USA (MNN) — An FBI investigation seeking terrorism connections to last week’s shooting in Pensacola, Florida, continues today. A 21-year old trainee from Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Alshamrani, shot and killed three people at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola on Friday.
Events like these often turn people against Muslims and anyone from the same country as the attacker. For example, the Pew Research Center reports 93 anti-Muslim attacks in 2001, the year of the September 11 terrorist attacks. That number rose to 127 in 2016; there were seven shootings or bombings in the U.S. fueled by fear of radical Islam between May 2015 and November 2016.
Patrick Murphy from I Found the Truth Ministries says U.S. believers should extend Christ’s love instead of condemning Saudi nationals.
Saudi nationals under suspicion
Though the FBI investigation is still underway and motive remains unclear, Reuters claims Alshamrani may have been radicalized. Sources told Washington Post that Alshamrani seemed “strange” and “angry” in recent weeks. On Tuesday, U.S. officials halted all operational training of Saudi nationals “until further notice.”
It’s a precarious time for Saudi nationals living in the United States. “They’re watching those stories and they’re thinking, ‘Oh, boy, I’m from Saudi… what are people going to think of me?’ It’s a real concern,” Murphy says. He encourages believers to extend a friendly welcome instead of suspicion.
“If I met someone that was from Saudi, I’d say… ‘You’ve probably heard the news and I just want you to know I don’t see you as that person. I see you as someone that would stand against [the attack] and I’m glad that you’re my neighbor’.”
Believers might try talking about how God is moving in Saudis’ homeland. “We know many Muslims in Saudi Arabia that have come to faith in Christ, and many of them are worshiping with [the] online church,” Murphy reports.
“Church is looking a lot different in these days than it has for centuries.”
Open Doors ranks Saudi Arabia at #15 on its World Watch List, a compilation of nations where it’s most difficult to be a Christian. Yet, technology allows Saudi believers to know Christ and grow in their faith. “Some of them…will never meet another believer face-to-face; their fellowship is online,” Murphy says.
“It’s risky for them to do it but they do it anyway because…they want to grow. They want to be rooted in Christ with their new faith in Jesus, and this is the only option for them.”
How to reach Saudis for Christ
Stay informed, Murphy says, but consider each report in light of the Great Commission. “The enemy uses the headlines to paralyze us, as Christians, into inactivity. And then, the Gospel is thwarted…So, we need to just look at Muslims one-on-one and reach out to them with the love of Christ,” Murphy says.
“It was a horrible thing that happened, no doubt. But, we still need to reach out to Muslims because they’ve never been more open to the Gospel than they are right now.”
Every successful outreach effort begins with prayer. Use this free Prayercast video to guide your prayers for Saudi Arabia and Saudi nationals.
“Reach out to the Saudis that are in America. They’re searching,” Murphy says.
“Typically, they’re financially prospering and so they may not see their need for Christ…yet… we know that money, wealth and things that we acquire [are] not going to bring ultimate satisfaction. So, let’s just reach out to Saudi Arabians with the love of Christ.”
Header image courtesy of FBI Jacksonville via Twitter.