Over the past few years thousands of Christians have left Iraq and Syria because of war, instability and persecution. The church has been in decline, but that’s not the whole story. Our partners on the ground are reporting that there is a growing movement of young, new believers from Muslim backgrounds. Despite fierce pressure from families, communities and sometimes governments, they are so disappointed in the teachings of Islam and the violence caused by Islamic fundamentalists in the region that they have started to look for the truth elsewhere. Many end up following Jesus.
In Syria and among Syrian refugees in Lebanon, the growth of this church of new believers is unprecedented. It is fueled by the same war that has been destabilizing the region for years now. “The government in Syria is currently more worried about young Muslims joining ISIS than about young Muslims turning towards Christ. So, they turn a blind eye towards Muslims getting baptized, whereas that would have been a huge problem before the war.”
The signals from Syria are very hopeful, according to him: “Some churches are packed with Muslims; that has transformed the Church like never before.”
In North Africa, where since the introduction of Islam all historic churches have disappeared, all the current churches – some meeting in secret, others in public – are filled by believers from a Muslim background. And, especially in countries like Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, the number of new believers keeps growing steadily.
“Many young people first have questions about faith in general and some of them turn to Christianity,” an Open Doors worker in North Africa says. “God is working through the internet and television and the witness of other young believers. He is picking up people who feel hopeless in their current circumstances and shows them how they can live while following Him.”
This worker knows several examples of young people who were fed up with Islam and pursued spiritual truth, finally turning to Christianity as the new truth. These new believers bring a continuous stream of energy to the already young churches in the region. “Most of them are still very much finding their place in society and trying to establish their own lives.”
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