“Why should I still hate Christians?”
On the Arabian Peninsula—the heartland of Islam that envelopes countries like Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Bahrain—outbreaks of violence and extremism cause extra suffering for Christians. But amidst this pressure, they are able to share the love of Christ in surprising ways.
The violence between Shia and Sunni Muslims leads to mistrust, chaos and suspicion; at some places, in catastrophic proportions. This is a very good environment for extremists to migrate and multiply. Fanatic Islamic groups who are very vocally and explicitly anti-Christian can roam the region more freely than before, posing an extra risk especially for believers from a Muslim background.
And yet, Christians find ways to witness. One of the ways they stand out is when they are helping others. In many places where violence breaks out, Christians tend to provide relief to the victims.
While most Muslim charities usually only focus on their own people, Christians tend to help all the needy, including Muslims. “This behavior is opening the eyes of Muslims,” says a Christian on the Arabian Peninsula.
All their lives, Muslims on the Arabian Peninsula have heard anti-Christian messages from their religious leaders. But now they see how Muslims are fighting and hating and killing each other, while Christians are reaching out to Muslims through the love of Christ. The Muslims are wondering: “Why should I still hate Christians?”
So, though Islamic fundamentalist groups are persecuting Christians at even greater intensity than before, the hostility toward Christians from the family and from the community decreases a bit. “In some areas, the threats from direct relatives like brothers and uncles has been reduced,” one believer explains.
“They are doubting what their political and religious leaders are teaching them. They are wondering: ‘Why is what the imam preaches—a message of peace and mercy—so different from what we see Islam do in practice? Hate and violence are growing. Why should we have to align ourselves with one of the violent parties in this conflict?’ A growing number of Muslims are openly questioning their beliefs,” says a local Christian.
This gives Christians the opportunity to respond by asking: “What if God is different than you thought He was? What if His true nature is love and peace? How can you live your life in the way God has intended it for you?” That is an openness that is really new for the region.