Middle East (MNN) – On Monday, the Iraqi forces entered the battered ISIS controlled city of Fallujah to take it back. But this campaign comes nearly one week before one of the biggest Muslim holidays, Ramadan.
Ramadan, which is set to begin June 5 and end July 5, is the ninth month on the Islamic calendar and is a month-long holiday where Muslims fast during daylight hours and feast at night.
However, as cheery as this holiday might seem, the month-long fasting and celebration can actually endanger religious minorities in Muslim dominated countries.
Bruce Allen, with Forgotten Missionaries International, explains, “Ramadan does add fuel to the fire every year. It’s simply because there’s already the sectarian tensions between Muslims and other minority religions in Muslim dominated lands, whether it’s Christians, Hindu, Buddhists. But, one of the things that ends of getting exacerbated during Ramadan, especially when it occurs in the summer time is, peoples’ emotions.”
During this time of year, temperatures in many Muslim dominate countries, can often exceed well over 100 degrees. Combined with not eating, people can become rather cranky, or what has often been called, Ramadan rage.
“But, I was reading the reports about heavy crime in Algeria during Ramadan. And that spikes 220 percent during Ramadan. And fights and assaults raise 320 percent. And one of the issues is that people, even though it’s a month of fasting, people want to spend more on groceries on food during this month than any other month of the year,” Allen says.
Why do people spend more on groceries? Because the night brings celebration and feasting. But alongside this, child trafficking increases. Often times, poor families who are feeling the financial burden of Ramadan will sell one of their children to a trafficker to bring in the extra income. In a way, for these families, it allows them to celebrate Ramadan to the fullest while eliminating one more mouth to feed, regardless of the consequences.
Furthermore, during Ramadan life comes to a halt. Government and city businesses close for the month and it’s difficult for individuals, especially those who are not Muslims, to live their usual, normal lives. Christians have to be careful to not eat in public and generally aim to limit contact with Muslims. However for some, Ramadan is an important season to share the Gospel.
“There are many brave Christians who say, ‘this is a great opportunity for evangelism.’ For example, during Ramadan, toward the end of Ramadan, there is what’s called a ‘Night of Power’, or the ‘Night of Destiny’. And for 2016 that occurs around Saturday July 2. And what this day commemorates is when Muhammad was receiving the first recitations of the verses of the Koran,” Allen recounts.
On this night Muslims believe their prayers have more meaning. It’s the one night out of the year they’re able to call out to God from their hearts and have their prayers heard. For Christians, it’s a night of intercession and bringing the Gospel of the one true God to people who are hurting and vulnerable.
“Many Muslims are saying ‘God, I really want to know you. I want to have assurance of salvation.’ And so they’re very receptive to learn how to connect with God at that time. So we can be praying that, you know we ask God to remove the scales from the eyes of their hearts and that they’d be drawn to faith in Jesus,” Allen explains.
Pray also for the Christians in Muslim countries during this time. Pray for their safety, their solidarity with one another, their bravery to share the Gospel, and for opportunities to open up to share the story of Christ’s love.
And as you pray, remember to include the FMI team which will be traveling through the three largest Muslim dominate countries during Ramadan. Pray for their safety, their partner’s safety, and for God’s will in their work.
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