They sat in a coffee shop in Berlin. “Your skin is just like mine!” Ali held Joseph’s hand tenderly, caressing the skin with wonder. “You’re just like me!” Ali had come to faith from a Muslim background several months ago, but had never met a Jew before in his life*.
As he sat with Joseph, a Jewish student from Israel College of the Bible, the ex-Al Qaeda member realized that they were not only made of the same material, but that they were actually family. Brothers in the Messiah.
Ali had been raised all his life to hate the Jewish people with great fervor, and to consider them not only enemies, but subhuman. In fact, he used to believe that it was essential to rid the world of the filth of the Jewish people, and so it came as a great shock to see that Jews were just as human as he was!
Ali grew up in a Sunni family in Syria and quickly became a very radical Muslim. He was a judge of Sharia law and joined Al Qaeda, helping to establish branches of Al Qaeda in Syria and Iraq. His brothers were no less radical, one even becoming a member of ISIS and another serving in the Free Syrian Army. They were all opposed to each other! He ended up in a Syrian prison after going there to fight Assad and was in jail there for seven years. To his horror, he found he was having lots of dreams about Jesus and saw the cross several times over the years. He was terrified to death to tell anyone what was happening to him.
Eventually, like many other Syrians, he fled and made his way over to Europe. On his journey to Germany, he came across a church and felt compelled to go inside. After an inner struggle, he went in and saw exactly the same cross from his dreams! He heard the Lord telling him, “THIS is where your journey begins!”
Reports are coming in from all across the Muslim world of numbers coming to faith so overwhelming that Christian leaders simply do not know how to handle the need for discipleship.
The surprising truth about Muslim Background Believers
Two conferences have been held in recent months specifically for leaders of Muslim-background believers to discuss this issue: How do we disciple so many new believers who have known nothing but Islam?
Dr. Erez Soref was invited to these two conferences as a representative of Israel, and of the Jewish people in the Middle East. He was very warmly welcomed as a brother, and the Arab believers were excited to hug and greet him, sharing how they had previously been brainwashed into thinking that Jews were like animals. The transformation in their heart is an amazing testimony to the power of the gospel to change lives completely.
What is so encouraging to us here in Israel is that many who come to faith directly from a Muslim background come into the Kingdom with a love for Israel!
When the veil of Islam comes off and it becomes clear how much of what they believed was false, they also realize that much of what they have been told about Israel and the Jewish people was also based on lies. It takes great courage to go against the tide of anti-Semitism, but since these Muslim background believers have already given up so much, they have very little else to lose.
As a result, among Arabic-speaking Christians, we are finding that it is actually brothers and sisters from a Muslim background who tend to be more positive towards Israel than those who come to faith from a nominal Christian heritage. Muslim background believers are more likely to reject the theology that God is “done with Israel” that many from traditional Christian denominations still hold to. These brand new believers are reading their Bibles with fresh eyes and seeing God’s heart for Israel leaping out of the pages. And they believe with simple faith that God still means what he says about his people.
At the same time, we in Israel are feeling the call to serve in these fields that are white for the harvest. Israelis may not be free to travel around the Muslim world, but God has brought millions of Muslims to Europe where they can meet and talk about Jesus in freedom. It’s time for Jewish and Arab Israelis to go out to the nations and take the Word of God from Zion: not only in Hebrew, or even in English, but also in Arabic.
*Names have been changed to protect identities
Photo by Thiago Barletta on Unsplash