Middle East (MNN) — In the past several weeks, chaos has broken loose across the Middle East. From Tunisia, to Egypt, to Jordan and beyond, governments are swaying, and the future is becoming hazy.
In a region dominated by Muslims and sprinkled with only a small portion of believers, instability has quickly raised the ears of Christians. What will new governments, laws and regimes mean for Christ followers? What will be their fate if extremists take charge? What if they don't?
International Mission Board experts on the Middle East believe that the results of these present conflicts will greatly influence believers no matter what. One IMB staff member, Nik Ripken* says he sees only two possible outcomes.
One end to the crises will include a tightened Islamic reign. Ripken says the region does not have a history or mindset for civil rights and democracy, and these things will thus not be the natural default setting for political changes. Stricter Islamic rule may is more likely.
In this scenario, persecution would increase significantly. "We can prepare for harder physical persecution of [new] believers and more discrimination for historical Christians and expulsion of Western workers," Ripken says, if this is the case.
And yet still God would be moving. Stricter governments often breed openness to the Gospel, as has been made evident in Iran, as well as several other regions in the past. Several ministries confirm that when persecution increases, church growth and the spread of the Gospel tend to increase as well.
On the other end of the spectrum, Scenario Two includes multiple open doors. Ripken says the other street the Middle East could go down would create multiple opportunities for the Gospel to be shared. Religious freedom could increase dramatically, depending on what regimes end up in power.
If this second possibility is to be the fate of the Middle East, Ripken probes, "Will we step up and sell all that we have for the sake of the kingdom of God?"
Even in this scenario, Ripken says believers need to act as if the doors will soon close, spreading the Gospel with fervor and joy. "[We should] ring the bell loud in our churches for this period of unprecedented opportunity and call for hundreds to go and millions to be spent on their support."
In the end, it appears that good things are in store for believers no matter the result. Tightened restrictions will hurt–even kill–but are likely to build the kingdom in the end. Open doors provide a plethora of opportunities to proudly proclaim the Good News. Either way, we can assume that the Lord has the best interest of His people at heart.
*Name changed for security purposes.