“Ding.” The sound of an incoming message disturbs the silence in Nawal’s kitchen. She had just been preparing lunch for her and her young daughter. It’s a WhatsApp message from an unknown number. Just a few words—an encouraging message in Arabic. She knows this is a message from her Christian friend, letting her know that she is praying for her.
Nawal bows her head, closes her eyes for a second and whispers “Amin,” the Arabic word for amen. She answers the message briefly and then resolutely deletes the whole conversation from her phone and resumes her cooking.
This is what Nawal’s faith looks like now. She is so afraid that anyone—especially her husband—will find out about her faith in Christ that she hardly dares to answer messages from other believers. If she does, she keeps it superficial with no hints pointing to the Christian faith. She also stopped reading the Bible online on her laptop because she was afraid her husband would check her internet history or find out another way that she is following Jesus.
According to Saudi law, if her husband does discover her faith he is entitled to beat her, divorce her or even kill her. Nobody will come to her rescue. The strict Islamic laws in her country show little mercy for those who leave Islam, and the Saudi state leaves Saudi families the freedom to ‘handle’ these matters in private.