Saudi Arabia (MNN) — Tomorrow marks the beginning of the Hajj, a journey to Mecca every Muslim must make at some point in their lifetime. The journey will take place from August 9-13, and if you don’t go, it’s because you’ve already been, are going to go, or you’re not Muslim.
That’s why religious holidays oust many believers who wanted to keep their faith hidden from their families or communities, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.
According to Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs, when “the new Christian believer says, ‘Well, I don’t want to be a part of that anymore,’ that immediately raises the question, ‘Well, why not? Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of our religious festival? Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of something that everyone else is a part of?’”
Answering those questions means admitting that “‘I’m not a Muslim anymore, I’m now a follower of Christ,’ [which] can bring down persecution on that new believer,” Nettleton explains.
This isn’t unique to Muslim holidays or Muslim-dominate countries; Nettleton says Hindu celebrations and regional religious festivals can reveal previously-secret faiths, too. The issue is especially pressing right now, however, because of the global Muslim requirement of the Hajj over the next few days.
But this isn’t a story of hopelessness. Most believers have to practice caution, but they can also use religious holidays as opportunities. “Yes, they are thinking of safety,” Nettleton says. “They’re thinking of, ‘Okay, you know, I want to avoid large crowds where I might be singled out or I might become a target.’ But they also are saying, ‘How do we share Christ during this festival and during this holiday with our neighbors who are thinking about spiritual things?’”
After all, religious holidays like the Hajj often revolve around searching for spirituality through their own faith. Why shouldn’t they find Jesus Christ, instead?
“We hear so many stories from throughout the Muslim world of dreams and visions and supernatural occurrences where God is just supernaturally reaching people,” Nettleton says. “They’re thinking about, ‘How do I earn God’s approval? What can I do to get God to approve of me, to pay attention to me?’ So it is a great time for them to have an encounter with the Gospel message.”
Pray for Christians seeking safety and solace, but also pray that Muslims seeking Allah will find God. Learn more about the Hajj and what it means to be a Christian in Muslim-dominated worlds right here.
Header photo courtesy of unsplash.