Mar 3, 2011

How to Respond to the Revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East.

Most of the major cities of North Africa have been seeing massive protests. Some protests are being tolerated and dispersed with lower levels of force, as in Morocco and Algeria. Another is being brutally repressed by the government of Colonel Qaddafi in Libya using heavy military weapons against his own people to retain power.  

The significance of the events now unfolding in the Arab World is perhaps greater than anyone can fathom or describe.  From the day Simon of Cyrene carried the cross for Jesus, to the day of Pentecost, through the martyrdom of countless thousands, North Africans have been a focus of God. The cries from the hearts of the North African people are the cries of people made in God’s image, longing and thirsting for justice, for freedom, for equality, for dignity. Their cries are echoed across the Arab World – these people want justice in the place of corruption, they want their dignity as human beings in the place of fear, they want truth in the place of lies and censorship, they want their freedom of conscience to express their personal opinions without being beaten or imprisoned or mysteriously “disappearing.” They want to choose their leaders, replacing those who are corrupt or ineffective in providing employment, social services and good leadership; rather than being forced to watch their leaders become rich through corruption and injustice.

Below is a prayer guide developed by YWAM. Use it and move the nations with your most powerful tool - prayer!

Fighting and Disunity Run Rampant
This nation is heavily involved in witchcraft. Its leader, Gaddafi, wears an amulet around his neck, supposedly making him invincible. He believes he is invincible because he has survived many assassination attempts. Seif al-Islam, the oldest son of Gaddafi whose name means “sword of Islam,” is a key leader and seems to support his father. All the citizens in this country were put through a blood covenant, requiring them to give blood to the covenant. Libya is divided into tribal factions of whom the majority fight with each other. These tribes continue to hate each other and remain in disunity.

Division in the Midst of Freedom
After Hosni Mubarak stepped down, both Coptic and Evangelical Christians took to the square to conduct mass and worship openly for the first time in a long time. Egypt has not had this freedom in a long time. The Christian community, however, is still divided. Some are happy with revolution, and some are afraid of it. Some Islamic groups are also excited about the possibilities for Egypt’s future. The Muslim Brotherhood and their political party are presenting themselves as the leaders of the revolution. Other fundamentalist groups are hoping to get a piece of this freedom.  Despite division and and poverty in the country, doors are now open for true reform to take place at the highest levels of government. This means a greater future for many Egyptians.

Peaceful Transition?
Bahrain’s ruling family has listened to protesters and started a dialogue between the two groups. They are also respecting their right to protest. Could this lead to a peaceful transition for the country?  The internet is a great way for Bahrainis to find information on the Gospel and Christ. There are forums where they can go and chat with believers from around the world, and hear the gospel being explained. They can easily download the Bible in Arabic. Christians in Bahrain and other hard places face discouragement, illness and difficult times. It is not always easy to put their trust in Him daily and draw upon His strength.

Peace in Persecution and Death Threats
The Muslim Brotherhood in Tunisia is back after being banished as a political movement for more than 23 years. They want to turn the Jasmine revolution into a religious one. The capital has seen many protests calling for the separation of state and religion. Some Christians are scared, while some are braver. May God give His church peace about this current state of turmoil and unrest. Pray for Tunisian Christians as they face persecution and increased death threats. Ask God to strengthen them and pray they will help turn the hearts of those around them.

A Country Seeking to Restore its Reputation
Most Yemenis are disgusted with the negative international picture that is portrayed by most media channels. They love their country, and would love to see its reputation restored. One of the president’s slogans sums up much of the Yemeni worldview, “To preserve and protect!”  The country is ruled by a tribal system.  Groups exist in the north and in the south who want to secede from the country. This division has led to violent uprisings. Most of the main cities see daily demonstrations. The recent events in Egypt have strengthened the resolve of the secessionists and opposition parties.

