BRADFORD, United Kingdom (Christian Examiner) – Nissar Hussain, a 50-year-old father of six, was beaten thirteen times with a pickaxe handle and punched and kicked by two hooded men in the streets because he has openly converted from Islam to Christianity.
Yet Hussain has forgiven his attackers because Christ forgave his.
"Over the years we have been called to re-exercise our faith and deep in faith we have forgiven our attackers," Hussain said in a speech to Christians about his ongoing persecution. "This is what the Lord requires of us as He forgave—while He was hung on a cross He forgave those who persecuted Him."
Hospitalized for 11 days for a fractured hand and kneecap, Hussain was unable to attend the multi-faith peace rally held outside the Bradford City Hall in response to his long-term, escalating persecution.
Despite the brutal physical attack, Hussain says he feels close to God. "I felt the Lord's presence so intimately and the Lord has come through for us in miraculous ways that we could never have imagined," he said.
Hussain's car has been vandalized six times, firecrackers have been thrown at his home, Muslim friends and family have ostracized or condemned him, arson in an adjacent home threatened his and his family's lives, and he has already once relocated for his safety, according to the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA).
"Despite the recent brutal attack outside my home, I have no doubt whatsoever that the Lord was watching over me and preserved my life as it could have been fatal," Hussain testified. "I felt His warm and glowing presence throughout the ordeal and its aftermath."
For years, Hussain struggled to conceal his belief in Christ from his parents, his wife and children, and his close Muslim friends, but now shares his faith openly because he wants to raise awareness about the persecution of apostates in the United Kingdom.
"We are under the cosh [under pressure] and classed as blasphemers," Hussain said, according to Premier Christian Radio.
At the peace rally, held Dec. 5, BPCA president Wilson Chowdhry urged the police to recognize Hussain's attack as a hate crime and the government to implement better protection for those like Hussain who are targeted for their faith.
"There should be no compulsion in faith, and we hope that more and more of our Muslim brothers and sisters will veer away from the animosity they have for those who choose to leave the faith and enter other beliefs," Chowdhry said to the Telegraph & Argus.
"The only way to change this is for the Muslim community to start working in their own parishes, preaching a more peaceful Islam," Chowdhry urged. "If that doesn't change, you will have not just apostate hatred, but the continued polarisation in our communities."
UNITY, NOT HATRED
Those present at the rally held British flags and signs saying "We Love Muslims," "Justice for the Hussains," and "Our Human Right."
In a radio interview, Chowdhry said he hopes the outcome of the rally will be peace between religions. "We know that the persecution exists," he said, referring to other cases of apostates being coerced or threatened to return to Islam.
Chowdhry wants the government to better assess the situation and said he hopes the rally will exemplify peace and love above hatred and division.
Faiths represented at the peace rally included Christian denominations, Islam, Hinduism, and Sikhism.
Mohammed Rafiq Sehgal, president of the Council for Mosques, condemned persecution in a statement. ""Choice of a religion is a private and personal matter," said Sehgal. "Any person choosing to follow a particular faith should be allowed to do so with fearing harassment, intimidation, or violence."
Hussain agrees that the threats to him and his wife, Kubra, who also accepted Christ, are real. "The Muslim community are largely decent people, but because of the taboo of converting to Christianity, we are classed by them as scum and second-class citizens," Hussain said.
BPCA created an online petition charging the Prime Minister, police, and local authorities to assess and improve the situations of victims of "apostasy" persecution.
"Most of the Muslim community here have turned a blind eye to what we are going through," he added. "There are some who have condoned it, but there are also those who are directly committing hate crimes against us."
Regardless of personal risk, Hussain wants to share his story and will accept speaking engagements at churches via BPCA.