It began with great excitement. Revolutions swept from Tunisia to Egypt and Libya. It quickly became known as the Arab Spring. Would this be the time when the Arab world shook off autocratic and corrupt governments and followed Eastern Europe into the great “free world” dream? Hope ran like water in the streets.
Two years on, that river of hope has all but dried up, replaced by uncertainty and fear. Rather than peace and development, the removal of the old leadership has unleashed long-suppressed tensions, bringing even greater insecurity. Inside these countries the young revolutionaries ask, “Who hijacked our revolution?” Outside commentators ask, “Has the Arab Spring become in fact the Arab Winter?
The reality of the Arab Spring is that though societies united in their desire to overthrow corrupt governments, their people were carrying some very different dreams for their future. One group saw freedom and democracy as the answer; another saw greater commitment to Sharia law and strict Islam as the answer. Increasingly, these differing agendas are conflicting in the homes and on the streets of the Arab world.
Yet in the midst of this turmoil, another set of stories is being written. Many in the Christian community have found new passion and commitment to see God’s kingdom come in their nations. In November 2012, 70,000 Christians from all denominations gathered in Cairo to pray for their nation. Others are finding increasing boldness as they lovingly reach out to their Muslim neighbours in new ways during these uncertain times.
Across the region there is an explosion of stories of Muslim people coming to faith in Christ and meeting together for support, encouragement and discipleship. Increasingly, however, these movements are finding themselves the targets of intimidation and persecution by their family, community or governments.