Saudi Arabia (MNN) — Until recently, foreigners could not enter Saudi Arabia — known as ‘The Forbidden Kingdom’ — unless they had a business visa, an invitation from the government, or were on a holy Muslim pilgrimage.
But this changed when the Saudi government made the shocking announcement they would now accept international tourists for the first time from 49 approved countries.
Patrick Murphy with I Found the Truth says this is a unique glimmer of hope amidst swelling tensions in the Middle East.
“We always know this — the physical war on the ground is just a mere reflection of the spiritual war raging in the heavenlies. God is moving and Muslims are coming to faith in Christ.”
With a previously-closed door now cracked open in Saudi Arabia, Murphy says, “Christians need to pray. They need to ask the Lord if they’re called to go and be there and be some salt and light. We’re talking about a country where the majority of the people there have never met one believer ever.”
Islam is the only recognized religion in Saudi Arabia. Christians are banned from gathering, but many of them don’t even know other believers to gather with.
When the above-ground Church is illegal and the underground Church is scarce, Murphy says, “We now are looking at Church in the sky…and it’s the Church that meets connected on the internet.”
Murphy shares the story of Fatima, a woman in Saudi Arabia who came to know Jesus. She didn’t know any Christians in her area, but she found a fellowship of believers from a Muslim background online.
“There were prayer groups, there were worship services, and they were meeting together. Unfortunately, she was discovered by her brother, who worked for the secret police, and he took her life.”
However, Murphy says, “Fatima wrote a prayer on the computer before she went to her death. She talked about how she was not afraid. She [said] ‘their swords don’t concern me’ and that Jesus Christ was the protector of her life. She went willingly to a brutal death at the hands of her family.
“Here’s the amazing thing to us. She is receiving a martyr’s crown in Heaven, and it’s probably the first time…that she met another Christian face-to-face.”
Murphy says Fatima’s story is common among Saudi believers. “We’re working with the way above-ground churches that are being connected through the internet, and people are coming to faith in Christ. Sometimes, that’s all they have. That’s their fellowship. They don’t have the luxury of meeting with other believers face-to-face. But they have eternity for that. One day, they’ll be with the Body of Christ in Heaven forever.”
This Sunday, November 3 is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP), a time for Christians to come together and lift up our brothers and sisters suffering for their faith.
“This month [of] November reinforces that the Body of Christ is under siege around the world,” Murphy says. “Eighty percent of all religious crimes are aimed at Christians. Jesus said this: ‘They’re going to hate you because they hated me first.’ He promised it.”
While the persecuted Church in Saudi in small and hidden, Open Doors USA reports the number of Saudi Christians grew last year.
This growing band of believers needs to know they are not alone. They need the prayers of encouragement of the global Body of Christ.
“It should be on our dashboard as Christians. We shouldn’t be far from that, knowing that our Christian experience is vastly different from the majority of believers around the world and we need to pray for them.”
Please pray for persecuted Christians in Saudi Arabia and around the world to sense the Holy Spirit with them. Ask God to bless their ministry efforts, whether aboveground, underground, or online. Pray for men and women living in darkness to start relationships with Jesus and know His truth.
Murphy specifically encourages pastors this IDOP Sunday, “lead your congregation to pray for the persecuted Church. That’s such a good thing to love on them, to show them that we stand with them. Paul said when one of us suffers, we all suffer.”
There are several resources out there to help you stay informed as you pray. “Mission Network News, Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, 8thirty8 — there are lots of things that the listeners can get on and get up-to-date prayer requests. Rather than just praying, ‘Oh, Lord, we pray for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. They’re suffering,’…get tuned in to some of the news stories. Find out what’s happening.”
Header photo courtesy of Pixabay.