Praying for North Africa

As we watch the news unfold in Egypt and Libya most of us are not quite sure what to do with it.  Who are these people?  What’s at stake?  Why is there so much unrest?  Why do our nation’s leaders seem to hold it at arms length?  I am sure there are a myriad of political responses to these questions, but I think there is one question that seems silent in the midst of the chaos.  What does this mean for the church and the gospel?

North Africa holds deep historical significance not only for the narrative of the gospel, but also for the early church.  An angel told Joseph in a dream to flee from Herod and take Jesus and Mary to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15).  In church history Augustine of Hippo was from modern day Algeria.  Augustine was an influential theologian who shaped much of we believe about election, predestination, sin, and justification.  And it was from North Africa, either Egypt or Libya, that Arius developed a Christology that said that Jesus was of a different essence than the Father and as such could not be equal.  In reaction to Arius Constantine called for the council of Nicaea in 325.  There the council formed a powerful statement that accurately expressed the early church’s orthodoxy that indeed Christ was of the same essence as the Father and as such was equal with Him.  Heresy is great for orthodoxy!  And it was Origen, who taught in Alexandria, Egypt, whose extensive writings and commentaries helped give evidence of early church acceptance or rejection of certain books.  His work was instrumental in the canonization of the New Testament. 

From Jesus and throughout the first several centuries of the development of Christianity North Africa holds an important place in the spread of the gospel.  Currently North Africa has little to no gospel witness.  Living under the tyranny of oppressive regimes and strong Islamic influence, the flame of the gospel in North Africa has almost been extinguished.  Yet, as always, there is a remnant.  The American media is not interested in the story, but the church is suffering heavy persecution during the current unrest.  We need to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are trying to survive.  Yet when the chaos subsides, what sort of regimes will gain control in North Africa?  Will they welcome free speech and religion?  Will they allow the people to investigate faiths outside of Islam?  Will the gospel be welcomed back?  Will the church re-emerge?  These are the issues that Christians in the state need to focus their prayers upon.  We need to pray for peace, the safety of the people, and the power of the gospel.  While we watch the news coverage let us not simply stand a world away and watch, but may we bow our knees to the sovereign God of nations and history that He will once again open up a door for the gospel in North Africa that no one is able to shut.
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