Devout, determined, and deadly, the young man was prepared to wage jihad. But only a few hours before he planned to take action, everything changed. He had a vision of Christ. Right then, the jihadi gave his life to Jesus.
Fearing for his life, he was forced to flee his home and is now living under a new identity in a different country. I met this remarkable brother through my work with Open Doors, an organization serving persecuted Christians worldwide. As I’ve learned in the course of my work, his story is far from unique.
More and more people from Muslim backgrounds are turning to Christ – and risking their lives to do so. For example, about forty years ago, some two hundred Christians from Muslim backgrounds were living in Iran; today that estimate is 370,000, though precise numbers are hard to come by.
So how are these conversions happening? Often, it seems, Jesus is meeting Muslims and occasionally even jihadis in dreams. One former jihadi spoke of a dream in which he was pulled from a fast-moving river by a man dressed in white. Another convert had two visions of Jesus, in which he was instructed to go to a certain location where a pastor would give him a Bible. He obeyed, and even though he’d never met the pastor before, the pastor was expecting him and even knew his name.
Some stories we hear mirror those of the Bible. Amir (not his real name), a well-respected haji, having made the pilgrimage to Mecca, could be seen as a modern-day Paul. When Amir’s daughter converted to Christianity, he was angry, and when his wife and later his son also came to Christ, he began to persecute them. He beat them and forbade them to visit the church, saying he would inform the secret police, and even threatened to kill them. But his family did not leave Christ – they left him by fleeing abroad.
In his loneliness, Amir focused on Allah, begging for revelation. But the subsequent silence made him doubt. Had his family been right? He didn’t know whether to believe in Allah or Jesus, the Bible or the Qu’ran. Finally he said, “I will believe in the God who reveals himself to me.”
Amir’s prayers were answered in a dream in which a man approached him riding a donkey. He had never seen the man before, but the man hugged him and said, “I will cleanse you of all your sins; you are free. I will give you rest. Believe in me.” When the man departed, another approached and told Amir that the man on the donkey was Jesus Christ.
The next night, Amir had the same dream. When he woke, he felt afraid. He’d served Allah for forty-five years and had made the haj. How could he leave Islam? But the following night, he had the same dream for the third time. Amir knew he had found God, but he did not know what to do next. Even though he’d forbidden his family to go to the local church, he knew he’d learn more about the man on the donkey there and decided to attend.
At first, the congregants were suspicious. Wasn’t this the man who had threatened to kill his family because they accepted Christ? But when he told them he had met Christ in a dream and wanted to give his life to Jesus, the church leaders began to trust him. Soon Amir was involved in ministry, risking his life for his faith. When his family abroad heard what had happened, they praised God for answering their prayers and happily accepted Amir back into the family. Since leaving his country and reuniting with them, Amir enjoys the novel experience of going to church without fear.