The Hajj

Excerpt from: Praying through the Arabian Peninsula

Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage that is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims, begins this week. During the Hajj, which starts this year on October 2 and runs for three or four days, an estimated three million Muslims will be making the journey to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to perform sacred acts and follow the steps of their prophet Mohammed in a quest to be cleansed of their sins. This is a strategic time for Christians to pray for Muslims.

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The Saudi Magazine – on air now!

Several media organizations, including Arab World Media, have partnered in a new initiative to reach the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with the message of God’s love.

A few days ago the Christian satellite channel, Al Hayat TV, began to air a new weekly program, The Saudi Magazine. When a prime-time broadcast slot unexpectedly became available, Al Hayat TV took this as a miraculous reminder of God’s special grace and favour for this production. The first series of 13 initial episodes had already been completed and were ready for broadcast. In the first five days, the estimated audience size and number of respondents equalled or surpassed the average monthly response levels of almost every other program being aired on the channel. The potential this represents for kingdom impact is vast.

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Saudi Arabia – Is God at work?

Saudi Arabia is known as the heart of Islam. It is the place where Islam began and home to the Kaaba, or house of Allah, in Mecca. This is the place to which every Muslim is required, where financially possible, to make their pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. Known as Hajj, this journey is one of the five pillars of Islam.

Saudis are proud of their heritage. Religious authorities work hard to keep Islam pure by enforcing Sharia law, and other rules are added to ensure that people keep virtue. Women are required to wear the abaya (a long black overcoat) and hijab (headscarf); they are also encouraged to wear the niqab (face veil). These clothes are meant to protect them from lustful men. The prohibition against women driving is also to keep them pure, as they can’t go anywhere without a man driving them.

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Arabian Dawn

Has your heart ever been stirred as you listened to someone recount their journey to faith in Christ? Whenever I catch a glimpse of God’s power at work in the life of an individual, my heart is moved. I am touched when I read the stories of Jesus’ encounters with the Samaritan woman, with the woman caught in adultery, and with the centurion soldier; I am also touched when I hear current-day testimonies of people who have been drawn to God. Whenever we see God’s power shine through a life, in spite of its brokenness, struggles and failings, something is stirred deep within us, and God is glorified.

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Reaching ‘Ahmed’

From our experience of interacting with thousands of Arabs over the years, we have identified a number of common characteristics of people who are spiritually open and often go on to become Christians. Over the next twelve months the Maarifa internet ministry will run a number of campaigns focused on reaching Arabic speaking people who display these personas.

The persona of ‘Ahmed’ is that of a young man who may or may not be married and has a lot of problems in his life. He is most likely unemployed and he might be quite negative towards Christianity in general. Because Ahmed has been raised in a culture that teaches him to not trust people, he begins to search for answers in the anonymity of the internet.

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Walking with others is hard work

By a field worker in the Middle East

Through our Maarifa internet ministry, Fatima*, originally from North Africa but now living in a different Arab nation, told our online responders that she had started to follow Jesus. When Fatima was ready, our online personnel connected her to one of our workers on the ground. They began to meet weekly to study the Bible. Fatima struggled with many issues in her life – practical things such as her mother being very ill and losing her job. Their weekly meetings focused on a study in Matthew and Fatima had many questions that were both a delight and a challenge for Rachel* to work through with her. However, after four months of meeting regularly, Fatima started to become distant. She didn’t respond to Rachel’s messages and often cancelled their times together. Finally, after five months, all communication stopped.

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Peace of heart

by a Pioneers worker on the Arabian Peninsula

I was anxious to hear Nissar’s* story. I enjoy hearing how people have come to faith, but it is even more thrilling to hear the story of someone who lives in this dry, desert land where there is so little witness.

Nissar told me that his journey began a few years ago during the revolution, now known as the Arab Spring. As he watched the peaceful protests diverge into fighting, eventually plunging his homeland into turmoil, he began to question the predominant religion of the country. How could this greed, bloodshed and chaos be what God desired? Nissar began to research and study the major religions of the world. None of them provided him peace – until he began reading the Christian Bible.

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What more could I want?

From a Pioneers field worker
in North Africa

Have you ever heard the expression ‘You don’t truly understand that Jesus Christ is all you need until He is all you really have’? I have and I’m sure I’ve even prayed something along the lines of, ‘Jesus, you are all I need.’ But I’ve never been in a position where He was all I had. I met a local young man recently and for him, this statement rings true.

Mohamed, who has walked with Jesus for a little over two years now, is from a very wealthy and influential family. His home town is several hours from the city where we both now live. Previously, Mohamed lived in one of several family homes; two in the capital, one in his home town) and received a monthly allowance from his father that was four or five times the average salary for a middle class worker in our country. When Mohamed made the decision to follow Jesus, with great joy he immediately told his family. With equal swiftness he was disowned, kicked out of the family home and cut off entirely from the finances. At the same time as he lost his fine home and money, he lost nearly all of his friends, even some who were believers. Now Mohamed spends many nights on the street – either due to lack of options or as a desire not to impose on others. Two months ago he was robbed and beaten by four extremists who knew about his faith in Jesus. They took all his valuables and beat him to the point where he later required surgery due to a blood clot in his kidney. The authorities arrested the men but Mohamed asked that all of the charges be dropped. The judge was incredulous. ‘Why?’ he asked Mohamed. ‘Because I follow Jesus Christ and He has forgiven me so much more than this.’

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