Middle East and North Africa: Closed doors and open windows 

Last September, we brought you news from a sensitive north African country where a political revolution had resulted in the closure of churches and persecution of Christians. Following on from the theme of this year’s World Student Day – persevere – we spoke to Jamil, IFES Regional Secretary for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), to find out more about the situation in that country – and how the movement has been responding.   

“The door might be closed but the window is open!”  

Jamil recalls how the door was sharply closed there in recent years when government policies not only led to the closure of churches and the arrest and imprisonment of church pastors, but also the interrogation of all those who had links to international organisations.  

The relatively new student movement, which had been growing steadily over the prior fifteen years, was deeply affected by the national shutdown. Due to restrictions on campus and closure of church buildings, the students could no longer meet in their usual places for small group Bible studies. Moreover, the annual national conferences, which had been gathering and motivating around 150-180 students, could no longer be held. The head of the national movement knew his name was on ‘the list’ of those who might be arrested. Anxious that he would soon be taken in for questioning, he wiped his devices of sensitive data and emailed Jamil, “I’m ready for them – they’ll come soon!”. The door was closed.  

But the window was open. Jamil remembers that the same email continued with the head of student ministry describing how the movement was prayerfully considering ways to seek the support to fund one more staff worker. Almost within the same breath, fear had turned to hope. “Knowing their determination and passion, the ministry will never end there!”, Jamil tells us.  

It seems he is right: the students have not been discouraged or deterred by the closed doors of campuses and churches. They’ve taken their Bible studies out into the cafes and forests instead (see this Prayerline). One year on, the political situation is unchanged, but the enthusiasm of the students and staff continues. Impressed and humbled by their perspective and dreams, Jamil asks, “Are we willing to continue to live this adventure with them?”  

Let’s adventure with them now by praying for student ministry in this MENA country:  

  • Give thanks for the open windows despite the closed doors – and for the students and staff whose brave faith is fuelling their determination and dreams.  
  • Pray for God’s protection and blessing on the students and staff as they faithfully persevere with student ministry in creative ways. Pray that questioning students will find out about the open-air Bible studies and have the courage to attend.   
  • Pray that God will provide the financial resources the movement needs to maintain – and even expand – its staff, so that students can be fully supported in their witness. And persevere in prayer for a change of heart in government so that the country can enjoy freedom of religion and open campuses.  

Thank you for the support you show to IFES movements in MENA with your prayers. If you feel led to further support the movement described above by contributing to their efforts to fund another staff worker, then you can do so here.

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