Veiled Hearts

The Inner Life of North African Women

By Taylor Murray

In the Arab world, many women veil their hair and sometimes their faces from the view of outside world. It’s a tradition that may be rooted in their own religious zeal or in family or societal expectations. But Carrie, a Pioneer in North Africa, has slowly discovered another veil among her friends—a veil that covers their hearts.

“Here, women’s rights are the best in the Arab world. But this rarely translates into their lives being easy or valued,” Carrie explained.

More than a Matter of Law

Legal rights can only go so far. Penetrating deeper than these surface-level privileges is a social and cultural message that says they have little value.

To cope, they hide themselves. Society mandates modesty, so they retreat even further. Rarely transparent with themselves or with others, they ignore their pain and produce culturally appropriate answers when asked, “How are you?”

“They say they’re fine, but often they’re not,” Carrie says. “And the pictures that they share on Facebook show shadows of what they’re longing for—beauty, worth and freedom. But it’s just not found in the system.”

Such dynamics are part of the human condition in our fallen world. Many women struggle with feelings of worthlessness. But each culture adds a somewhat different spin. For many in the Arab world, a woman’s family is her world, and her life really begins at marriage. In North Africa, weddings are spectacular events. Marriage, though, is not a matter of the heart and does not offer what these women long for. “How I long for these women to know that they are equal and worthy in God’s eyes, and that they don’t need to be defined by their husbands or children.”

Connecting with Women’s Hearts

For years, Carrie has probed Muslim women’s hearts, seeking subtle ways to share this truth. Longing to truly know them, she has learned to model transparency. She hopes that her initiative provides space and freedom for authenticity. But this can take years. Many women in her host culture have never honestly peered into their own hearts, let alone shared these private thoughts and fears with others.

“Recently, I had a conversation in English with an English student,” Carrie begins, and describes how she shared with her student what God had been teaching her about being vulnerable, admitting weaknesses and the longings of her heart, and be honest with herself.

“My student wholeheartedly agreed and said she also tried to be honest with herself,” Carrie said. But the student’s culture and worldview discourage that kind of reflection. Religion may play a significant part. A few hours later, when they were discussing assurance of salvation, Carrie’s student admitted that there is no way in her religion to have this assurance.

“Do you have any idea whether you are going to heaven or hell?” Carrie asked her student.

“No idea,” she responded. “I just don’t think about it.”

To Satisfy their Souls

Carrie aches for Arab women to know Christ as the true satisfier of souls. She longs for them to claim their identities as children of God. Would you pray with us? Pray that these women come to understand their immense worth, found only in a relationship with Jesus.

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