Engaging in shaping society: the Church in the Arab World
Muslims who become Christians can be disconnected from and disenfranchised by the society of which they were formerly an integral part. They need models who show them what it is to reach out to the larger society, engage with it, and who encourage others to do so. These BMB’s are then likely to see their participation in society in a hopeful light. It will motivate them to not withdraw, but to participate as best they can. This is good for the church and the community.
However, it is not easy for a person who is marginalized to rise up and be fully involved in social, economic, and political issues. Historically Christians, who are a minority and have not always been welcomed as full participants in their societies in the Middle East and North Africa region, have remained “below the radar” when it comes to activism, assertion of rights, or political engagement. This can breed a reluctance to defend one’s rights. A consequence is then an assumption on the part of the oppressor that he can get away with almost anything. In such a setting, the Christian faith is less attractive to members of the Muslim majority. They are seen as irrelevant, un-empowered, and unattractive.
The Arab Spring, with its grassroots uprising and worldwide media coverage, has opened the door to a new involvement by the Church in society. Members can take on roles within the structures and institutions of society. There is clearly a mood of openness to new ideas and a widespread (but not unanimous) desire for change. This may be an opportune “moment” in history for the Church to assert its voice on social issues and for individuals to participate in the reshaping of their society in new ways.
Engaging society, beyond the poor who have often been the object of Christian outreach, is a new endeavor. Next generation leaders can go where their spiritual forebears did not. Methods, media, and messages will need to be determined. Leaders need to be actively looking for capable church members whom God calls to this pioneering “mission field,” encourage them to participate in social institutions, and support them in their efforts.
Supporting the Church as it responds to these new opportunities will release fresh heart, vision and purpose as it faces struggles in the face of the post-revolution instability.