Pastor Paul Siniraj grew up the son of a prominent Muslim family in India and started learning Arabic when he was 3 years old in a large mosque founded by his grandfather.
Fifty-eight years later at the age of 61, he is one of the most wanted men in the Middle East. The mullahs would love nothing more than to destroy his ministry, which plants underground house churches and smuggles Bibles into some of the most repressive Muslim countries in the region.
Siniraj or “Pastor Paul” as he prefers to be called has endured failing health and personal attacks against his family by fanatical Muslims. But he doesn’t let that slow him down.
He grew up in Thiruvananthapuram, India, and converted to Christianity while at college in his early 20s. His ministry is so secret that he asked WND not to disclose his full name nor the country from which he currently operates. Suffice it to say that he is not at home in his native India.
“When I was 3 years old I started learning Arabic and Qur’an. I studied Qur’an completely and even published a book about Qur’an in my language called ‘Malayalam,'” he said.
“I am now more than 30 years in ministry since the Lord made me a preacher,” he said in broken English over a cellphone connection that faded in and out.
As he was trying to communicate with WND by email, text and phone, he noted that he also had business to tend to.
“I am seriously evangelizing an Arab (Muslim) family at their house,” he said.
His organization, Bibles For Mideast, smuggles the scriptures into some of the most anti-Christian Muslim regions on the planet, including the disputed territory of Kashmir on the border of India and Pakistan, in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states. Bibles are also secretly funneled into Muslim-dominated Bangladesh and Pakistan, among other countries.
The group plants underground churches in these countries, where Christians are continuously harassed, beaten and jailed by the Muslim majority. In Saudi Arabia the penalty for foreigners caught bringing a Bible into the country is death.
“We are distributing Bibles published by Bible societies. We will get Bibles in all languages, especially Arabic and Urdu language Bibles,” the pastor told WND. “We purchase standard Bibles, which costs below U.S. $5 each. We arrange transportation also.”
“Here very secretly we do ministries and having prayer services,” he added. “Myself and our team members staying different places. If we feel anybody suspecting us, we will have to change our location.”
On a secret mission
Death has often knocked at his door and at the doors of his associates who dare to help a Muslim convert to Christianity.
Siniraj meets Muslims in secret, often at their homes, to share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“I would say almost all the countries are hunger of the gospel. Kuwait, Oman, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, Egypt, Libya are most hunger of the Gospel,” he told WND.
Egypt and Iran are especially on fire for the gospel, he said, with huge revivals ongoing.
But other areas are less known and so the ministry team will send out a fleece or a “test” to try to get a feel for whether the local population will be receptive to the gospel message.
“We will test first whether people are interested to listen us, then only we will approach them with Gospel,” the pastor said.
One example of the cost of being exposed as a Christian in a Muslim country was highlighted by an article in the Indian Express in 2011.
Two teenage sisters were murdered by Muslim militants in Sopore, Kashmir, while their father was saying his daily prayers in the local mosque. His daughters had started studying the gospels but had not yet converted to Christianity, said Siniraj.
“The girls were active participants of an underground Christian group,” he told the Indian Express, even as the local police denied that the murders had anything to do with the girls studying Christianity.
“There are no missionaries active in Sopore,” the police told the paper.
Siniraj knows otherwise.
“I had seen the girls during my visit to Sopore a few years ago,” he said. “The girls were not converts. They had started reading the New Testament of the Bible. I suspect the militants might have come to know about the group and the girls’ involvement in its activities.”
Siniraj has over the years been beaten, attacked, burned and poisoned.
His own three children were poisoned at school by a Muslim woman who offered them tainted chocolates. His two boys recovered quickly but his daughter, then 12, came close to death.
No tithes in this missionary field
Bibles for Mideast has a nine-member board of directors. “Once in a week we gather together praying for the ministry, sharing each ones experiences, evaluating its progress and submitting reports and accounts,” Siniraj said.
Almost everyone who works with the ministry is a volunteer who provides for his or her own source of income.
“We have nobody for giving us gifts or tithes here,” he said. “In other countries where there are Christians, even in India, pastors and other church and missionary workers would get gifts and tithes from the believers as a support. Here it is nothing. Yet we are happy with our present income. Though it is very less and not enough to meet our immediate needs, but we have God’s mercy upon us plenty, plenty and plenty. ”
The combined population of the Arab countries in the Middle East is around 420 million, and most have never heard the good news of Jesus Christ. Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iran are not Arab but are dominated by Islam.
“We wish and pray to convey the gospel to each and every one, by God’s grace,” Siniraj said.
But he knows that, in the end, his ministry could cost him his life.
“It is a secret mission. Our churches are underground house churches,” he said. “So we cannot do anything in public, not even open an account in the mission’s name.”
The mission is so secret that he advises donors to be discreet.
“If anybody sends any gifts to our account, they should not use any Christian words like Bible, church, Jesus Christ, etc., as a note for the purpose of the gift,” he said. “If so, it will make us big troubles. For every gifts we will send them online receipt, if they give us details by their email. If we find no information about a fund or gift, we will make receipt for the name of ‘well wisher.'”
