After serving almost two years in prison on charges of blasphemy in Algeria, former Muslim turned Christian Slimane Bouhafs sought asylum in Tunisia, but persecution still followed him.
"Honestly, I'm stuck - I am as scared here as I was in Algeria. I am as threatened here as I was in my country," Bouhafs told Morning Star News.
He arrived in Tunisia in October 2018 following his release in April 2018. Continuous troubles like receiving death threats and getting accosted in the middle of a road with no one intervening caused Bouhafs to seek asylum in another country.
"Once, three people on a motorbike accosted me in the middle of the street, in front of a multitude of people coming and going," Bouhafs said. "They asked for my papers with threats. I gave them my papers and told them I was a refugee. After taking a look, they handed them to me. It was then that they insulted me and threatened me without anyone intervening."
Bouhafs added that one of the men had an Algerian accent. He went to the police station to report the incident, but rather than being helped, he received more mistreatment.
"After finding articles on Google and finding out that I am a Christian and had been in jail accused of undermining Islam, the agents stood up against me, and they also insulted and mistreated me. I could only leave the premises forgetting the complaint," said Bouhafs to Morning Star News.
Fearful for himself and that his case would implicate his family in Algeria, Bouhafs started filing for asylum with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in November 2018. He was granted a refugee in October but could not still leave to his dismay.
"Honestly, I do not understand why they do not let me go, why I do not have my ticket, when countries have agreed to receive me. I find that unfair and humiliating," Bouhafs said. "I ask that the authorities concerned act quickly, without further delay, to allow me to reach a country of asylum, and that my family can join me."
The father of three is the only Christian in his family. His daughter, Thilleli, said that his official conversion was in 1999. Before that though, her father had started seeking for answers after his encounter with a Muslim prisoner while he was still a policeman until 1994.
"I loved my country, and I wanted to fight terrorism to save my country," Bouhafs said. "In 1994, we arrested an Islamist terrorist whom I took care of, treating and feeding him because I felt sorry for him then."
"My talks with this person changed my life and my convictions as the Muslim that I was," recalled Bouhafs. "What I saw and heard in this person, added to that all the victims slaughtered, burned and killed by the terrorists, had pushed me towards the door to leave this religion. Since that year, I no longer wanted Islam, or rather Islamism."
Beginning in 1998, Bouhafs started reading books about people's testimonies who encountered Christ and later, the Bible. His personal studies led him to finally embrace Christ in 1999 and soon became part of a Protestant church.
"My soul finally found the peace I so longed for, but at the same time a storm broke out against me. All of the society I lived in had suddenly risen up against me," said Bouhafs.
The persecution extended to his family although they did not share Bouhafs' faith. This broke his heart but remained optimistic that his sufferings were not in vain.
"But to these pains was added the joy of seeing many people from the region agree to follow me to become Christians. For me, it was a great victory," he said.
Editor's note: Believers are urged to pray for Slimane Bouhafs' safety and provision for asylum, and his family's salvation.