HOPEFUL SIGNS

by Shirley W. Madany 


A radio ministry provides a constant poll from which to estimate firsthand the effectiveness of a preaching/teaching format. There are the letters from enthusiastic, joyous men and women and those from troubled, anxious ones. Listeners in closed countries or closed families have so many hurdles. In the latter case it does not matter where the person lives. If his family will not let him receive mail or listen to the program, then he finds himself cut off from the source of spiritual food for which he has developed a thirst. Thus it is nothing short of amazing to get a letter from a fifteen year old daughter in a Muslim family, writing at the insistence of her father, to say that they listen as a family and thoroughly enjoy what they are hearing. Or to sense the earnestness of the following profession of faith, realizing the risk taken in putting such words on paper:

"In the name of Jesus, the Savior, the Redeemer, greetings filled with love I send to my brothers in the Messiah. He has entered my life. God has made for us a way of salvation. The Messiah died on the cross to save mankind from the just wrath of God. He bore our sins and rose from the dead to give us eternal life. What a great love! All glory to Jesus, the Messiah! We love the Messiah greatly. May God help us all to do good and to cause the message of the Messiah to reach every part of our world."

Others describe how one of our publications may have helped them to defend their faith to their family or their friends. One young man was so grateful for the series on contemporary life. So often he could not answer his friends' questions but now he is better prepared. He speaks of the vacuum in their lives. Everyone has been blinded by "materialism". The term "modern idolatry" really applied to their situation.

A Muslim student spoke of the bewilderment he felt when he studied the history of Islam and how he felt himself unable to accept the premise that the Christian Gospel was false and the Scriptures corrupted. A common refrain is "I feel a sense of relief and peace when I study the Messiah's book." Rejoice with us over the thousands of pieces of solid Christian literature which have made their way into the Arab world. They are being read and passed on to friends. Just the other day, we received a coupon from a tract printed twenty years ago asking for our Family Worship book. It reached us even though sent to the old Michigan Ave. address in Chicago, and it came to us from Toronto, Canada! We can expect fruit beyond all our imaginings in the years to come. As one person said: "Your broadcasts have truly become a portable school or university which moves from one Arab country to another carrying a torch of light dispelling the deep darkness which surrounds our past."

We know all too well, even from our vantage point in the free world, that our news media feeds on the "bad" news of the world and even takes some of the better news and turns it inside out. Thus events, or speeches we hear with our own ears, are later handled by certain commentators so that we hardly recognize them. The Christian faith is being attacked by the secular news media in sundry and subtle ways.

Christian Arabs residing in a Western country observe what is happening and feel sick at heart because they had hoped that having escaped from the Muslim world they had come to a far better one. One of our listeners wrote of his puzzlement from Germany. He said that for him life was a big contradiction. He believes in the Messiah. He is convicted of sin in his own life and feels keenly about his own imperfections. Then he looks around him--possibly as he watches the evening news, and he sees the fighting in Yugoslavia and Armenia between Christians and Muslims. He sees that the Muslims would like to change the world and Islamize it and he is alarmed by that. He is aware through Arabic radio programs or newspapers that certain Muslim leaders in Germany have issued a legal ruling (fatwa), based on Islamic traditions, saying that stealing from Christian Germans was permissible! This adds fuel to the wave of hatred of foreigners and it frightens the Christian Arabs, who are not involved, but who suffer nevertheless because who can differentiate between a Muslim or a Christian Arab? He tells of seeing a cross being burned publicly in the Netherlands with people simply watching. A demonstration against the government. It shocked him to his core. And he asks, "What must we do? Do we remain neutral or do we join the struggle?" He wonders what is the attitude of the churches of the world to all these things which are happening in Europe! It is a very lonely feeling.

This summer we ran into the same kind of concern in the Washington, D.C. area when we were visited by a group of Egyptian Christians who feel alarmed at what they are seeing--26 Islamic cultural centers in the D.C. area alone and reams of Arabic and English propaganda openly declaring a giant drive to bring a pleasing picture of Islam to the American public. When we think specifically of the Arab Muslim world we have to recognize that it is still a significant area where radicalism seems to be on the march. There is no lack of examples:

1. The treatment of Christians in Upper Egypt--l3 murdered in one area with no justice or security provided and even the assassination of a popular Egyptian Muslim who dared to write critically of these radical acts against Christians;

2. The appalling situation in the Sudan where the latest news makes one wonder how any native Christian could survive: "Measures directed against Christians include closure of church properties, making conversion to Islam a prerequisite to receive food aid in the displaced camps, summary arrests, beating and executions, imposition of sharia (Islamic law) requirements and the expulsion of expatriate church workers." (August NNI news bulletin).

3. The murder of the chief of state in Algeria and the unresolved mounting tension throughout that whole country as the radical element strives to assert itself and deprive Algerians of the measure of freedom which they are presently enjoying.

4. The alarming presence of the Iranian revolutionary guards remaining in Lebanon, growing in the Sudan and performing in Afghanistan to its further destruction. To mention just a few.

But we titled this article "Hopeful Signs" and we seem to be rapidly sinking in a quick-sand of woe and distress. How are we going to answer those who write in this manner? What are the hopeful signs--besides the truly majestic and incomparable Good News of the Gospel?

Well, there is something happening out there in our world which is another unexpected bonus from the break-up of the great Soviet Union. The Arab states have enjoyed having this "Big Brother" to which to turn, and through which to bargain, over many world situations. Suddenly this is no longer so. And we were happy to see an article in our much-quoted Arabic magazine Al-Hawadeth entitled: The Adventures of the Arab Mind as It Faces the Challenges of the Twenty First Century. In this timely article the writer hopes that at last the Arabs have entered a period of rational and objective international behavior. He is optimistic that now that they are living in a post-Gulf War era they will wake up to the necessity of choosing "reason, objectivity and positiveness."

Another Arab writer, a Muslim, has written a book about minorities living within the Arab and Muslim world. Is that important, you say? Well, it may be the first time that such minorities have been acknowledged instead of being consistently ignored. This is very hopeful. It is terribly important that this topic of the status of religious and ethnic minorities be discussed. It shows a new measure of realism and a slight change in the traditional Arab mind. In fact, still on this subject we notice another comment in the August 7th issue of Al-Hawadeth. "There is a lack of clear vision in the way problems are being approached. There is an urgent need to inaugurate a new era of dealing with the Islamic heritage and the modern times. There is a need for a renewed Arab mind which can properly deal with the realities of life as they truly exist and not as we dream of them."

These are certainly hopeful signs from various contemporary writers. But the most hopeful of all is the spread of the Word of God as never before through radio and the printed page. Many listeners rejoice for the discovery of this saving Word and yearn to hear more about our loving Messiah. There is a reason to have hope for the future.


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