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Muslims are Coming to Christ

Muslims are Coming to Christ

With the rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) in 2014, and many terrorist killings each year, it can be easy to focus on the negative. Instead, several Iranian Christian leaders worked together to share eight reasons why Muslims, particularly in Iran, are being drawn to Christianity more than ever before.

1) Wherever political Islam enters the stage, Muslims are drawn to Christ.

The healthiest governments are often those where religion and politics are kept separate, and the most corrupt governments are usually those where religion and politics are mixed together. Wherever religion takes on a political dimension, it results in a religious dictatorship and people are deprived of democracy, permissible freedoms and choice. The rulers end up making all the decisions. We see it today in countries like Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia as well as others where religion and politics are intertwined. This has laid the groundwork for people to take refuge in Christ.

2) Disasters and tragedies can help lead Muslims to Christ.

History has shown that disasters, wars, fleeing refugees, earthquakes, famines, illness, terror and persecution prepares people to be ready to hear the Gospel of Christ. The Bible says, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71). Usually in the face of disaster and national calamities, it is Christian charities who offer assistance to those facing such disasters. Many refugees who have lived for years in some of the most difficult circumstances with no help from the government or United Nations have responded positively to the Gospel, especially in places like Iran and Afghanistan.

3) Refugees are meeting believers and hearing the Gospel.

Many who have left their home country as emigrants or refugees, especially from Iran, have come in contact with Christians and been drawn to Christ. Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran, approximately six million Iranians have moved to other countries as either immigrants or refugees over the past 36 years. Many Iranians also travel as visitors to other countries before returning home. Wherever they go, be it Europe, the United States, or neighbouring countries, they usually meet up with Iranian believers and become acquainted with the message of the Gospel. This has resulted in a tremendous growth of Iranian believers, and this has impacted their friends and families in Iran. This can be said of other groups as well, and the number of Afghan believers is increasing rapidly as well.

4) Miracles, healings and answers to prayer are drawing many to Christ.

Miracles, healings and answers to prayer though Christ is another way of drawing Muslims to Christ. Muslims, who have some knowledge of the Koran, believe that no prophet did as many miracles as Jesus did. There are many stories and testimonies, especially among Iranians who have been drawn to Christ in this way. In fact the miraculous work of God in Iran is so great that there is no other country that is experiencing it on this scale. In the same way, through visions and dreams, God is revealing Himself and the truth of the Gospel. There are many Muslim converts in Iran who are not connected to any house church or Christian leader. It seems that the Lord does not give knowledge of all of these believers to us or other groups working among the house churches because we could not cope with the response. When we are ready, then God will gradually introduce them to us in his time.

5) Blossoming of cultural identity and knowledge spreads the Gospel.

This blossoming of cultural identity and the knowledge of other ethnic groups has also helped to draw Muslims to Christ. Our century is a technological one based around the internet. People from different cultures and countries are getting to know each other. We live in an age of communication where people are no longer restricted to one way of thinking or one particular ethnic group. One positive aspect of this is that many Muslims, despite the controls over the means of communication, find a way through various websites to become acquainted with the message, culture and ways of thinking of Christians and also with the personality of Christ. If someone wants to find Christ, that person will find a way.

Concerning Iranian people, the culture, customs and thinking of Iranians is vastly different from those of Islam and Arabic backgrounds. In the Iranian history of civilisation, there are poets and writers who express themes of love, freedom, forgiveness, truth, equality and justice throughout their literary works; truths that are found more in Christianity rather than Islam. People inside Iran today face pressure, lies, violence, discrimination and hate. Since the Islamic Revolution, 80% of the population are disillusioned and tired. They are searching for the God who is love and just and where there is salvation, equality, truth and freedom, and this God can only be found in Christ. It is for this reason that when Iranians hear the Gospel, they respond positively. And again it is for this reason that the Iranian government has forbidden the printing, distribution and sharing of the Gospel and even announced that it is dangerous. They spend all their efforts on closing down the evangelical churches and the production of Christian resources in the Persian language. However, Paul reminds us that no one can prevent the spread of the Gospel. Praise the Lord!

