A Digital Revolution: How the Face of Bible Smuggling Has Radically Changed
Sixty years ago when Brother Andrew smuggled Bibles to closed countries, he would load his Volkswagen Beetle with Bibles and drive them into hostile areas. But today, as you might guess, technology has revolutionized the way people do everything–including Bible smuggling! As a result, the Gospel doesn’t have to be driven into cities anymore. It can be transmitted down the internet’s electronic highway and right into villages.
In the Middle East, Open Doors is able to increasingly smuggle the Gospel into the country through electronic means. Below, four anonymous Christians from the Middle East describe how they use the smuggled Bible to spread the message of Christ throughout the Arab world.
Meet Hafiz* and Majida*, two highly educated professionals who work in one of the bustling hubs in a Middle Eastern city.
These two people, with the support of Open Doors, run a Bible Competition across several websites and Facebook communities for Arab Christian believers. “For every week the competition runs, we choose a different Bible chapter. Most recently from Matthew and John,” Hafiz explains. “Every day we ask the participants to answer five questions. The better they answer them, the more points they score. The winners receive a small price and recognition on the website and Facebook page.”
One woman, Raakel*, describes the impact of the competitions. “Before the competition I wasn’t reading the Bible a lot, but the competition encouraged me to start reading God’s word again. I feel closer to God now. Before I participated in this competition I didn’t really have a relationship with God, but now I do.”
Raakel is not alone. 5,000 people have already participated in these online Bible competitions so far, they report. “We received more than a hundred encouraging responses. People ask us to continue with the contest because it helps them continue reading the Bible,” Hafiz explains.
According to Hafiz, Christians in the Middle East are pressured to behave like the majority culture. “Some Christian men, for instance, treat their wives in a degrading way because that is what they believe is part of their culture. Another challenge is how Christians see God: some believe He sits in Heaven waiting for them to make a mistake so He can punish them. But they don’t realize that is not who the God of the Bible is.”
That is why online campaigns like the Bible competition are needed. People need more information so they can better understand who God is and what he wants for them. “If more people actually read the Bible,” Hafiz says, “they will better understand the important Christian passages and what Jesus has done for them.”
One of Hafiz’s creative colleagues, Majida, has also started a creative initiative to inspire people to learn more about the Bible. She has set up an animated game of sorts for social media. She posts an animation of four Arabic words spinning around–for example, the terms may inlude words like ‘number’ or ‘place.’ When a viewer taps on the screen of their phone, the animation stops and one of the words is highlighted. They then post a screenshot of the word and, in return, receive a quiz question about a person, place, number, or verse in the Bible. After players post their answer, Majida’s online team lets them know if they are correct.
Students and Young Adults
Hafiz and Majida’s initiative are just two of the projects Open Doors supports in the Middle East that aim at supporting the body of Christ and spreading His love in the region. Another ongoing project is Caliana* and Naiya’s* online initiative to engage students and young adults in the gospel.
These two connect to Arab youth using short video clips on Facebook about contemporary lifestyle issues. In the end there is always a ‘twist,’ where a link to the gospel is revealed. “One woman, a Christian believer from a Muslim background, sent us a message, sharing that she is following Christ but that she can’t practice her faith in public. Our posts on Facebook have really touched her and help her stay strong,” Naiya explains, “Other Christians say that this page helps them to understand their faith better and empowers them to become more vocal about what they believe.”
Caliana reports that, in general, many people like this woman are enjoying the content. “But when, in the end, the name of Jesus is mentioned, or his death on the cross… then many Muslims become angry and start attacking us in the comments,” Caliana explains. “Especially the cross. If we show the cross…they can’t stand that.”
One post about Easter–that centered around Jesus’ death on the cross–sparked a huge discussion among Muslims and Christians in the comments section. Hundreds of people added to the debate. Some were just defending their faith; others were genuinely interested in the Gospel.One of the tangible results of this online project is that in one city a group of self-proclaimed “atheist” students from a Muslim background meet regularly with a Christian pastor to learn more about the Bible. “They still have serious questions about life issues, but they are open to discuss them. This is a huge opportunity,” Naiya says.
Social media experts in the Middle East report the three most common questions that Muslims ask about Christianity.
- Why do you have three Gods? (This is a reference to the Trinity.)
- Who eats their God? (This is a reference to communion.)
- How can God have a Son if he does not have a wife?
These questions demonstrate how many Muslims are curious about Biblical teachings, but need more information to fully understand concepts that are important to the faith.
If you are moved to support the work of digital smugglers like those mentioned here, you can click here for an opportunity to donate Bibles to those living and ministering in hostile countries.