Conversions in the Middle East

Recently, I posted some links to articles about Muslim conversions to Christianity. One of the articles, from Charisma, I referenced but had not read. I read it this morning, and it contains a variety of stories of Muslim conversions. It ends with these statistics:

How the Holy Spirit is rising within the world’s most radical Islamic nations

Mission researchers estimate more Muslims have committed to follow Christ in the last 10 years than in the last 15 centuries of Islam. Yet Islamic governments make up some of the worst persecutors of Christians, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Despite the persecution, reports indicate God is moving dramatically in Islamic strongholds such as Indonesia, Pakistan and the following Middle East hot spots:

Iran: At the time of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 there were only about 500 known Muslim converts in the country, according to missions almanac Operation World. By 2000, there were a reported 220,000 believers, including Muslim converts. Even children of government ministers and mullahs have been converting to Christ, missions agency Open Doors reports.

Iraq: It’s estimated that before 2003 there were only about 600 known born-again followers of Jesus Christ in the country. By the end of 2008, Iraqi Christian leaders believed the number had risen to more than 70,000. Meanwhile, millions of Arabic New Testaments and Christian books have been shipped into Iraq since the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Egypt: Revival is reportedly widespread among nominal Christians within the nation’s historic Coptic Church, whose members number about 10 million. Yet Coptics are under severe attack, according to Voice of the Martyrs. Also, the USCIRF’s list of “Countries of Particular Concern” now includes Egypt, where since January 400 Christians have been murdered, hundreds more injured and multiple churches burned.

Peter Leithart rounded up some of the things that he has read about this issue in a recent column for First Things. Here’s an excerpt about the reasons for conversions:

The reasons for conversion vary. Many of the converts say that Islam failed to meet their spiritual needs. No matter how faithful they were in fulfilling Islam’s demands, they had no confidence that they were saved, no assurance that they would spend eternity in paradise. Formulaic prayers left others spiritually dry, and they were surprised by and attracted to the intimacy of Christian prayer. Women find in Christianity a refuge from belittlement and abuse. Many converts claim that Isa Masih, Jesus Messiah, appeared personally in visions or dreams to call them to follow him.

In his many interviews with converts and leaders in Christian ministry to Muslims, [Joel] Rosenberg found that Islamic radicalism has been a paradoxical preparatio evangelii. When the Ayatollah Khomeini led the Islamic revolt in Iran in 1979, Muslims suddenly saw Islam as the rest of the world sees it. An evangelist told Rosenberg that Khomeini exposed Islam “not just to the Christian populace but to the Muslims themselves. . . . it’s as if God used that man, the Ayatollah . . . to expose Islam for what it is and for Muslims to say to themselves, ‘That’s not what we want; we want something else.’”

September 11 had the same effect. Many Muslims joined Americans in horror as they watched the airliners slam into the World Trade Center towers. Their sadness and shock turned to anger when they saw other Muslims rejoicing at the carnage. “Is this who we really are?” they began to ask themselves. “Is this what it really means to be a Muslim?”

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