Middle East (MNN) — Tunisia set off a
chain reaction across the Middle East and North Africa as citizens of Arab
countries began to rise up and call for an end to their current government
Ted Esler, executive vice
president with Pioneers, says, "I don't believe that the main push is for an open society, as much as
it is for an end to dictatorship. When we think of democracy being a great
thing, we tend to think of democracy with a few assumptions, one of those
assumptions being 'freedom of religion.'"
Since mid-January, there have been
major protests throughout Yemen, Egypt, Algeria, and Jordan. Smaller-scale demonstrations occurred in
Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Oman, Sudan, and Libya.
New leadership leaves everything on the
table. "On the one hand, I think a
number of them are saying that this is going to open society up more," says
Esler. He goes on to say, "I hear other leaders saying the opposite,
that this could be an opening, for example, for the Muslim Brotherhood in
Egypt, and things will get much more difficult."
Since everything is in flux in the Arab
world, there's opportunity for change and hope for progress. Esler is cautiously optimistic. "We're still
in that time where we really don't know where it's going to go. My personal belief is that it's not going to
be evenly distributed. In other words,
there are going to be some countries
where, in four or five years, we're going to see greater openness and a greater
ability for missionaries–whether they are indigenous missionaries or
foreign missionaries–to work, and
there'll be other countries where it'll be much more difficult."
There's concern that the wave of pro-democracy protests engulfing the Arab world could
spread even more. That's not surprising,
notes Esler, considering that "these reforms are
happening because of repression. It's a
real issue. They're crying out for change because it's been repressive, so pray
that justice would prevail."
How severely will the turmoil upset
their outreach work? It's disruptive, he
says, but not disabling. "Because so
many of our staff are focused on helping the national church do its job there,
they're able to continue to minister by proxy through people that are still on
However, partners on the ground are
asking for prayer. Looting and arson
often follow the large-scale chaos. "Pray for the safety of the workers that are there. A lot of times when
there's lawlessness like we're seeing, for example, in Egypt right now, it's an
opportunity for somebody to take out a personal vendetta."
begin asking the deeper questions when everything in their lives turns upside
down. Through their partners, Arab
World Media and Global
Response Management System (GRMS), they can reach out to truth seekers
with the hope of Christ. "It's very
evident that internet strategies are very powerful tools in restricted access
countries. I have a feeling that these
media ministries that use everything from the internet to television to cell
phone texting and other types of strategies, are going to become even more
important and more prevalent."
Pray that the Holy Spirit would work in people's lives so
that they might see the truth. "Then [pray for] wisdom that the leaders in the various churches and various mission
movements there would be wise in how to go about their ministries at this crucial time."