A Muslim man in West Java excitedly reads the Gospel of Matthew after receiving his first Bible.
‘Blessed are the persecuted’
Reward of heaven awaits Muslims who convert
By Gary Fallesen
As I spoke at the Asia-Pacific Adventure Ministry Conference in Malaysia about outreach to Muslims, I was met with wide-eyed stares. I had said the “M” word.
In Malaysia, 55 percent of the population of 25 million is regarded as untouchable. The Malay people are not allowed to convert from Islam to Christianity. Legalized discrimination is a way of life in the world’s most economically successful Muslim nation. In fact, Malaysia ensures that Muslims are given better access to jobs, housing and education — and the top two positions in government can be held only by Muslims. The few Christians living in Malaysia focus their witnessing on Indian-Malaysians and Chinese-Malaysians, who might be Hindu or Buddhist, not Muslim.
Across the Java Sea, in neighboring Indonesia things can be even worse. Reportedly, an estimated 10,000 Christians have been killed in recent years on Maluku Islands by Muslims attempting to “Islamify” the population.
Open Doors, an international ministry working with persecuted Christians in more than 60 countries, ranks Indonesia No. 41 on its World Watch List. (The top 10 on the persecution hit parade — headed by North Korea — consists of six Islamic countries, three communist nations, and the Buddhist Bhutan.) Things improved slightly in Indonesia in 2006, according to Open Doors, but the World Watch List still cautioned: “In strongly Islamic areas of Indonesia (e.g., Aceh, West Java and south Sulawesi) Christians are under much more pressure than in other regions.”
Walter Casper IV and I entered West Java in June with seven other Climbing For Christ members from our new JEJAK Chapter, which is based in Jakarta, Indonesia. We were going to Sumedang to initiate an outreach project aimed at the Muslims living in the hills around that city. These Muslims are Sunda people, the largest unreached people group (at 32 million) among the 127 unreached people groups in Indonesia.
Indonesia is an enormous mission field with 180 million Muslims and many animist people groups in some of the most untouched areas remaining in the world.
Spending time in Indonesia and Malaysia makes one realize how good we have it in the church in North America. We can speak openly about Jesus, worship our Lord without fear of repercussion, and enjoy freedoms too often taken for granted.
Open Doors estimates that 200 million Christians in more than 60 countries “face the most brutal retribution because of their faith.” It is only when we put ourselves in the shoes of our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ that we realize what the early church experienced. Most of the Bible was written by persecuted people for persecuted people. By working with persecuted Christians we learn more about the original meaning of Scripture.
Jesus taught: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
But this isn’t just an exercise in experiential Bible study. This is the very serious business of doing the Lord’s work, of going where He sends us, of reaching out to those living in places where others will not or cannot deliver the Gospel.
Sadly, not enough workers are volunteering for this harvest.
A mere two percent of the Protestant missionary force is actively involved in evangelizing among the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims. About 20 percent of the world’s population is Muslim — or an astounding one in every five people. William Miller, an American missionary to Persia (pre-1980 Iran), wrote in A Christian’s Response to Islam that “with some glorious exceptions, the Christians of the world have ... failed to obey Christ by sending laborers to sow and reap a harvest in Muslim lands.”