International (MNN) — Eid al-Fitr is a three-day celebration following Ramadan when Muslims break their month-long fast. As described here, Eid al-Fitr was a subdued occasion this year for most who follow Islam. Isolation measures prevented communal practices, USA Today reports:
Typically, Muslims gather at mosques and prayer areas in the morning to perform Eid Prayer and greet each other. Other traditions include visiting friends and relatives, hosting food parties and sharing sweets.
JoAnn Doyle of Uncharted Ministries says pandemic restrictions mean the world’s 1.8 million Muslims cannot celebrate like they normally do, leaving a spiritual and emotional vacuum. “Eid is the last three days after Ramadan where they (Muslims) celebrate and thank God,” she explains.
“It’s sort of like how we celebrate Christmas with gifts and new clothes and special food, but they can’t really do that this year, so I know there’s a void.”
God’s Spirit is filling the gap and changing Muslim hearts.
Uncharted Ministries partners with local believers to reach Muslims and Jews for Christ around the world. Stories are starting to pour in, Doyle says, describing how the Lord moved during Ramadan 2020. “We have heard a little bit of what’s been happening this Ramadan, but usually we hear more in the weeks and the months that follow,” she adds.
Below, Doyle shares two examples from Islamic strongholds in the Middle East.
Syria’s Spirit-led revolution
In war-torn Syria, “so many have been displaced; a lot of the people that have left are in the middle age bracket, so what’s left in the country are the elderly and the youth,” Doyle says. Church leaders focus on the next generation, she adds, and found creative ways to overcome pandemic restrictions.
“During Ramadan, they’ve been texting out Bible stories and Bible lessons and then asking them questions, and these kids – Muslim kids, mind you – are responding back, answering the Bible questions. They’re engaging with God’s Word, which is amazing!” Doyle says.
“Muslim children are engaging with God’s Word and many of them have come to faith in Christ.”
Separately, believers in an above-ground church held outdoor activities for children during Ramadan. Irritated by daylong fasting, mothers sent their children to these “Bible camps” to get them out of the house, Doyle says.
“Some of them have come and stayed [at the camp] so [believers] also started a women’s Bible study for these Muslim women, and they are engaging with God’s Word.”
Jordanians seek Christ
In neighboring Jordan, another Uncharted partner ministers to the children of Muslim-background believers (MBBs). “She has weekly Bible studies with them; she’s been doing them over video since this pandemic [started],” Doyle says.
Her discipleship extended recently to a child’s mother. The woman called seeking counsel, Doyle says. Relatives suspected her conversion to Christianity, so they questioned her fasting – an Islamic requirement during Ramadan – intending to shame her. At first, “she was afraid of the consequences [of] saying that she wasn’t [fasting] so she lied and told them ‘yes, I am fasting’; she also had her children lie,” Doyle says.
Soon after the woman began lying, she, her husband, and one of their daughters became severely ill and had to be hospitalized. When she questioned God, “her heart was convicted and she heard the Lord tell her, ‘you have been lying and that is sin. Not only have you been lying, you’ve been teaching your children to lie,” Doyle recounts.
The woman found freedom after confessing and repenting of her sin. Then, Doyle says the woman asked Uncharted’s partner a question weighing heavily upon her heart: “What do I do? There’s all these days of Ramadan left, how do I not lie?”
The two women turned to Scripture for answers.
“Our leader took her to God’s Word and said, ‘what did Jesus do when He was going to the cross? What did He do when He was asked all these questions? He kept silent’,” Doyle says. The child’s mother vowed to do the same.
“She said, ‘if Jesus is the Son of God and He was able to keep silent, I am his child… I am going to do what Jesus did and I am committing to be silent when people ask me [about fasting.”
The Gospel goes global
Borderlines and geographic barriers cannot confine God’s Spirit. Ask the Lord to help you share Jesus with the Muslims you know. “The thing that Muslims here long for when they’re in the West, more than anything, is friendship. The first thing that we can do is engage them – smiling, saying hello, and trying to build those friendships,” Doyle recommends.
Secondly, “Muslims are very outward with their beliefs. They are not ashamed that they are Muslim. So, when we back down as followers of Christ, they think that we are not committed to our faith,” she continues.
“The best thing that we can do is to have holy boldness. When you meet a Muslim, don’t shy away from telling them that you are a follower of Jesus and that you’re praying for them.”
Header image depicts West Valley Muslim Association volunteers distributing community to-go lunch during Eid al-Fitr 2020. Photo, caption obtained via Wikimedia Commons.