Afia* reaches out to her scalp. The itch is unbearable, but so is the sting from the open wound. The killing of her husband in Afghanistan, plus the immense stress and malnourishment over seven years as a refugee in Indonesia have compromised her immunity. Now she is suffering an extreme allergic reaction to the water that causes her scalp to lacerate. She does not have the money for medical treatment.
Exhausted and unable to take anymore, she resolutely prepares a cheap concoction of detergent to drink, to end her life. Even the thought of leaving her three children does not deter her.
Afia’s story is not unique to the 13,000+ refugees stranded in Indonesia, of which more than half are from Afghanistan. At least 13 people have committed suicide since 2014. One torched himself on fire and several sewed up their lips in protest.
Unable to return to their own country nor remain long-term in Indonesia, the refugees can only wait for resettlement in a third country. But resettlement numbers have dropped dramatically since the COVID pandemic. And should the third resettlement attempt be unsuccessful, the refugees will be deported, which would mean certain death. Whilst waiting, they are not allowed to work or marry, and have little access to education and other necessities. They are trapped in limbo, for years, with no hope in sight. Many break down.
But Afia’s journey takes a different turn from most. Refugees themselves, FEBC Indonesia’s PARS ministry leaders Mustafa and Maria have been reaching out to Afia. The Iranian couple shares hope in Jesus in the Persian** language via Telegram. They also share God’s love through practical help and care to Afghani and Iranian refugees. Mustafa and Maria give Afia a package of food monthly and pray for her in the name of Jesus Christ.
Just as Afia is about to drink the detergent, she hears a comforting, loving voice. And then she sees Jesus Christ. “Don’t drink that cup,” Afia recounts what Jesus said to her, in Dari, her heart language. “Give your burdens to Me. Leave your problems and illness to Me.”
Afia broke down and surrendered her burdens to Jesus. She felt relief come over her. Today, her living conditions are improving and she is thankful she did not commit suicide. Afia believes it is because of the prayers of Mustafa and Maria that she saw Jesus.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual.
**Persian – Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan – Farsi speaking.
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