Tears awash in her ebony eyes, the soft-spoken Sudanese woman told me she has no money to feed her children or send them to school.
A Christian living in a predominantly Muslim country, Rose is adrift with her small family in Juba where she faithfully leads Sunday School for her church while her husband searches for work in the north.
“I will not leave Sudan,” she told me. “My faith makes me strong. I live in the power of the Holy Spirit—the True Light.”
Literally Jesus has given her the strength and courage to live—and not just live for herself, but to be salt and light in places where the light struggles to shine, and the salt has been doused liberally with water.
Living on her own away from family members she describes as “Christian” in name only—Rose is living out her faith in a time when believers face increasing aggression. Sharia law is heavily enforced in Sudan, where nearly 98 percent of the population is Muslim.
It is a story I heard repeatedly last week at a conference for women sponsored by Arab Woman Today in Amman, Jordan.
Organized by Ruba Abbassi, the event drew women from across Arab countries to engage in training and hear a message of hope and encouragement.
Ruba’s husband, Nabeeh Abbassi—well known for his leadership among Jordanian Baptists, announced at the conference he is founder and president of the new Arab Center for Consulting and Training Services (ACCTS), a non-governmental organization (NGO) that is the umbrella organization under which AWT operates and is providing relief efforts for Syrian refugees, interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims, and developing future leaders in the community.
This dialogue between Christians and Muslims is essential even as Christians in the West reach out to those who are suffering throughout the Middle East as Muslims extremists—and even dominant mainline Christian religious groups marginalize evangelicals whose roots in the region predate Islam.
In a recent article in the Jordan Times, columnist Daoud Kuttab spoke of the situation in the Western world, where he said “media and popular culture overwhelmingly [have] equated Arabs with Islam.”
He credits the king of Jordan, King Abdullah, as “praising the role of Christian Arabs,” and rightfully expresses that the “Arab Spring” has created a new problem for the region’s dwindling Christian Arab population as violence against Christians has increased in Iraq, Syria and Egypt.
“Christians were in this region before Muslims,” Kuttab said in the Jordan Times. “They are not strangers, nor colonialists, nor foreigners. They are the natives of these lands and Arabs just as Muslims are.”
A team from Hillcrest Baptist Church in Pensacola experienced this firsthand. Though they were the foreigners, and strangers—indeed, they traveled to Jordan at the invitation of AWT to assist in showing the women at the conference that some in the West understand their sisters and brothers in Christ on the other side of the world need their prayers.
Spending time massaging the sometimes rough, sometimes soft—but always eager hands of women—from Egypt, Iraq, Syrian, Jordan, Bahrain, Lebanon—and all points East, the women from the West listened and prayed.
Samira, whose vibrant smile could not be contained, flew from Damascus to Lebanon and finally to the conference in Amman, at the invitation of a friend.
Despite “problems” in her country—and limitations in what she can do as a single, Christian businesswoman—Samira said her heart remains in Syria, and she has plenty to do to keep her hands busy.
“I want people in Syria to know Jesus,” Samira said. “I still have many things to do. We are believing that God will make a new Syria in the future.”
North of Amman, in Irbid, there are nearly a thousand Syrian refugee families receiving food boxes each month thanks to the cooperation of busy hands of Hillcrest Baptist members at home, ACCTS, five evangelical churches, and a mosque.
I urge you today to pray our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. Pray for the courageous and faithful remnant. Pray with the faith of the woman in Matthew 9:21 who believed she would be healed if only she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. Be the hands and feet of Christ as you love people in the same way He loves you.
NOTE: Joni B. Hannigan, managing editor, traveled to Amman, Jordan in October to cover the AWT conference at the invitation of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Pensacola. Coverage of the conference will be in the Nov. 7 issue of the Witness.
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