment centers in the world, where he has been receiving treatment at no charge. (Maoz)
He is still undergoing a series of reconstructive surgeries after the acid attack destroyed half his face, some areas down to the bone. One of his eyes was so badly damaged, it had to be removed.
Pastor Mulinde’s church in Uganda is going strong in his absence, the congregants inspired by his story.
Mulinde was born into a staunch Muslim family. His father, Hajji Idi Wasswa, expressed his devotion to Islam by building a mosque in his compound, as well as serving as the local imam. Mulinde became a sheikh (Islamic teacher) before converting to Christianity in 1993.
After Mulinde became a Believer in Yeshua, he grew to be a prominent preacher throughout Uganda.
He is known for local and international debates in which he skillfully challenges Muslims through his in-depth knowledge of the Koran and the Bible. Mulinde said that there had been 10 separate attempts on his life in a period of 10 years. (NewVision)
Other pastors who were formerly Muslim also have been attacked in Uganda, and Mulinde thinks other acid attacks might be in the planning stages.
“There could be a ploy to pour acid on other pastors who converted from Islam because I was not the first,” Mulinde said in September at the International Nations Convocation in Israel.
“Pastors Jamada Kikomeko of Nateete, Zachariah of Jinja and Nathan Ibrahim of Mbarara have also been attacked.” (NewVision)
In fact, he successfully organized a petition against the establishment of Islamic courts (Sharia Law) in Uganda, gathering 360,000 signatures. Sharia Law was stopped, and as a result, the Muslim leaders in Mulinde’s area declared a fatwa against him on October 15, 2011, demanding his death. (Religion Today)
Interpretations of Sharia Law have been used to justify harsh punishments such as stoning, amputations, and the unequal treatment of women.
Converting to Christianity is considered apostasy under Sharia Law, and regarded as a criminal offense in many Islamic countries.
“There are so many varying interpretations of what Sharia actually means that in some places, it can be incorporated into political systems relatively easily,” said Steven A. Cook, of the Council on Foreign Relations think tank.
Sharia Law in Egypt Leads to Persecution of Believers
“He regarded disgrace for the sake of Messiah as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” (Hebrews 11:26)
While Sharia Law has been prevented in Uganda, it took effect in Egypt in December 2012.
Under the endorsement of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, ex-Muslims are facing severe official punishment, including the death penalty.
Recently, a 15-year prison sentence was given to Nadia Mohamed Ali and her seven children for converting back to Christianity after her Muslim husband died.
She had converted to Islam when she married Mohamed Abdel-Wahhab Mustafa 23 years ago.
“To impose a prison sentence for a family because of their Christian faith sadly reveals the true agenda of this new government: Egypt has no respect for international law or religious liberty,” stated lawyer Jordan Sekulow, the executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice.
“This is another tragic case that underscores the growing problem of religious intolerance in the Muslim world.” (Fox News)
Samuel Tadros, a research fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, said that the Egyptian constitution stipulates that the highest Sunni authority must be brought in to interpret the constitution’s religion clause. This practice pushes any court verdict into agreement with Islamic practice.
Persecution of Believers in Iran
Elsewhere in the Islamic world, Pastor Saeed Abedini, a 32-year-old American Christian who was born in Iran, was arrested while visiting Iran last year.
His wife, Nagmeh Abedini said that Abedini traveled to Iran last summer to help open an orphanage with the state’s backing. He was then taken off a bus, arrested, and transferred in September 2012 to Evin prison, one of the most brutal in Iran. (Fox News)
During a trial, he was charged with compromising national security. His supporters think the charges relate to his work in starting an Iranian house-church movement and for converting from Islam to Christianity in 2000.
“Unfortunately, he has been set up for failure and a harsh sentence because of his beliefs. His attorney says that the court has gathered a large amount of evidence against him,” his wife said.
Abedini has been in prison ever since his September arrest. He was sentenced last Sunday to an eight-year prison sentence.
Abedini is suffering terribly in prison.
“When the nurse or the doctor is supposed to give him pain killers for the beatings or any medical treatment, he’s denied that because he’s considered ‘unclean,’ because he’s a Christian convert,” said Tiffany Barrans, chief international counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice.
“And, so the treatment, not only at the hands of obviously those who are beating him—cellmates, guards in the prison and interrogators—but even those who are supposed to give him the basic fundamentals like health care and even pain killers are being denied at this time.” (CBN)
Also, though Nagmeh had been able to intermittently speak to her husband, the phone calls are now prohibited.
Finding God’s Blessing in Blessing Israel
“What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.” (2 Timothy 3:11–14)
Although Nagmeh Abedini is unable to enter Iran to see her husband, Evelyn Mulinde is able to stand by her husband in Israel as he continues to heal from the acid attack.
The couple’s two youngest children are with them in Israel, and their other four children remain hidden and waiting outside of Uganda due to the continued danger.
The family hopes to be reunited once a place of refuge can be organized for the entire family.
Despite the disfiguring wounds, Mulinde is certain that God will continue to bless him because he stands with Israel.
“The Lord God of Israel said that when you bless Israel, I will bless you. So I have been praying for Israel,” he said. (VisionTV)
Mulinde didn’t always love the Jewish People. He said that as a Muslim he hated Israel, but all that changed when he became a Believer in 1993 at the age of 20.
“I saw that the God of the Bible highly regards Israel! In fact, He calls Himself the God of Israel. I began to study about God’s people the Jews and that there was a plan for Israel in the Bible. I realized that Islam had lied to me,” he said. (Maoz)
In 2008, he visited Israel and saw that contrary to Muslim education and media reports, the Arabs were not mistreated here in Israel.
“My Islamic teachers had taught me that Israeli Arabs were battered and abused — like prisoners within the Jewish nation. I had no idea Israel had Arabs serving in the Knesset (parliament) and working as politicians, police officers and judges all over the country,” he said.
Although persecution of Christians is increasing in the Muslim world, Israel remains a safe haven not only for Jews, but also for Christians and Muslims.
Despite the fact that Israel is surrounded by hostile Islamic nations that seek her destruction, Israel still reaches out as a light to the nations.