From Political Change to Spiritual Hunger                              
The Algerian people hunger for freedoms many consider basic. Right now, most of their protests are political in nature, but such massive change can produce a spiritual hunger for truth and God. Like many of the uprisings around the Arab world, the youth of Algeria play a key role. They have organized and performed many of the demonstrations, and want to bring immediate change to ensure themselves a better future. The government seems willing to accommodate these desires. It is unclear, however, if this is simply being done to placate the protesters or from a sincere desire to make things better for their people.

King and Queen of Jordan

Stability in the Midst of Change
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a small island of peace and stability in the midst of an ever-changing political scene in the Middle East. Due to its political and economic stability, Jordan has been a refuge for many Palestinian and Iraqi refugees. It has become an economic hub for many international companies and organizations. In recent years, Christians have seen God use this welcoming nation and its strong leadership to open doors for many there to hear the Truth and respond. Despite the country being 95% Sunni Muslims, the Church in Jordan remains a protected minority and enjoys relative freedom of worship. Jordan’s leader, King Abdullah, is a champion of Inter-faith dialogue and is the initiator of the Amman Message published in 2005, one of the main voices of the Reform Movement within Islam today.

Balance of Power
Syria's government is a confusing balance of secular ideals and practices. It also combines a limited support for Hezbollah with a strong anti-western stance. Those in Syria live with a very limited freedom of expression and fear of the secret police. The Christians there, however, have a level of freedom. Typically, they can operate openly, but most churches are infiltrated by government informers. Recent crackdowns on evangelical churches have struck fear into some hearts, but the same events have emboldened others. Even in this climate of fear, the gospel is going forward and small groups of new believers are growing.

Hopes and Challenges for the Future
Moroccan Christians are at the point of choosing to either deny their Lord or suffer for him. One hundred and fifty westerners and NGO workers were forced to leave in 2010 for alleged proselytism. The widespread persecution of Moroccan believers throughout 2010 has shaken their peaceful coexistence.  Since Morocco limits freedom of expression, the government has been able to contain protests.  Despite increased economic opportunities and liberalization, poverty is still widespread and unemployment remains high.

Open Hearts are Finding Christ
After the war in 2003, much of the world expected Iraq to begin a civil war. Though the last few years have not been easy, many Iraqis have shown incredible patience and forgiveness. They have a willingness to put aside long held grievances so they can work together for the good of the country. A smaller group, however, is actively working to stir up violence. The future of Iraq rests on the outcome of this struggle.  Iraq's Christian minority has suffered targeted attacks over the last fewyears. Many Christians there are fearful and many are looking for any way to leave the country.  Other believers have staked their future to the future of Iraq and are staying, reaching out in compassion. The gospel is finding open hearts, and a significant number of Muslim Iraqis are finding Christ.

Saudi Arabia
Inevitable Change
In Saudi Arabia, women aren't allowed to drive or travel without a male relative, and some girls are forced to marry before their thirteenth birthdays. At the same time, Saudis are wealthy, travel overseas, and love watching Oprah and Dr. Phil. More and more people are asking, “Why can the rest of the world live in freedom, and we need to live like this?” The cultural strain is intense and change is seen by most as inevitable. The spiritual atmosphere in Saudi Arabia has softened a lot in the past few years. Raids on underground churches have stopped almost completely.  This is a powerful answer to years of prayers by God's people. 

Ending the Cycle of Violence
Despite the vast majority of Palestinians wanting peace with their neighbors and stability for their children, groups of extremists do exist.  These groups are angered by injustices and their frustration has boiled over into violence.  Any hope for peace will depend upon bringing justice and hope to the Palestinian people. Many Palestinians are working hard toward this goal. Also, the Palestinian government is working with NGOs and aid agencies to fulfill basic needs such as education, employment, social services, and access to a water supply.  About 98% of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are Sunni Muslims. The small number of Christians, whose origins are of the early Church, have felt the pressures of war and financial strain. Because of that they started emigrating to the West to find a better future for their children. The Muslim and Christian communities have enjoyed a peaceful co-existence over the centuries, in spite of media reports to the contrary. Evangelical churches are small but strong in faith and stand as a faithful witness in this troubled land.

