The river keeps running at full flow. The numbers of people fleeing Syria can hardly be counted, let alone contained. But we have to add to that the Afghans, Libyans and Iraqis who have given up hope that their nations will stabilize. Then there are the economic refugees from various parts of Africa and the steady “brain-drain” of Christians from Egypt and other parts of the Arab world.
We will have to keep reading and hearing about it because it is one of the great, human tectonic shifts of our world. It will keep flowing for a long time. And it is changing our world.
Within that big, attention-grabbing mass movement of suffering people, there are a number of sub-stories that are worth some attention. One of those stories is the very large number of Muslims who have become, or want to become Christians.
The Greek government noticed that story a few weeks ago and responded by shutting down faith-based aid groups in the Athens area. I understand that. It is a form of manipulation or exploitation to try to persuade people to change their religion when they are desperate—right? I assume that was the tone of discussions behind the doors of Greek politicians. Most European, and probably most American, politicians would take that view.
Again, I understand that IF:
Christian aid agencies were only offering assistance to Christian and withholding it from others.
Threats were issued.
Longer term benefits, such as residency was being offered to converts.
Refugees were being forced to listen to propaganda against their will.
I now know of at least 200 volunteers from YWAM alone, who are helping these same refugees and there will be thousands of other Christian volunteers. If I visited every location where these Christians are working, I doubt that I would find even one instance of the practices I have just listed. I say that because such practices are simply not Christian and Christians know that.
I think there are some reasons why it is good and right to present the Christian message to refugees. Evangelism, after all, means “good news”. So here are the reasons.
- Many of those who are fleeing are looking for a new life. Their governments and their religion have failed them. They would like some good news.
- One of the amazing sub-stories is the hundreds or thousands of people who have had visions, or dreams or experiences of healing or miracles where Jesus is the central figure. There is something supernatural going on here. God is answering the prayers and labours of recent decades or even the prayers and sacrifices of Christians for centuries and many Muslims want to know more about Jesus. (And remember, they already revere him more than most of our fellow citizens in the secular Western nations.)
- It is not uncommon for people to come to faith when they are in very difficult circumstances. Desperation can result in a deep, heart honesty leading to faith.
- Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
When Article 18 was adopted in 1948, many Muslim nations signed it, including Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey.
When a nation or religion tries to withdraw that right, they are in violation of one of the most foundational documents in history. Not only that, but they are encroaching upon a universal right that was extended by our Creator. He gave the issues of personal beliefs and conscience to each individual and each individual will be accountable to their Creator for their beliefs, how they obeyed their conscience and the choices they made.
Tyranny is when a religion or government (or any other authority) attempts to coerce people at the level of their personal beliefs. The river of human misery flowing primarily from the heart of the Arab, Muslim world is fleeing the spread of that exact brand of tyranny. Can we, in good conscience, withhold from them the wonderful faith that first gave birth to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
Jesus said, “Freely you have received. Freely give!” This precious gift should be available to all.