The Passion in the Middle East
Thought you'd be interested in reading this account from a missionary from Wheaton College to the Middle East.
Today very possibly was the most significant day we have seen in nearly 12 years of living in the Middle East. To everyone's shock and surprise, "The Passion" was released today here in _____. Just a few days ago my wife prayed for it to come to _____ in our prayer meeting (we knew it was opening in the another Arab country in about a week), I honestly had no faith whatsoever that her prayer would be answered. You have to realize that until now we have only been able to show the Jesus film in Arabic to a handful of _______ in the secret of a home setting. In the coming weeks, potentially 10's of thousands of Arab Muslims will see this powerful portrayal of Christ's suffering and death.
Today at 4:30PM, our entire team went to see the film in a theatre which was full of Gulf Arab Muslims both men and women. In two short hours, more _______ heard the Gospel than I have been able to reach in nearly 5 years of living here. The Arabic subtitles were completely accurate - they didn't water ANYTHING down or change any language that Muslims would not agree with. All of us watched the film in absolute amazement in what God had done. The Muslims sitting around us were being moved - some gasping, crying and reacting with disgust to the brutality that Jesus faced.
Arab Muslims would want to see the film because they 'heard' it was anti-Jewish and since they hate the Jews, they want to see it. The message to LOVE YOUR ENEMIES, and Jesus praying for them to be forgiven while on the Cross hits the Muslim theatre-goer in a powerful way. Muslims are going to see this film because of their hatred and in the end, the message they will hear is to LOVE. Is it not just like God to do something like that? They mean it for evil, and God means it for good!!
There is yet another motivation that _____ had in releasing this film and that was to be "the first country in the Middle East" to show the film. ______ is trying to change its image and portray itself as a tolerant Muslim country. Little do they know that this film is exposing their people to many truths that their faith categorically denies. (The Sonship of Christ, the Fatherhood of God, the Atoning Death of Christ for the sins of the World, and of course the commandment to "Love your enemies".).
We are all still shell-shocked by what has happened and what will happen in the coming days.
(missionaries from Wheaton College - names withheld for security reasons)
P.S. On the second day, several of the local newspapers had the advertisement for the film ON THE FRONT PAGE. Also mentioned in the newspaper article today: "Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat watched the Passion of the Christ at a private screening in the West Bank city of Ramallah yesterday and said it was not anti-Semitic. He watched the film with Palestinian Muslim and Christian leaders at his headquarters in Ramallah." R.T. Kendall shared the Gospel personally with Yasser Arafat a few months ago. May this film help him to come to Jesus and learn to "love his enemies" too!!
THREE DAYS LATER:
(2) From: _____ Sent: Wednesday, March 24, 2004 10:51 AM Friends,
Since the last email, so much has happened I simply do not know where to begin. In all humility, we have to say that in just a few short days, more Arab Muslims have been able to clearly hear (and see) the Gospel in their own language than we would be able to reach in a lifetime of ministry in the Middle East. We are just walking around in our own version of a 'shock and awe campaign'.
The film is so popular here in ______ that they have been canceling the other films to show "The Passion" in all the theatres at a Cinema complex. I took a former student the 2nd night, who now works for the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, and at the 7:30PM and 9:30PM showing the film was running in all 3 theatres. I would estimate that well over 50% of the people in the theatre were local Muslims - women completely veiled. You could see how this film had impacted everyone.
After we saw the film, I looked at my former student Mohammed and said to him in Arabic, "Don't you see that Jesus died for YOUR sins". I then really took a bit of a risk (seeing that he works for the Ministry of Islamic Affairs" I said, "you know, Mohammed, you think that this film is here because of 'freedom of speech' or the 'new openness of your government', but actually God Himself has sent this film to CORRECT people's misunderstanding about who Jesus is, and why He came to earth'.
What followed was about a 2 hour discussion on many of the differences between Islam and Christianity.
It appears that even Saudi Arabia is getting a chance to see the film, albeit through pirated DVD's. There are no movie theatres in Saudi Arabia anyway. God knows what He's doing.
Timing of the release. The killing of Palestinian Hamas leader, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin happened the morning after the film was released. The Arab response has been a whole new wave of hatred for the Jews, which was illustrated in a large public demonstration/march yesterday. Again, God's timing is so amazing. At a time when the urge for Muslims to hate has been renewed, the Lord has brought THE PASSION telling them - NO, LOVE YOUR ENEMIES! Forgive them! The contrast is staggering.
Today, after class two of my _____ girl students came up to me and asked me, "Do you have the New Testament in Arabic"? "Me and ALL my friends want to read it"!
Another asked about where to get the Arabic Bible on the internet. THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED! The film is generating so much interest in Jesus and the Scriptures. Every Christian we are talking to seems to have a story or two just like this one.
Please PRAY -
that the interest will continue to increase. And PRAY that God will bring revelation to people here - and across the world -
and open the hearts of many to receive Him as Lord and Saviour.
Please share your ideas, suggestions, or reports