The following post is written by Trevor Castor, Assistant Director of the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies.
Nearly one year ago Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself in protest after Tunisian police confiscated his vegetable cart. Bouazizi’s act on December 17, 2010 seemed to be the spark in wild fire that has moved through the Arab world. One month later on January 17, 2011 an Egyptian man set himself ablaze in Cairo protesting the poor living and economic standards in Egypt. Four others in Algeria followed suit imitating Bouazizi’s protest and call for reform. Before long what began in Tunisia was boiling over into Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Bahrain, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Yemen, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.
Many in the West have been watching the news concerning the Arab world over the last year with trepidation. A question I am often asked is “what do you think will happen if radicals like the Muslim Brotherhood come into power in these countries?” My Guess is that prior to this year most Americans had never heard of the Muslim Brotherhood but now they are concerned about the brotherhood’s political aspirations and how that might affect America. No matter who wins the day in Egypt, God will still work to see His plans for Egypt come to pass. It is no coincidence that when an Islamic regime took over Pakistan, Bible sales went up. Iran is another great example, following the 1979 revolution, Bible sales went up and the Church flourished. The underground Church in China might be the fastest growing Church in the world. We must realize that often times God uses the wrath of man to bring Him glory. (Psalm 76:10). Democracy does not always equate church growth and is not necessarily the most conducive political system for the spread of the gospel. Often times the gospel flourishes under harsh regimes and therefore we do not need to be fearful if Egypt or any other country moves in that direction. We pray for peace but we also pray for the harvest. Let’s be sure that our first concern is for the people of Egypt and other Arab nations to come to a saving knowledge of Christ whether that is politically good or bad for America. Too often our first priority is temporal comforts rather than eternal things. Whatever political power wins the day we pray that the Church will be strengthened and grow in the Arab world.
Amidst the Arab Spring there has been a story overlooked by many. God is doing something among Muslim-Christian relations in Egypt. On December 31, 2010 a Coptic church was bombed during mass. At least 21 people were killed and more than 70 injured. The Muslim response to the bombing was to show up at the next mass service acting as human shields. One Muslims put it this way “I know it might not be safe, yet it’s either we live together, or we die together, we are all Egyptians.”
On February 13th during the Tahrir Square protests, Christians volunteered to make a human chain around the Muslims in order to protect them from Mubarak’s men while they had their prayer service. In turn the Muslims offered to do the same for the Christians. The evangelical Church in Egypt led a public worship service for the first time ever. Thousands of Muslims were present to hear the gospel proclaimed.
On 11/11/11 a historic prayer event took place in Egypt. More than 70,000 were in attendance. This was the largest Christian event that has happened in Egypt in over a thousand years. Some are saying that this is the beginning of a revival in Egypt. I hope that we do not allow the political activity in the Arab world overshadow the God activity that is clearly evident. We should pray that what is happening in Egypt be a spark in a new wild fire of revival that will travel throughout the Arab world.