6) Radio and satellite television allow many to hear Christian broadcasts.

It is clear that radio and satellite television has a vital role in helping Muslims to get to know the Gospel. Fortunately, the number of Christian radio and TV channels in Arabic, Turkish, Urdu and Persian related languages are many and are on the increase. Some of these channels are 24/7 and in fact, as far as Persian is concerned, there are now four 24/7 channels. There are millions of viewers both inside and outside Iran. Iranian preachers and teachers are doing all they can to produce good quality programming. In addition to these channels, other preachers have Christian programs on some of the political channels as well. There has never been such an opportunity for Muslims to hear the Gospel, especially in view of all the restrictions that exist in Iran. The effectiveness of all these programs bringing the Gospel into people’s homes is seen through the many testimonies that exist.

7) Churches around the world sending workers into the Muslim World.

Churches throughout the world are involved in sending missionaries and workers into the Muslim World. In spite of the fact that many governments have restricted access to such workers by not granting residence or visas, we are aware of many tent workers, teachers and medical personnel who have entered the Muslim World. They have sacrificially learned the culture, customs and language in order to spread the Gospel. Workers are not exclusively from the West, and many entering the Muslim World are from countries in South America and even from countries in the Far East such as China, Japan and South Korea. There are many organisations that are supporting them to fulfil the commission to preach the Gospel. Furthermore, there are many workers who cannot travel to these countries, but operate behind the scenes to help those on the front lines. In this way, the work will not stop.

8) God is exposing the truth and reality of Islam.

As God has exposed the reality of Islam, this in turn has led to many Muslims becoming disillusioned with Islam and being drawn to Christ. In fact the best way of exposing Islam is when the extremists take over. Even while it is true that moderate Muslims say that what is happening is not connected with Islam, many Muslims are realising that Islam has its roots in terror. In any country where Islam develops, so also violence, terror, rape, compulsion, lies and dictatorship increases.

In the history of Iran there has never been an ‘evangelist’ such as Khomeini who has helped people to know what Islam is really all about and therefore has prepared the way for Christ in the same way as John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ. A new building cannot be built on an old foundation. The old has to be demolished so that a new foundation can be built. God is allowing Muslim leaders to destroy the old Islamic foundation so that a new Christian foundation can be built. The situation in Iran today is that Islam is weakening and therefore we must use every opportunity and every method to enable people to hear the Gospel.

Dory P is a writer for The Voice of the Martyrs USA

Any Christian is Worth a Bullet

Any Christian is Worth a Bullet

Last year, I travelled to meet with Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The national crisis facing Lebanon is noteworthy. A country long known for its hospitable people, towering cedars and beautiful shores has been flooded by Syrians who have been displaced by the spread of Islamic extremists and government troops.

I travelled from Beirut into the interior of Lebanon, to a wide valley dotted with camps established by the United Nations and various aid organisations. The survivors who occupy these refugee centres stand in long lines to receive the basic necessities of life. They live in tents, lean-to shelters and even concrete factories. I met with a family of five occupying a single room, with a closet-sized adjoining room where they cooked over an open flame.

One family looked particularly ‘shell-shocked’ and distressed. As we began to talk, I learned that the day before my interview with this Syrian Christian family, Islamic State (IS) came into their former village and killed four men and two women, including their 28-year-old niece. Reportedly, she desperately struggled with the insurgents, refusing to go with them. Finally, they slit her throat and left her in the street.

Understandably, this family refused to be interviewed on camera, or even to have their voices recorded. They were reared under a Syrian regime of terror and now they live in fear of IS. It is hard for us to comprehend how deeply traumatised many of these families are.

I also met with a former Syrian military officer. Years ago, he was sent abroad to study for his military specialty. While completing his training overseas, he became a Christian. Immediately upon his return to Damascus he was rejected by his Muslim family.

