A Christian girl whose teacher threatened to fail her if she didn't pray a Muslim prayer has shared how her faith has allowed her to pray for - and even forgive - those who continually persecute her.
Persecution watchdog Open Doors USA shares the story of Jen-Jen, a little girl living in the southernmost region of the Philippines. Jen-Jen first learned about Jesus in 6th grade while at Vacation Bible School, and later embraced Christianity after learning of His sacrifice and death.
However, her newfound faith didn't sit well with the locals, and the little girl began to experience persecution. Even her classmates called her names such as Kafir (which means "good for nothing, filthy infidel") and "pork eater."
Despite performing well in nearly every subject in school, Jen-Jen encountered pressure in Arabic class where the teacher required students to memorize a Muslim prayer in order to pass.
Hoping to pacify her teacher, Jen-Jen learned the words of the prayer. But rather than asking Jen-Jen to say the words in an oral test, the teacher later announced students would be required to go to a mosque and pray the prayer aloud.
When Jen-Jen and another Christian classmate tried to explain to their teacher that they now prayed to Jesus and could not pray in a mosque, she said, "I don't care. You must comply or else you will fail in this subject. You should revert to your Islamic faith."
When the day of the mosque visit arrived, Jen-Jen completed the long walk to the mosque while wearing the traditional Muslim dress and veil covering. However, she suddenly fell ill, her skin burning with fever. She tried to tell the teacher about her illness, but the teacher refused to budge on the requirement to pray the Muslim prayer. "Do it," she said, "or you won't be able to graduate."
Growing increasingly ill, Jen-Jen returned to her place among the students preparing to pray. But as the students rose to their feet to pray, Jen-Jen's body was overwhelmed, and she blacked out, falling to the floor.
After ignoring the little girl's limp body, her teacher eventually allowed a student to retrieve a juice for Jen-Jen, but refused to excuse her from the rest of the ceremony or from listening to the entirety of the Muslim imam's message.
Amazingly, the traumatizing event did not deter the girl from living out her faith: "Despite what happened, I did not hate my teacher nor my classmates," she told Open Doors. "I just prayed for my teacher that God will bless her."
Since the day at the Mosque, Jen-Jen has been pressured to conform to many other Muslim practices, such as fasting during the month of Ramadan. Nevertheless,the little girl told the outlet that she and her family have no ill-will toward the people who bully her due to her faith.
Now in 8th grade, Jen-Jen continues to attend church and even helps the Pastor read Scriptures to the congregation that is mostly illiterate. Eventually, she hopes to become a teacher.
"I want to help children like me. I want to show them the love of Jesus that I experienced, she said. "Also, I want to help my people read and write so that they will also read the Bible for themselves."
According to the Pew Research Center, the Philippines is Asia's most Christianized country, and is the 5th largest Christian country on earth, with about 90% of the population being adherents. However, Voice of the Martyrs notes that Christians living in areas with significant influence from Muslim and Communist organizations have routinely faced threats, kidnapping and death.
In May, hundreds of Islamic extremists rampaged through Marawi, the largely Christian Philippines' most important Muslim city, waving black flags of the Islamic State (IS) group. While thousands have since fled the city, it's estimated that 300-600 civilians are still trapped or are being used as "human shields" in areas controlled by the terrorist group, and 350 people have died.
Currently, there are believed to be about 100 militants in the city, and the organization's news agency, Amaq, said its fighters controlled two-thirds of the city.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the entire southern region of Mindanao to counter the attack, which he said was part of a plan by Islamic State to establish a "caliphate" - or region ruled by Sharia Law - in the country.