Saudi Arabia (MNN) – With historically oppressive governments, the idea of a thriving Saudi Church seems like a dream. Yet Emad Al Abdy, a leader of the Saudi Christian Association, wants to see a vibrant church among his people.
A Government Opposed
The Saudi Christian Association was developed and run solely by Saudi believers with the goal of introducing Saudis to Christ. They stand strong in their conviction that all Saudi people should have the opportunity to choose Christ if they want, despite strong opposition from the government.
Al Abdy explains that in Saudi Arabia, the nation is built on Wahhabism, a purist and strict interpretation of Islam. The common understanding is that “…you do not deserve to be Saudi if you are not Muslim”. Open Doors notes that the government imposes strict Islamic law on all people in the country, which often poses problems for converts to Christianity. Apostasy is punishable by death for those who refuse to recant.
In 2004 Al Abdy himself was thrown in jail and tortured for becoming a Christian.
Growing the Saudi Church
Despite the intense pressure against Christians, Al Abdy believes there is no better time than now for growth in the growing Body of Christ among Saudis.
“Because, believe me, there is a hunger – a spiritual hunger – in Saudis now. They’re really seeking for peace, and they’re really in big need to be served, and to give hand, and to help them. And I think the message of Jesus and our work is not only about their eternity, but it’s more about their humanity message that Christ gives. Our message is a love message toward our people.”
However, not everyone feels this love. With Islam so deeply rooted in the country, the choice to come to Jesus is not an easy one. It means almost certain shunning and persecution by family, friends, and the government.
Preparing for Persecution
But how do you prepare people to face the realities of life as a follower of Christ in a Muslim state? Al Abdy’s response is that he can’t.
“Look – I didn’t prepare them actually – but Jesus did. We know very well the [consequences] for being believers. Not only Saudis, but we [as Christians] know it. Look, Jesus was very open and he told us very clear, ‘If you want to follow me, carry your cross and follow me.’
“So we know He never promised us to be rich when we accepted him. He never promised us to live in peace. But He said, ‘look if you want to follow me, carry your cross and follow me. You have to know in this life you will have persecution and you will be under pressures for my name.’
“So, He prepared us and He was open and clear. We accept Him and we accept everything from Him. And everything we lost is nothing compared with having Him. Nothing.”
Helping at Home
The good news is this: the Church among Saudis is growing despite opposition. People are standing strong in their faith and even coming to Christ as new believers. Yet they need the support and prayers of their brothers and sisters around the world.
Pray that the Saudi Christian Association is able to provide meaningful support to the Church in Saudi Arabia. But even more, Al Abdy asks that the Church pray for the millions of Saudis who have yet to come to know Christ as King. For other ways to pray for Saudi Arabia, visit Prayercast here.