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DAY 6 – JUNE 11TH, 2016
East Africa – Becoming Hyenas
The 19 nations of the East African room stretch south from Sudan to South Africa. Arab traders dominated the slave and ivory trade here until the Europeans arrived in the 16th century bringing Christian missionaries. Since then, Islam and Christianity have contended with African Tribal religions for the 357 million inhabitants of this region.
On Christmas Day 2011 I was seated on the floor surrounded by 20 Muslim leaders who had gathered to receive training in their newfound Christian faith. Their teacher was a middle-aged African businessman from a Christian background named Yusuf. Yusuf had adopted the Muslims in this region as his mission field and led many of their leaders to faith. When I asked him about the reason for his effectiveness, Yusuf said, “I used to try to make them Christian. But now I try to help them come to Christ without the religious blanket.”
I asked the group, “How are you able to do this without persecution?”
Abu Salam, a man in his 30s armed with an Arabic-language New Testament, replied, “There is persecution. Since I began teaching about Isa I was chased from the mosque. Now I am fighting my case in the court. I am defending myself as a Muslim follower of Isa al-Masih (Jesus). I have told the court, ‘This is my mosque! Why should I leave it? I have a right to worship here.’”
Abu Salam shows great courage. In a community ruled by sharia law, by choosing to remain in the mosque, Sheikh Abu Salam risked a death sentence for the crime of apostasy.
“Why do you not just leave the mosque?” I asked, “What is the benefit of remaining in the mosque?”
Several voices answered quickly, “To reach others! If we create another faith community outside the mosque, there will be a gap between us and the lost. Instead, we insert Jesus into all of our Muslim practices.”
A Muslim woman spoke up, “Jesus came as a human to save humans, even though he is God. If God had wanted to save hyenas, he would have become like a hyena. We want to save Muslims and so we must go into the mosque. This is why our brothers and sisters risk themselves: to win others.”
How to Pray
- Pray for followers of Isa al-Masih in East Africa to have wisdom and courage as they live their faith in their local communities.
- Pray for more freedom in this region for people to learn about and express their faith without fear.
- 80 million Muslims in East Africa do not yet know Jesus Christ – pray for more people like Yusuf to adopt this region as their mission field.