Me: I am proud to follow Christ.
Prodigal: Me too, it defines my whole identity.
This is from the book Sister Freaks: Stories of Women Who Gave Up Everything for God by Rebecca St. James
Like a crudely fashioned bracelet, Mulahn’s wrist is encircled in marred flesh–a result of torture at the hands of Muslim kidnappers. Captors singed her skin with sulfuric acid, erasing the carefully tattooed cross there. The cross had been Mulahn’s quiet proclamation that she was a Christian amid a culture of Islam. Somehow, Egyptian captors determined to sear Christ from her heart by burning her skin.
Mulahn grew up in Egypt in a Christian home. Her family represented a small religious minority in Egypt–the Coptic Christians numbering six million. Islamic fundamentalists began targeting Coptics in the 1990’s, believing them to be a real threat to Islam.
These Islamic zealots roamed the streets, looking for Coptics to harass and abduct. Mulahn’s closely woven community lived against that constant backdrop of worry, wondering if that day would bring yet another abduction. They were very cautious about whom they trusted and where they traveled.
On one ordinary day, a group called the Gamat Islamiya abducted 18 year old Mulahn while she was visiting friends. They spirited her away, and her abductors raped her repeatedly. They knew that if they did so, they’d essentially ruin Mulahn’s life–if they stole her innocence, they stole her ability in her culture ever to marry.
Everything they did was deliberate. Every torture they invented had a purpose: to dissuade her from Christianity and her culture.
During the ordeal, her captors moved her in stealth, blind folded and brutalized, to dingy hideouts. They worked day and night to convert her heart and mind to Islam and undermine her connection to Jesus Christ. “Pray to Allah!” they demanded. To survive, Mulahn had to do as they said, bowing low to the ground facing Mecca.
The kidnappers made Mulahn memorize pages of the Koran. Through sleep and food deprivation, mind-numbing memorization sessions, forced prayer, and repeated rape, Mulahn began to bend to her captors’ wishes.
Mulahn’s traumatized father sought help from the Cairo police. “You must find her,” he told them. “They will torture her.” Hot tears erupted from his dark eyes. “You must find her.”
“Forget Mulahn,” a police officer told him. “She’s now safe in the hands of Islam.”
“You don’t understand. They have taken my daughter.”
“You don’t understand!” the officer shot back. “You must sign this now.” He shoved a document toward Mulahn’s father, handing him a pen. The piece of paper declared that he would not search for his daughter. “Sign it!”
“I cannot sign this.”
“If you don’t, you will be responsible for any harm that comes her way. If your family searches, for her, she will be hurt. Mulahn is safe. She is being retrained in the ways of Islam. If you love her, you will leave her alone. Allah will take care of her.”
With shaking hand, Mulahn’s father signed the document, his tears blurring his signature. Still, he searched for her in secret, relentless in his pursuit.
During her “retraining,” Mulahn’s kidnappers required her to wear a veil, the traditional hijab Islamic women wear for the sake of modesty. Initially she refused. “They warned me that if I removed it, they would throw acid on my face.” she later recounted. After days upon days of brain washing torture, she acquiesced to her captors and signed papers saying she was convert to Islam. She quit fighting the veil.
And then, one day, she escaped.
A clandestine group called Servants of the Cross arranged for her rescue. This group sheltered her, nourished her. It protected her from harm and kept her safe from her captors.
Egyptian Shari’a law considers conversion from Islam to Christianity illegal–an offense that carries a swift death sentence. Even so, the Servants helped Mulahn find her way back to Christianity. Instead of demanding she shroud herself in a veil, the Servants gave her light. Instead of depriving her, they gave her food. Instead of forcing her to pray, they prayed for her.
The group helped Mulahn in other ways too. Because Egyptian law places the sole blame upon rape victims, not the rapists, the state often gives the victims a death sentence. Other rape victims are not allowed to marry; they are considered damaged. But the Servants introduced Mulahn to a Christian who later became her husband.
One Servant explained, “I supervised between thirty and thirty-five re-conversions every month. In all Egypt there are between seven thousand and ten thousand cases of forced conversions to Islam. It is our duty to save them.”
With the help of the Servants of the Cross, a tattooist place another cross on Mulahn’s wrist, just above her bracelet of torture. Today, she dares to be a follower of Jesus Christ–in a culture that longs to sear His cross from their land with disfiguring acid.
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
Jennifer Van Allen