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Facing the Death Penalty in North Africa

Pray for Multiply's partners facing persecution

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By Mark J.H. Klassen

Conversion to Christianity is illegal in some countries in North Africa. If someone converts from Islam, they may face the death penalty. In recent days, the government in one country has become increasingly hostile toward the Church and toward the spread of the Gospel. 

That’s why it was so disturbing for Nasser al’Qahtani, Multiply’s Regional Team Leader for North Africa and the Middle East, to receive news recently that Multiply’s partner in this country was arrested and put into police custody. 

When he first heard the news, Nasser sent out an urgent prayer request, inviting as many people as possible to pray for this brother in Christ (whom he referred to as Adam) and for other believers in this country.

Within days, Nasser received another report, confirming that five more church leaders had been arrested and more suspects were being investigated. 

Again, Nasser invited fellow believers all over the world to pray: “Pray for Adam and the other brothers in prison to remain rooted in their faith and encouraged by the Holy Spirit. Pray that they will have opportunity to worship the Lord in prison and have opportunity to share the Good News with fellow prisoners and prison guards.”

Understanding the difficult dynamics within the country, Nasser also encouraged people to pray for the local authorities and for their decisions regarding the prisoners. He asked for prayer for the guards in the prison to be merciful. He also invited people to pray that God would provide the right lawyer to represent the imprisoned believers. 

For the families of those in prison, Nasser asked for prayer for grace and wisdom as they dealt with questions and opposition from their neighbors. For the Church in the area, the prayer was to remain on fire for Jesus and dedicated to his Lordship.

The next communication from North Africa was again dark and discouraging. “Since my last update,” Nasser reported, “the police have seized Adam’s mobile phone and laptop and are using his contact list to round up others that he may have been meeting with, resulting in more arrests and brutal interrogations for anyone suspected of being a Christ follower.”

According to the full report, a total of fourteen believers were being held by authorities, with twelve of them confessing Christ and likely facing execution. Two had denied Christ out of fear for their lives.

According to the full report, a total of fourteen believers were being held by authorities, with twelve of them confessing Christ and likely facing execution.

As well, the family members of the prisoners were all being investigated by police, and neighbors were protesting outside of their homes, calling for the death of the women and children inside if they didn’t immediately return to Islam.

None of the brothers in prison had legal counsel. Most of the lawyers in the country were Muslims and no one wanted to defend an apostate. Nasser was quick to contact other organizations and agencies to see what could be done through the court system on behalf of the imprisoned, but mostly he invited people to pray and intercede to the One who is the Righteous Judge.

“Pray that the Lord will lead us and give us wisdom in all these decisions,” Nasser pleaded, feeling the weight of the situation. “Pray for the families to be encouraged and have wisdom on how to deal with persecution from neighbors, returning curses with blessing and returning hate with love.” 

Once again, Nasser invited people to pray for the oppressors, that the Lord would soften their hearts and change them from stone to flesh. “Pray for all Muslims in this country,” he urged, “as these public investigations are published, may the Lord use this opportunity to draw others who are curious to search for the truth about Jesus.”

As Nasser communicated with others about this ordeal in North Africa, he made it clear that the persecution had arisen after someone posted a video on social media of a local believer’s baptism. Even though the video was shared among believers in another country, it went viral and eventually caught the attention of authorities in this country. At that point, they began hunting for the people identified in the video.

Nasser urged all who would listen to be mindful of sharing photos and videos online and to avoid doing so without clear permission. “I understand the excitement about these new believers and their baptisms,” he said, “but we need to be aware of how these things get shared online and easily become available to those who feel threatened by it. We need to be careful and wise. This is really a life and death issue. It’s very sobering.”

Nasser’s next update was even more grim. “Today, twenty-three believers were charged with apostasy, receiving a mandatory death sentence. There will be two days of trial with no lawyer present.”

Prayers were urgently requested. “Let’s stand united on behalf of these believers. Pray that they would continue to choose Jesus and put their faith in him during this battle, even if they are tortured. Ask the Holy Spirit to encourage them, to build them up, and to bring down the plans of the enemy.”

Nasser also asked for prayers on behalf of the prisoner’s families, especially their children, which apparently amounted to at least one hundred. If their parents were declared infidels, the children would also be stripped of all rights, citizenship, and property.

While the court proceedings were happening in the capital city, there were hundreds of believers in the south of the country who were wondering if they should stay or flee to other countries for safety. They needed wisdom. 

Immediately after the news of the charges, the government sent a group of Islamic religious leaders to the hometown of the believers, to try and get as many believers as possible to recant their faith in Jesus. Many felt that this was a desperate attempt by the government to provide them a way out of enforcing the death penalty. The government was trying to keep the story out of the news, in order to not draw too much attention.

The next news that Nasser received was shocking. It came from a church leader in a small village outside of the hometown of the imprisoned believers. He shared a simple story about how he had stumbled upon a group of village children gathered to sing praises to Jesus. There were apparently no adults present with them, only children. Some were the children of those who were imprisoned, but others were from unbelieving families. Despite the darkness of all that was happening, these children were continuing to put their faith in Jesus and share the Gospel. It brought a glimmer of hope into a dark story and gave people courage to keep praying.

What came next was even more amazing. “I’m so happy to share that all the brothers and sisters imprisoned were released a few hours ago,” Nasser reported, “according to orders of the highest authority in the country!”

According to Nasser, though the prisoners were freed, their case was still not dismissed. “Don’t stop praying,” he pleaded. 

Many people in the country were outraged by the decision of the authorities. The court had ruled that the believers and their families could remain Christian as long as they did not actively share their faith with others. If they did, they would risk being arrested again and severely punished. Consequently, it was advised that the released prisoners be moved to a different part of the country temporarily while the public outcries died down.

“I can’t stress enough that this was nothing short of a miracle,” said Nasser. “It was like hearing about twenty-three resurrections from the dead in one day! The fact that they were not only released but allowed to publicly remain in the faith is truly amazing.”

Nasser confirmed that nothing like this had ever happened before in this country. Yet he urged people to keep praying for these believers and for more freedom in this country and across North Africa. “We are so grateful for your prayers,” he said, “for your love, and for your solidarity with these brothers and sisters.”


Praise God for the deliverance of these brothers from imprisonment. Pray for their continued safety and freedom, and for that of their families. Pray also for changes in the policies of their country’s government, that the Gospel would be proclaimed without opposition and that followers of Jesus would be able to live and serve without fear of punishment.


Originally published at multiply.net. Used with permission.

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