Protests, growth and hope all carrying the weight of Bahrain’s crackdown

By April 20, 2011

Bahrain (MNN) — Bahrain's protests
are being called a coup attempt by the Prime Minister. However, the protests were aimed at getting
more representation in their government and the removal of some of its leaders.

A Shiite-led pro-democracy
movement staged the protests, and the initial crackdown was brutal with martial
law declared, activists arrested, strikers fired and national dialogue
silenced. The crackdowns are continuing with raids on the leaders and
organizers.

Hundreds of demonstrators have been
arrested in security sweeps since the Bahraini authorities crushed the
Shiite-led protest movement last month.

Although Bahrain is a small
island with a population of fewer than one million people, their discontent has
major repercussions globally. The uprisings exacerbated Sunni-Shiite tensions
for Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, flanking neighbors. 

Saudi Arabia is also an important
ally of the U.S., which has a large navy presence based in Bahrain responsible
for the Gulf and part of the Indian Ocean.
A strong US/Britain response could further destabilize Sunni regions and
open the door for Iran to step in. 

The strain has created a dangerous
situation for Words of Hope. Lee DeYoung
explains, "The situation in Bahrain where there has been tension and
instability has been worrisome. Some training programs and some expansion of
our work there have been put on hold because of the uncertain situation."

However, in an effort to move
away from the sectarianism that permeates the society right now, DeYoung says their
team took a different approach to outreach. "Recently, our nightly Arabic programs have introduced new segments on
the topic of ‘Arabism,' focusing on elements of Arab culture which pre-date
Islam."

There is a unique distinction
here: most Arabs are Muslims, but most Muslims are not Arabs. In fact, many
Arabs are Christian, and most of them subscribe and ascribe to the "Arab
civilization" in which Islam occupies a central part.

Words of Hope airs a nightly 30-minute
show in a magazine format that covers all countries in the Arab League. DeYoung goes on to say that recent events prompted
a new segment in every program which highlights positive characteristics of
traditional Arab culture, some of which are more consistent with a Biblical
worldview than with radical Islam. "These
segments on Arabism deal with themes such as generosity, honor, pride, liberty.
The idea is to lead into a new and abundant life in Christ."

In doing so, the show's content avoids
religious criticism. By focusing on the
positive traits which seem inconsistent with radical Islam, thoughtful
listeners draw their own comparisons. Sometimes the Biblical connection is
explicitly identified. 

As the situation unfolds, DeYoung
urges prayer. While their program is
well-received, their team could be targeted by more radical elements. Keep praying. The door may only be open a little while
longer. "Not only is the situation more
tense, unsettled, unstable in some of these places, but the influences which
seem to be prompting that, in many cases, are giving a more prominent voice to
extreme religious elements."

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