Will the Arab Spring spread?

By July 22, 2011

Africa (MNN) – "Arab Spring" is a term used to describe a wave of revolution across the Arab world that began in Tunisia in December 2010.

By July 2011, revolution included Egypt and Libya. Civil uprisings spread to Bahrain, Syria and Yemen, and protests captured Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco and Oman. There were reports of unrest in Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, and parts of Sudan.

The big question now is: Will the "Arab Spring" turn into an "African Summer?" There have been protests in Burkina Faso, Senegal, Uganda, Nigeria, Malawi and South Africa, too.

Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs thinks a season of revolution is unlikely, noting that the root causes for the unrest between the Middle East and North Africa and what's going on in the Sub-Saharan part of the continent are a little different.

However, their teams can't rule out the possibility of similar-looking events. "I think it's a ‘domino effect' in that you look at the countries around you at what the people there have accomplished, or what they want to accomplish, and I think there's more of an inspiration than a ‘cause and effect.'"

Reports on the waves of protests and strikes in the Sub-Saharan region are readily available online. The global community is smaller than ever before. Nettleton says that means "they're happening where people see them. Obviously, one of the things that happens is that people are inspired to take action in their own country when they see those taking action in another country, bringing about what's perceived to be positive change."

Rising food prices, inflation, and unemployment have combined to threaten governments across the continent, adding to the instability of newly-formed administrations (Nigeria, Sudan, Guinea). Often, believers find themselves as scapegoats when such times arise. Nettleton says that while persecution CAN happen during transition, it's really not a secure time for anyone. "When there's chaos, that's bad for everybody. It's bad for believers, it's bad for non-believers. That's one effect. The other thing that can happen is that you can move to a government that is less open to religious freedom."

However, believers in the persecuted church have long handled difficult times as opportunities for Kingdom building. "As there is unrest, as there [are] people who are in the state of upheaval, there are some spiritual questions that get asked. That can really be a time where the church grows."

Even if the Sub-Saharan region dissolves into a frenzy of "African Summer," there is a church body that is supported by groups like Voice of the Martyrs. Nettleton urges prayer for protection, wisdom and boldness. "We can pray for them in their outreach efforts, and pray that they will represent Christ well, whatever is going on around them."

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