Have you ever felt “isolated”? Do you know that Christian believers in the Middle East and North Africa are often isolated?
Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #94 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.
I’m thinking most of us know isolation exists, but we’ve never experienced it.
Unless of course you have personally lived with isolation, and this is possible.
Isolation can occur in the midst of the many, e.g., reaching back to the famous early 1950s scholarly study and book title, The Lonely Crowd.
Or isolation can occur because one is truly alone, or at least believes they are, like Elijah in the wilderness where he had run from Queen Jezebel for fear of his life (1 Kings 19).
After a short time, the Lord came and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Elijah said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
Then the Lord said, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there…anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat…to succeed you as prophet… Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”
So, Elijah felt alone, but the Sovereign God was still there, still in charge, and many others remained faithful to the Lord. The “cure” for Elijah’s feeling isolated was for him to refocus on the Lord and his purposes, and to reconnect with other Christian believers. This is so because God made us this way. He created us for relationship with him and with others. When this is lost, suffering results.
Thankfully, most of us do not have experience with isolation, what it is and what it feels like to be truly alone.
But it’s happening in American society. In extreme cases, we’re witnessing the pathology of isolation in the form of mass shooters, young men who very often have come of age without fathers in their lives, many of whom with untrustworthy or detached parents, some struggling with gender dysphoria and a host of other mental disturbances. They get to a point of not just isolation but alienation.
Alienation is estrangement; the feeling that you have no connection with the people around you or that you are not part of a group.”
These mass shooters get separated from themselves, their reason, or the world. Their alienation produces feelings of meaninglessness, powerlessness, normlessness. Finally, after years of neglect and lovelessness, they feel so isolated and alienated they become nihilistic. They believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy. In their warped state, they think that the only way they can “be somebody,” that they can matter, is to kill a lot of people in a violent outburst that is for them a primal scream, a cry for help, significance, and agony.
It’s like the artwork, “The Scream,” painted by Norwegian Edvard Munch in 1893, featuring a caricature of a bald, human being of indeterminate sex or ethnicity on a bridge with both hands alongside the face, mouth opened wide in an expression of utter anguish.
If you have never viewed “The Scream” by Edvard Munch, look it up. It is at once disturbing and moving.
SAT-7, the Christian ministry with which I serve, seeks to make God’s love visible throughout the 25 countries of the Middle East and North Africa. SAT-7 broadcasts satellite television programming and produces online video on demand and digital content in Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish. Our purpose is not only to share the Gospel but to build the Church throughout this vast region.
We often speak about “isolated believers,” people who have come to Christ but who live in countries dominated religiously, culturally, and often politically by Islam. While it varies by country and even locales within countries, Christians and local churches are generally suppressed, sometimes harassed or oppressed, and periodically persecuted.
It is difficult for us in the United States to comprehend what is it like to be an isolated believer in the MENA. We live in a society where churches can be found within easy driving distance.
We can order Christian materials online, any time of the day or night, or we can listen to Christian pastors preach on radio or watch them on Christian television channels. We can find other believers with whom we can share Christian fellowship. This is certainly not the case for many Christian believers in countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
Ayan Hirsi Ali is a Somali-born Dutch-American activist and former politician. Ali’s father left Somalia with his family and later become a diplomat, so Ali spent part of her childhood in Somalia, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya. Later in her best-selling autobiographical books, Infidel: My Life, and Nomad: From Islam to America, she spoke of spending part of her youth in Saudi Arabia, where she met older women who whenever anything would go wrong, would say, “The Jews did it.”
Ali pointed out that these Saudi women had never traveled more than a few miles from their place of birth and had never met or even seen a Jew, yet they somehow believed the Jews made their well go dry, or their goat go barren, or their child become ill.
Ali notes that while there are no Jews in Saudi, there are no openly identifiable Christian believers either.
Ali is not a Christian but is rather a former Muslim, now an atheist. Interestingly, though, she is not “anti-Christian.” In fact, she observes what it must be like to be an isolated Christian believer living within a culture wholly dominated by another religious worldview. Ali even recommends Christians speak up and speak out more because they believe in a God of love and forgiveness, something foreign to her earlier religious experiences, Christians offer an opportunity for peace and hope not to be found in other religious worldviews.
Unlike Ali, most Christian believers in Middle East and North Africa countries do not have her talents and opportunities. They cannot leave. They may, even if married, live lonely, isolated lives in terms of their faith in Christ, without Christian friends or fellowship, without Christian encouragement.
Listen to these testimonies SAT-7 has received from viewers:
Sargez in Afghanistan, “I spent 40 years of my life among people of a different faith and for 40 years I was in doubt. I thought that the path I was on was wrong and that I should search for a better way until the Lord Jesus Christ answered my troubled mind…He touched my heart and accepted me, and I came to a deep faith in Jesus Christ. I delight in the faith I have in Him, because the thing for which I searched all my life finally came into my heart and gave me peace. I am very grateful to this channel.”
