The sons of a Christian woman who was killed for her faith by her Muslim husband have embraced Christianity after witnessing their mother's courage in the face of extreme persecution.
Open Doors USA shares the story of Workitu, a woman who converted to Christianity last year in the Muslim-dominated SNNP region south of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
In an attempt to convince Workitu to renounce Christianity and revert back to Islam, her husband, along with members of the community, severely beat her and threatened to kill her.
Workitu told her church leaders of the abuse she endured at the hands of her husband, and they advised her to report this to authorities in writing. In February, she wrote a letter to police and local government officials to report the abuse, telling them she feared for her life. However, according to sources, officials ignored her request for protection and now deny ever having received the letter.
Eventually, Workitu's husband and a neighbor, angry that she refused to deny Christ, demanded that she sell government drought relief aid she had collected earlier for her family. When she refused, they began to beat her, and continued attacking her even after she had collapsed.
Villagers took Workitu to a clinic in a nearby town, but after four days she was referred to another hospital. She died in transfer, five days after the attack.
However, what man meant for evil, God used for good (Genesis 50:20): following their mother's death, Workitu's two sons, ages 17 and 20, told Christian leaders they want to know more about the Lord their mother worshipped. Eventually they, along with another villager who was a close friend of Workitu's, embraced Christianity.
"Workitu is like Stephen," commented a local evangelist. "Her death was honored by the bringing of her sons to new life. I know she would have been extremely delighted had she witnessed her son's' decision to follow Christ."
According to the account found in Acts, Stephen was stoned to death for his faith. As he was dying, Stephen prayed to God to receive his spirit, and further asked God not to hold the sin against his killers.
While more than half of the population of Ethiopia are Christian, there are areas in the East African country where believers are a minority and thus subjected to persecution. Ethiopia is currently ranked 22 on the World Watch List of countries where it's most difficult to be a Christian.
Open Doors recently visited one village in western Ethiopia and learned about the extreme persecution believers face in the country.
One young man named Wasihun told the Christian charity that theirs was the only Christian family in the village. Thus, they faced constant threats and insults from their neighbors who believe in animism, the doctrine that all natural objects and the universe itself have souls.
Because his father rejected animist rituals and refused to renounce his faith in Christ, the neighbors threatened to kill him.
"On the day before the night my Dad was killed, it was raining. We worked the whole day and got home late. That night people came...and stabbed him," Wasihun told Open Doors.
To this day, Wasihun's family has not received justice. He said he was only 7 years old when it happened and recalled clinging to his father's legs trying to pull him away from his attackers. He said he and his 15-year-old sister tried to cover the wound on their father's neck as their mother sought help.
As his father lay mortally wounded, Wasihun heard him speak his last words. His father told him: "Be strong. Look after your sisters and brothers."
Despite what happened, Wasihun said their family are stronger than ever in their faith.
"When [my father] died, we all gave up. We thought we had no hope," he said.
"But the Lord ... helped us survive through the storm and even made us lead a more financially stable life. We never had the clothes and shoes we have now. God provided for us. God is more than a Father to us," he said.
Wasihun's sister added: "When our opponents bully us, we kneel down and pray to God to give us patience."