Hopes and Challenges for the Future
The Oman Muslim community looks to Christians as a guide to family living. The Christian families there find opportunities in their daily lives to be examples of a Christ-loving family. Let us lift up all the Omanis who have heard the Story of the Son, but have not received it. Many have heard, the seeds have been spread, and now the seeds need to take root quickly.

Spiritual Awakening in Comfort
Qataris live a comfortable, wealthy life. In spite of the unrest in other Arab nations, they hope to see a spiritual awakening. From a worker in Qatar: “We've lived in our home for 6 years and this is the first time we've seen our cactus bloom. We've also witnessed glimpses of 'flowers' blooming in the lives of our friends here, being slowly but surely transformed by the love and grace of our Lord Jesus! Now, may the desert blossom more with the flowers of His love and truth!”  Believers are isolated and can feel lonely and scared. They do not have contact with one another, or with expatriate believers. Their families also do not yet believe. Though alone, the Lord is with them and can use them within their families.

Discontent in the Midst of Wealth
Life for Kuwaitis seems good. Oil wealth has taken them far from the daily concerns of just making ends meet. Despite this wealth, many young people are still not satisfied, sometimes turning to drugs, alcohol or street racing in a search for meaning and excitement.  In January, scared by events unfolding in other parts of the Arab world, the government gave all Kuwaitis a bonus of $3500 plus free food for the next year. However, many observers doubt that throwing large amounts of cash around will appease peoples' demands for inclusion in governing their country.  Here, as in most of the Arab world, Christianity is understood as supporting the “Hollywood” values of immorality and greed. But a growing group of Kuwaitis are finding new life in Christ, usually through the witness and example of foreign workers in their country.

UAE (United Arab Emirates)
New Development from Within
Different rates of development mean that some Emiratis are incredibly wealthy while the lives of others remain more modest. Some are concerned at the loss of local traditional values in the great rush to modernization. Others think flamboyant building projects like The Palm or Khalifa Tower could destabilize the country financially. A large number of expatriate university students are Christians and are interacting with the younger generation of Emiratis who will lead the country in the near future. One secret believer here confided to a worker that she fellowships with "people in another town who believe the way we do!" Praise God for believers finding one another in UAE.

Spiritual Awakening
Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical believers in Lebanon are showing signs of spiritual awakening. Muslims here are have a new hunger and openness, but there are few here to reach out to them.  The country is politically divided and the division affects people groups and churches. This nation seeks a new government that will fear God, make wise decisions, and act in mercy for the good of the nation.

A New Country
Since 2005, when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed and their civil war was ended, Sudan has seen a steady decrease in violence and political tension. A recent   referendum for independence paved the way for Southern Sudan to become its own country on July 9, 2011.  To this point, President Omar al-Bashir has seemed cooperative and peaceful throughout the referendum process. Although political unrest is spreading throughout the Arab world and protesters have sprung up against Bashir's leadership, they have not been overly violent or destructive. Christians living in Sudan are aware how vital prayer has been and continue to need prayer during this transition.  Many Christians living in the north are moving to South Sudan in hopes of starting a new life. Along with them goes a majority of the Christian influence in this predominantly Muslim region. Recently, many churches in the North have worked together to distribute one million copies of the Gospel of Luke to help ensure that the Word of God will stay even if they do not.

How do we pray for all these lands?  
·         That the civil unrest spreading throughout North Africa and the Middle East will be an open door for the Gospel to reach many Muslims.
·         That the Lord will continue shaking this region, toppling spiritual strongholds and setting the captives free.
·         That Christians will seize this opportunity to share the love of God with their Muslim neighbors, friends and coworkers. Pray for them to be bold, strong and courageous
·         That the Holy Spirit will build the Church and give Christians wisdom in how to pray and what to do during this time of turmoil.
·         That protesters will realize Jesus Christ is the answer to their discontent. Pray for them to put their faith in Him as Savior and Lord.
·         That the leaders in all of the nations where demonstrations are taking place will be saved.
·         That missionaries will go to the countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, and the other Arab countries and reap a harvest of souls.

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