This article is based on information gathered from a HeartCry affiliated observer of the underground church in the Arabian Peninsula.
A Christianity in the Arabian Peninsula
From various places in the Scriptures, we learn that Christianity had a strong beginning in the Middle East. In fact, it wasn’t until the mid-seventh century that Islam began to become the dominant religion of the region. But because Islam was founded in an intensely tribal culture, it spread rapidly and sank deeply into all aspects of life. For this reason, it is extremely difficult for Arabs to separate the religion of Islam from their own cultural identity. For Muslims, questioning Islam not only goes against every cultural instinct, but also involves incredible danger.
In this part of the world, Islam is the law. The Islamic Sharia, or Islamic Law, is an all-encompassing religious law (derived from the Quran and the life of Muhammad) that governs all aspects of life, ranging from dress code to civil government. When a Muslim publically professes faith in Christ, they are charged with apostasy and legally sentenced to death. In many cases, however, they are murdered by one of their own family members.
Despite these challenges, many are flocking to Christ. Each one has a different story – some have come because of a dream or a vision, while others through the direct influence of a missionary or fellow-Arab believer. These indigenous Arab converts, called ‘Muslim Background Believers’ (or MBB’s), meet together secretly in small underground house churches.
An Insider's Experience
Just as it was beginning to get dark, some brothers and I set out for the house where the church was going to meet. After we had walked some distance, one brother stopped suddenly and whispered through the darkness, ‘We can’t all go in at the same time. You wait here for three minutes and then follow.’ I stood waiting in the cover of the alley and watched their shadowy figures grow small in the distance. Glancing down at my watch, I poked my head from the alley before following after them. After I had walked for about half a mile, I watched them disappear into a dimly-lit house.
When I entered the house, I saw about 20 men in the room. They were worshipping quietly, but with obvious passion. Their worship was more beautiful than all of the extravagant worship bands I had ever seen. These people were worshiping God with the awareness that at any moment they could be discovered and killed.
Noticing that there were no women in the room, I leaned over to my friend to voice my observation. He assured me that there were just as many women (if not more), but they met separately for both cultural and safety reasons. If either of the groups were to be discovered, then the children would still have one parent to take care of them.
Recently one of these women was discovered by her family and burned alive for her loyalty to Christ. In the Lord’s kindness, her husband and children were not home, but were able to flee to another country and start a new life.
Like the church of Acts, these people meet together in love to worship, share the Lord’s Supper, study the Bible, encourage one another, and share stories of God’s faithfulness through difficulties and persecution. This church does not know the ‘complicated Christianity’ of our day and has no place for activities and programs. For them, God is enough.”
Desolation Brings a New Opportunity
This particular house church has faced particular difficulties from Islamic extremist groups. Within the last year, all of its leaders have either been killed or forced to flee the country. For this reason, the church has been left without any biblical leadership or solid teaching, like sheep without a shepherd.
But one of HeartCry’s Arabic missionaries, Boutros B., has been given the opportunity to move to this incredibly dark and hostile country to be the new pastor. He and his wife have long carried a burden from God to reach this country, and finally have plans to move there at the beginning of October.
Please pray for them and their church – that God would:
- Provide a sufficient platform as a cover for their ministry.
- Supernaturally protect them and the church from harm.
- Pour out an abundance of grace, power, and gifts on the people.
- Cause the Gospel to run with success across the land.
- Raise up strong leaders to give their lives for the Church.