Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking with one of my all-time favorite interviewees, Tom Doyle, with E3Partners. Tom is a Middle East liaison of sorts for E3 and is more knowledgeable about the region than almost anyone else I know. It’s always refreshing to hear his perspective not just of the goings-on, but of the way Christians are responding, and will undoubtedly rise up.
This time, we talked about Libya. Libya has been going through a highly disputed (internationally) civil war for the past several months. Now that the country’s dictator Moammar Gaddafi seems to have run off for good, the country is preparing to revamp the government system completely. In many ways they are ready for change. But in other ways, things will remain the same, especially as it relates to Christians.
The nation is 97% Sunni Muslim. New country leaders have said the nation will continue on under the governance of Sharia law. For Christians, and especially Christian converts from Islam, this doesn’t exactly bode well. After months of terrifying war, Christians, according to Tom, don’t appear to be expecting things to get better for them. They will continue to be careful about how they share their faith and how they worship.
Next door, Libya neighbor Egypt is facing similar decisions. The government in Egypt is being similarly revamped, and now, as I see it, looks like it will likely be voting the Muslim Brotherhood as their rulers before long. Egyptian approval for the group has shot up over the last few months, and with organization and a promise of leadership, the group I think appears to Egyptians to be able to do the job. Christian in Egypt will face similar trials as Libyans. Lack of freedom, lack of peace. A recent poll showed that most Egyptians still believe that Muslims who convert to Christianity should be killed.
Now this is probably more background info than you needed; you’re probably not reading this for a news update. But the interesting–amazing–thing about all of this is the Christian response. Believers are not shouting in protest, or really voicing their opinions on their rights at all. More than that, they don’t seem to be that worried about the decisions being made in their nations. Don’t get me wrong, I am certain that some of them are frightened of the things that are possibly to come, but the boldness many have exhibited is astounding. Not only are Christians prepared to continue sharing their faith whatever the consequences (which have been arrest in several instances recently in Egypt), but they’re taking it upon themselves to reach out to other nations. Egyptian Christians are now headed to Libya as missionaries to spread the Gospel. They’re literally risking their lives to get the Gospel to as many broken and lost people as possible.
Now if I’m honest with myself, if I were in this situation, I don’t think that’s how I’d react. I have never in my life been in a situation in which my life was on the line for the Gospel. Now, I don’t know that there’s anything wrong with that–God placed me in America, and that’s where I live and can report these things and learn about them and be missional with my neighbors here. But when I hear stories about believers in war-torn nations, believers who are constantly harassed and even physically abused for their faith, my mind goes numb. That intensity of faith is so foreign to me that I can’t even fathom it.
You know, as an American, it’s so easy to look down on other nations. My whole life, I’ve been in classes talking about how great America is, I’ve said the pledge of allegiance probably about 2,500 times, I’ve been encouraged in America-centric thinking. “America leads the world,” “If there’s no hope for America, there’s no hope for anyone,” etc. With such a barrage of narcissistic beliefs, it’s almost second nature for any U.S. citizen to look at a third-world country and think–even if not in words but just in reactions–that we’re better than them. With that in mind, when I see countries at war with themselves, when I see governments crumble, I have an immediate, base reaction–however wrong it may be–to look down on it, thinking, “Oh, those uncivilized nations.”
And yet. When I see the way that Christians handle themselves, the way that they stand up for their Savior and boldly do anything and everything they have to for the sake of a life saved, all of my country-induced pride is immediately diminished. Here I am, this “great American” who finds it difficult to be bold with my own friends and neighbors in the safest of countries where nothing really is on the line at all. I may have the privilege of education, wealth and power here, but what do I know of true strength? What do I know of watching a sister die at the hands of extremists and not being able to do anything about it? What do I know of sharing my faith, not knowing if the person I’m talking to will rejoice over the news or turn me over to authorities? What do I know of this absolute trust in Christ and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit?
This has turned out to be a much longer thought than I had planned, but it’s good for me (even if you’re bored!) to think through these things and remember that the world is hardly about me, or even America. I have a feeling that on that Day in heaven, many of those who were uneducated, impoverished, oppressed on earth, will be lifted higher than any of the rest. And so today, how will you lift them up? How will I?