Ramadan begins today for millions of Muslims around the world. And for millions of Christians, that means the start of the 20th edition of ‘30-days’ prayer for the Muslim world.
Although initiated in 1993, this year is the 20th ’30-Days’ prayer season rather than the 19th, as Ramadan is based on the lunar, not the solar, calendar.
So let’s take stock and ask what has happened in these 20 years, drawing from various resources including the 30-days website, www.30-days.net.
On the positive side:
• Some three million Muslims are estimated to have come to faith in Isa (Jesus) over the past two decades. This is more than the total number since Mohammed died in AD 632.
• Ministries engaging the internet, radio, satellite television and other media efforts directed toward Muslims have exploded.
• The amount of literature, CDs, DVDs, Bibles and downloadable resources available for Muslims has increased hugely.
• The number of actual missionaries working in the Muslim world has grown significantly.
• Thousands of former Muslims are proclaiming Isa to their peoples.
• The goal of establishing believing communities among all ethnic group is becoming more of a reality.
• Awareness about Muslim peoples is greater than ever before (demographics, cultural affinities, history and the progress of the Gospel among them).
• There are more prayer efforts directed toward the Muslim world than ever before.
• Muslims are exposed to other cultures and religious beliefs more at the present time than at any point during the last 1,400 years.
• The 30-Days of Prayer for the Muslim World initiative has drawn millions of Christians worldwide to a united, annual, global prayer meeting. The prayer guide (in hard copy or downloadable from www.30-days.net) is now produced in more than 42 languages, distributed from over 32 regional offices.
• The Arab Spring, triggered by the self-immolation of a Tunisian market-vendor just a few months ago, has resulted in the overthrow of several tyrants, and the expression of democratic aspirations of millions of younger Msulims across North Africa and the Middle East.
But there is a down side too.
Over the past 20 years:
• More Islamic television, internet, radio and other media is available now more than ever before.
• The number of Muslims and mosques in most Western countries has grown significantly (although birth-rates have dropped among immigrants).
• Islamist terrorism has become a factor of daily life, as we are reminded each time we check-in at the airport. The attack on 11 September 2001 in New York, followed up by attacks in London, Madrid and Amsterdam have shocked the whole world.
• These and other attacks inspired two controversial and costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as many other military and police interventions across the whole world with positive and negative repercussions.
• A growing Islamic presence in western Europe has become a source of political and social tension for many nations. Secular societies are divided on how to respond. Fear of terrorism and fear of the unknown has bred prejudice and bigotry toward Muslims in most Western countries.
• The rise of populist anti-Islam right-wing political parties in Holland, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany and elsewhere has led to a politics of half-truths and fear, demanding a response of truth and love from Christians, and a stand for religious freedom.
• Most recently we have witnessed the emergence of desperate extremist right-wing ‘lone wolves’ attacking fellow Europeans for perceived ‘capitulation’ to Muslims.
Reason for prayer:
Each of these factors, both positive and negative, is a reason for prayer. And not just for Muslims and the Muslim world, but also for our own effective response to the changing situation in our own countries.
As we see our Muslim neighbours disciplining themselves to fast and pray during Ramadan, we ought to be challenged also to a season of prayer for the future of Europe, and of all Europeans, Muslim, Christian and others. Even the most pessimistic among us can offer the following prayer from 2 Chronicles 20:12: ‘For we are powerless before this great multitude… ; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on you.’
Till next week,