Monday, September 14, 2015

Christian Hype on Arabian Peninsula?

Arabian Peninsula
(In Green)

Christianity Today reporter Jayson Casper, posting from the United Arab Emirates on September 11, 2015, offers some counter-intuitive news, and this headline says it all, right?
"Why Christianity Is Surging in the Heart of Islam"
Well, not quite all. A subtitle is needed:
"Medical missions and market dynamics lead to millions of believers in the Arabian Peninsula."
Readers would naturally infer that millions of Muslims in "the Heart of Islam," i.e., Saudi Arabia, are converting to Christianity, partly due to medical missions established by Christians. That, however, would be a hasty conclusion, for consider one Christian's remark about living in a Muslim country just next door to "the heart of Islam," but freer than Saudi Arabia, i.e., the United Arab Emirates (UAE):
"I don't feel fully free. You can definitely tell you are living in a Muslim country."
So . . . where are all these millions of Christians, and who are they?
[M]illions of foreign workers [are] transforming the former desert oasis into a global center for business and travel. The UAE's Dubai is the fifth-fastest-growing city in the world; its population is now more than 80 percent migrant . . . . [As for the Arabian Peninsula,] the Pew Research Center numbers Christians . . . at 2.3 million . . . . [and the] Gulf Christian Fellowship . . . estimates 3.5 million.
Neither of those numbers sounds particularly impressive. Notice also that the numbers are estimates dependent upon Christians migrating to the Arabian Peninsula for work, not due to Muslims converting to Christianity. Let's look even more closely at the numbers:
These migrants bring the UAE's Christian population to 13 percent, according to Pew. Among other Gulf states, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar are each about 14 percent Christian, while Oman is about 6 percent. Even Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest cities (Mecca and Medina), is 4 percent Christian when migrants are counted.
These percentages also fail to impress. And there are restrictions:
[While in] Bahrain and Kuwait, Muslims can [at least] enter church compounds[, in] . . . Qatar, guards allow only foreigners.
And we already know that conversion from Islam to Christianity is a death sentence. As for the Christian migrants, ethnic cleansing could easily drive them out if Islamists were to have their way:
Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti (the nation's highest official of religious law) has called for all churches in the peninsula to be destroyed.
And he means in the other countries on the Arabian Peninsula, for Saudi Arabia already has no churches. Moreover, if there were mass conversions among Muslims anywhere on the Arabian Peninsula, the relative tolerance would change as fast as a smile can turn to a frown. Even the rest of the article, which tries to offer a feel-good report on the role of medical missions and global capitalism, admits the difficulties faced by Christians, but I'll leave all that for interested readers to peruse.

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