Soren in Iran, “I have been watching SAT-7 PARS for about six months because one of my friends told me about the Christian faith and SAT-7 PARS. The more I watched your programs and researched, the more I reached the conclusion that Christianity means peace, reconciliation, and kindness. For this reason, I decided to become a Christian. As you know, in Iran there is no opportunity for us to have fellowship. It is true that I have given my heart to Christ, but I really don’t know what I must do now. I cannot believe I so easily became a Christian by simply saying a prayer, but I need teaching and now that I am a Christian, how should I go about being in touch with the Lord?”
Awaz in Afghanistan, “Hello, I hope you are all blessed in every way and that you won't forget to pray for us. Our situation is very bad here and there is no way to know what is going to happen - the Taliban have no mercy. Please don't forget us.”
Being isolated is not fun, not healthy, and not normal as God intended. Pray for isolated Christian believers in the Middle East and North Africa. Pray for them in the U.S. too.
Well, we’ll see you again soon. This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends. For more Christian commentary, check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com.
And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2023
*This podcast blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.
1. Afghanistan is a country of 39.8 million people who speak Dari or Pahsto, dialects of Farsi. 97% Muslim. US State Dept estimating Afghan Christian underground Church 500–8,000 Christians. Others say 12,000-15,000. No one knows for sure.
2. 90% of world’s opium comes from Afghanistan, sold into the West, sadly much of it into the US where it’s processed into heroin and other opiates.
3. Afghanistan is #2 behind North Korea for persecution on the Open Doors World Watch List.
4. We’re hearing mixed reports of Taliban killing or violent harassment of Christians. No one is sure what’s happening with Afghan Christians.
5. Some believers have reported needing to flee but are unable to do so. Those who remain are under immense pressure. Some sharing that if their faith is discovered, they expect to be tortured or sentenced to death.
6. Afghan citizens are not legally permitted to convert to Christianity, although there are no explicit laws forbidding evangelizing by non-Muslims.
7. There is only one legally recognized Christian church building in Afghanistan, the Catholic chapel at the Italian Embassy.
8. Estimated 3 M Afghan refugees worldwide, nearly 1 in 10 of all refugees. Pakistan building a fence along its border with Afghanistan. Turkey has become a destination for Afghan refugees (200,000), along with Syrians and Iraqi.
9. With collapse of the government and the expansion of extremism, food and water shortages are occurring and the pandemic continues.
10. Result can be desperate people take desperate measures –people do anything to feed their families = Crime, Violence, Chaos, Family breakdown.
11. Since 2002, SAT-7 has broadcast daily throughout Afghanistan in Farsi, the language of Iran, which Afghan Dari speakers understand, and now also some Dari programs too.
12. SAT-7 is virtually un-censorable – anyone in Afghanistan with a TV, satellite transponder, satellite can access SAT-7.
13. Praise God for on ground Christian and humanitarian organizations trying to meet physical needs.
14. SAT-7 works to meet spiritual needs. For Afghans unable to attend secret, house churches, SAT-7 on TV is a last resort and a lifeline.
15. In the face of adversity, people ask, “Does God even exist?” “Does He care about what’s happening here?” “Why is God allowing this to happen?”
16. Enormous opportunity to speak Christian truth into a society turned upside down and seeking answers that make sense, a God who is there and is not silent.
17. "My sister and I recently turned to Christ. We live here in Afghanistan, and we fear difficulties relating to security – it is very challenging and frightening to attend Christian meetings or try and find other Christians."
18. "I ask that you pray for me, that the love of Jesus Christ will always be found in my heart and that He will never forget me because I am in Afghanistan, and I have no one beside me."
19. “As Christians we are in real danger. Sadly, in the past two to three days, my family and I have received death threats. In this emergency situation, I have no other way but to escape from the country. Please be our voice; please help us to be heard so that we can flee from this hell as soon as possible.”
20. What should we remember?
o God is sovereign. As Os Guinness said, “We don’t know Why, but we know the God who knows Why.”
o While we understandably pray for deliverance, protection, or even flight from Afghanistan…this may not be God’s will and purpose.
o SAT-7 Farsi Bible teacher Tat Stewart observed, “Suffering purifies the Church, and God’s glory will shine through for all to see.”
21. How should we pray?
o Pray for isolated believers and Afghan Church.
o Pray for the security of NGO staff, and American forces and allies, working to help desperate people.
o Pray for an anticipated new wave of internally displaced peoples and refugees.
o Pray for the vulnerable: women and girls, elderly, sick, ethnic and religious minorities.
o Pray Afghanistan will not become a haven for extremists.
o Pray for the Taliban, sinners like us in need of grace.
o Pray for SAT-7’s ongoing ministry in Afghanistan and Iran.
o Pray for peace.
Grace be with you.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021
*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.
Lebanon’s flag is one of the most beautiful in the world. With its green Cedar of Lebanon tree, speaking to the country’s ancient and biblical history, surrounded by white for unity and peace and red for sacrifice, the flag stands as an important symbol for the Lebanese people. In the wake of the Beirut blast the flag has been prominently displayed throughout the country, often rising amidst the rubble. #ForBeirut
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020
*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attributionstatement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.
This is a 5:41 remembrance of my colleague Ray Heinen’s and my visit to Petra, Jordan, April 2019. We also talk about developing issues in the Middle East and SAT-7’s ministry.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020