He reported that he has endured many trials, but that they have been “beautiful trials.” He also said, as so many have said before him, that “Jesus has been with me every day.” Because of his unique situation, he had the opportunity to immigrate to a European country but he chose to stay and to minister instead. He chose to be a light in the darkness of this overwhelming crisis.

He highlighted the distinctive shift in the challenges that Syrian Christians face. Formerly, Syrian Christians were threatened by the government. He shared that years ago he experienced intense struggles with Syrian police but noted that they would not kill him because of the government structure that was in place. Now, he said, with IS in control “any Christian is worth a bullet.”

What compels Christians to stay and continue to minister in these types of situations?  It is only by God’s grace, and they will be the first to admit that. But their examples challenge us to look at our own posture toward those who are displaced. How is God calling us to respond to the refugee crisis? Are we willing to minister to our family members who continue to suffer because of Islamic extremists, even if it costs us something … or maybe everything? Are we willing to reach out to those who have been admitted into our own countries, or will we be the next stop on a long journey of painful rejections that they have already experienced?

Dr Jason Peters works as Associate Vice President of Connection for The Voice of the Martyrs USA.

Suffering for Righteousness’ Sake

Suffering for Righteousness’ Sake

When we read the Bible we usually read only those passages that we think relate to our personal situation. We are often not aware that there are themes that run through the Bible that reflect its most basic and most essential teachings. The theme of ‘deliverance,’ for example, is an important theme that is very prominent in the book of Exodus as Israel is delivered from the bondage of Egypt. It shows up again when Jews in captivity are allowed to go back to their homeland to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. It has a spiritual dimension when we are taught that we are delivered from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.

There is a theme that is very prominent but mostly neglected and unrecognised by the Western church, primarily because it does not appear to relate to our present situation. But it relates well to many Christians around the world who are experiencing persecution and martyrdom. The theme is ‘suffering for righteousness’ sake.’ In the New Testament and beyond it becomes suffering for Christ’s sake. This theme is first introduced in Genesis 4 in the story of Cain and Abel. Abel is killed for doing the right thing. He suffers for being obedient to God and for offering sacrifices pleasing to Him. It is an unjust murder, which is the case for all suffering for righteousness’ sake.

The theme continues throughout the Old Testament in the stories of Job, Joseph, the three Hebrew young men (the fiery furnace), and with Daniel. All of them suffered for being righteous and for doing good. But it is not just an Old Testament theme. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, his inaugural sermon that would explain the kingdom of God and what it meant to be a genuine follower of Christ, says that those who are persecuted and who are slandered for His sake are blessed. We are not to be surprised if we suffer for the sake of Christ.

We discover as we read through the Bible that suffering is the method God uses to reach the world. It is through Christ’s suffering and death that we have salvation to proclaim. As we see in the book of Acts, the proclamation of the Gospel and witness in Christ’s name often lead to beatings and imprisonment. The apostle Paul, as well as other disciples, experienced the full force of persecution and eventually martyrdom because of their faithful ministry. It continues into the present time.

We don’t consider this when we become a Christian or as we work in ministry. It is far from our minds; yet in most areas of the world to be a Christian and to serve Christ is very costly. Our monthly reports story after story of persons who have suffered for their faith in Christ. It is a very real part of our world. It is also a significant biblical theme. More and more Christians are becoming aware of this fact. It is only then that we can confront the world realistically and pray realistically. We pray for those who are in fact living out this biblical theme and are suffering for righteousness’ sake.

Becoming aware of this theme and the stories of suffering for righteousness’ sake changes the way we think and pray for our brothers and sisters around the world. If we have a loved one who is serving in a hostile area of the world, we feel very much a part of their lives. In the same way, if we know that there are Christians suffering in a particular area of the world, we should have the same feeling toward them that we have toward our family members, because, in reality, these Christians are a part of our families. In fact, we are a part of the same body. If one part suffers, all parts suffer.

Do we feel their pain?