Donations can be made online through the ministry’s secure website, Bibles4Mideast.com. Or, an email can be sent through the website for more information.
Before starting Bibles For Mideast several years ago, Siniraj was the founder and director of Salem Voice Ministries, a well-known evangelizing ministry in Kerala, India.
“I never earned or gained anything worldly for my wife and children from the ministry,” Siniraj said in a 2008 article for Breaking Christian News, at which time he resigned from Salem Voice Ministries due to his battle with Leukemia.
He said the Lord healed him of Leukemia and a liver disease that was caused by the cancer treatments.
A letter from Rev. Ipe, who succeeded him at Salem Voice, states “He has served the Lord for the last 33 years and won thousands upon thousands of souls unto the fold of Jesus Christ. He is a prominent Gospel preacher in India. Many times he was beaten, attacked, burned and poisoned. Still he is being threatened.”
A profile story on Siniraj by Assist News Service while he was still with Salem Voice also described him as a fearless evangelist who was willing to put his life on the line for the Gospel.
Siniraj said he’s not the only Christian missionary to the Muslim world who operates under threat of death. The thousands of converts face the same fate if they are discovered by their Muslim families.
“Many are murdered, shot dead, burned dead, beaten, kidnapped, lose their houses, lose their children and their families,” Siniraj told ANS. “But their blood is becoming the seed of the church and millions of million Muslims are converting to Christianity.”
‘Not the same God’
There are about 1.5 billion Muslims all over the world.
Siniraj’s earnest prayer is that every believer would possess a missionary spirit to convey the Gospel of the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to the Muslims “without pride, prejudice and fear.”
He said, however, that it’s crucial for Christians to understand the Islamic faith.
“Allah and Yahweh are not the same God,” he told ANS. “If one did not believe in Jesus as the living God then it is impossible to say they are the same God. We, the Christians must be clear that Muslims believe in Jesus, although not the same exact Jesus of the Bible, and (must) be direct and unabashed about our faith when we witness to Muslims.”
Siniraj said the Islamic concept of Jihad is set forth in the Islamic texts, the Quran and the hadiths.
He said Islam also has a lower view of woman than Christianity.
Although Jesus is acknowledged in the Quran, the Muslim holy book also portrays him in a “low view.” He is as only human, not as the Savior of the world or the Son of God.
According to Islam, Jesus never died on a cross but was replaced by someone before he was crucified. “Islam has a low view of the Bible, too,” Siniraj says.
The idea of religious freedom is also foreign to Islam, he said, and Muslims do not have a Savior to provide atonement for their sins.
“It is the most work-based religion in the world. A Muslim works hard to do good deeds and hope that Allah will like him and allow him to go to heaven when he dies,” Siniraj told ANS. “But there are no guarantees.”
Yet, millions are coming to faith in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, Siniraj said. “It is mainly because of eternal security. And also they are attracted by the unconditional love and intimacy with God offered in Christianity.”
Siniraj rarely asks for money to support his ministry and did not ask WND to ask readers for donations.
“We, the Bibles for Mideast are just growing up by the grace of our Lord. Our team members and believers have miraculous stories, but at least for a few period we cannot project them before any of the media,” he said. “Because both intelligence department and cyber cell are too vigilant against us (in the Muslim countries).”
A Saudi Arabian monarch who believes in Jesus Christ shared his faith in a video and he is now in jail, Siniraj said.
A Kuwaiti prince who showed an openness to the Gospel remains under house arrest, he adds.
“We don’t know how much time we will get to spread the Gospel in the Middle East,” he said. “Within that time we wish to convey the Gospel and save the people.
“You may be knowing even my death sooner or later. Sometimes you may not get a chance to hear, because if the believers have to run or hide themselves, who will inform others about any tragedy? We calculate all these things widely and involving the ministries we work with.
“Fundraising is not an important one for us,” he continued. “Saving souls are important. But we wish and pray that our team members and workers should not be troubled because of the lack of funds. If anybody gives us anything we will receive for the glory of God. For a single coin we give receipts according to our limitations. Limitation means, in our receipt we will not show our location.
“So please pray for us. We pray for you.”
Joel Richardson, author of the New York Times bestseller “The Islamic Antichrist” and producer of the documentary film “End Times Eyewitness,” said ministries like Bibles For Mideast are doing the hard work few Christians want to do.
“When we read about the Middle East most of the news is bad. Everything we hear about is ISIS, wars, radicalism, and the purging of Christians from the region,” Richardson said. “Occasionally, we hear new stories about Muslims coming to faith through supernatural dreams and visions, etc. In truth, however, despite all of the bad news, the Lord is doing amazing things. In Iran, Egypt and across the region, Muslims are coming to faith.”
But it’s not all happening through dreams and visions.
“The vast majority are coming to faith through other faithful Christians sharing the Gospel with boldness,” Richardson said. “Rarely is this talked about. There are quiet revivals breaking out in various areas. We here in the West need to get behind what the Lord is doing. We need to support those who are doing their part to bring the Word of God to the Islamic world.”