MENA (MNN) — Christmas church services are a staple for Christians around the world today. But would you still go to the Christmas service at your church if it meant risking your life? The lives of your loved ones? The lives of your kids?
For many believers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), that risk during Christmastime is very real. Muslim extremists often see the Christian holy day as an ideal time to attack believers.
Tom Doyle with Uncharted Ministries says, “We think about [Christmas] in the States: ‘Oh, it’s a time to reflect and be with our family….’ We praise God that we live in a country where we have the freedom to worship Jesus, but many do not.
“These are hot times for believers that live in a context of being surrounded by Muslims that are not open to their faith and probably don’t want them expressing their joy and happiness during this time.”
Uncharted is taking the Gospel to Jews and Muslims in the Middle East as well as supporting persecuted Christians there.
“We just got stories out of Egypt about leaders that were shot. And [there is] difficulty in Pakistan and in Africa, cases that just happened this week of overt persecution. Some were killed for their faith.”
Unfortunately, Christian persecution is not isolated to the Christmas season either. Doyle says, “This is normal.”
Uncharted’s national teams stay updated on security concerns and, at times, need to pull believers out of dangerous situations.
“Our national leaders will pray with those that are targeted, and if they feel like that person really wants to go and leave the country or get out of the area, they help them go. If…that person says, ‘No, God’s calling me to stay and I realize that the end might be martyrdom. I’m staying,’ they honor that request too.”
However, Doyle says when it comes to persecution, most Christians in the MENA region value Gospel declaration at the expense of self-preservation.
“I think it’s just easy for us in the West to [say,] ‘Okay, where’s the escape hatch? How do I get out of this?’ It’s not so in the Middle East. They look at the situation [and] they pray, ‘Is God calling me to stay and this could cost me my life?’”
As we celebrate the birth of Jesus today with loved ones, please also pray for the global Church family who may not be able to celebrate openly or freely today. Ask God to protect persecuted believers around the world and ultimately use their faithful Advent witness to proclaim His glory.
Header photo courtesy of Dan Kiefer via Unsplash.