Selena was brought up in a traditional Pakistani Muslim home. She was taught to keep the traditions of her culture and was being prepared for an arranged marriage.
By the age of 10, Selena felt increasingly uncomfortable with these cultural pressures and began to think abut leaving home. She explains:
“I felt that I couldn’t dishonour the family and leave, so I ended up being quite suicidal and didn’t talk to anybody and spent all my time on my own.”
Selena experienced severe depression and by the age of 20 had already attempted suicide twice.
She left home but within four days her family found her and asked her to return home. Selena managed to find another place to stay, a Christian hostel, and started going to church, where she made a significant decision.
“I was desperately low. I still hadn’t found what I was looking for. So I said the prayer. I said ‘If you’re here God, I’m letting you, Jesus, into my life.’”
Even though Selena found comfort through her faith in Christ, she faced pressure from her family to become a Muslim and to keep quiet about her new faith.
Years later, Selena still felt uncomfortable being open about her faith. This was partly out of concern for her son. Selena describes how she felt:
“I was a bit uncomfortable, thinking: ‘I don’t want people to start picking on me, causing any problems.’ My fear was that I’ve got a child, I don’t want to be on the run. Having had experience previously with watching my back I didn’t want to be killed or have to put my son’s life in danger more than mine.”
Around that time, Selena started attending a group for people who had converted from Islam to Christianity.
“I started visiting that group and since then became a bit more open about my faith. I still feel uncomfortable telling people that I’m a Christian. I don’t wear a cross if I’m around a lot of Muslims or the Asian community. I don’t go openly saying that I’m a Christian because I do feel fear of them causing me trouble and I haven’t got anywhere else to run if I want to leave the area.”
After years of having to hide her faith so often, Selena has noticed a real difference in how people are treated depending on which faith they choose. She explains:
“It’s OK for people when they convert from another religion to Islam. Nobody says: ‘I’m going to kill you’. They don’t live in fear of their lives. Why is it that when a person leaves an Islamic background, becomes a Christian, why do we have to live in fear of our lives?”
Selena’s experience has made her a strong supporter of Safe Haven:
“I think it’s a good idea because if anyone in the future decides to do what I’ve done by leaving home, looking for God, or converting before they leave home, they need somewhere to go to. They can’t do it on their own. They need some support to fall back on. They need a roof over their head.”