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, sometimes 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 is decreasing a bit. “In some areas the threats from direct relatives like brothers and uncles has been reduced,” one Christian explains.
“They are more and more 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 the 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.
Father God, we praise You for the light of Christ that is reflected so brightly in believers on the Arabian Peninsula, even in the midst of their own suffering. What a joy it is to read this glimpse into the mighty work of the Holy Spirit as He uses their faithful acts of mercy and compassion to open the eyes of many to the truth of the gospel. Continue to grant opportunities of life-giving ministry and cause Your Holy Spirit to move across the region in power and might. And use the testimony of their faithfulness in our own lives to encourage and challenge us to humble service as we encounter daily challenges and opportunities to share the message of the gospel with both words and actions. In the name of Jesus, at whose name every knee should bow … and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.