Countries affected by the Arab Spring
Egypt: Revolution. President ousted and government overthrown.
Tunisia: Revolution. President ousted and government overthrown.
Libya: Civil war and intervention by NATO.
Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, the borders of Israel, the Palestinian Territories: Major protests.
Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Mauritania and Western Sahara: Minor protests.
Bahrain, Syria and Yemen: Civil uprisings.
Bible Society is working in or has a presence in the countries noted in orange.
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Rebuilding Egypt for God and the Bible!
Momentous events are taking place in Egypt at the moment. No one really knows for sure where they will end. But the Bible Society of Egypt is doing everything it can to influence these events for God and the Bible!
As soon as the Revolution subsided Bible Society commenced on a plan to "flood Egypt" with God's Word. From church roof tops to highway billboards to major national newspapers it declared that God's Word should be at the heart of the new nation.
Based on the theme of "Let's rebuild Egypt together," it is challenging Egyptians to become aware that the values that they fought – and some have died for – were, and still are, central to Jesus' ministry. Specially designed Scripture selections for both Christians and non-Christians are reinforcing this point.
A series of Scripture selections based on Nehemiah is encouraging Christians to participate in rebuilding the nation.
True Liberation, based on Luke 12 and designed for a wider Egyptian audience, highlights the fact that these Revolution issues were also very close to Jesus' heart.
Comfort and Hope reminds people that God is still with those who believe in Him even in the midst of a Revolution.
But Trust, created for suffering Christians, was distributed to people in Imbaba, an impoverished working class district in Cairo, where recent attacks on churches left 15 dead and 200 injured.
The leaflet was so well received that one priest began shouting, "Hurry! Get these distributed before people leave," so eager was he for his grieving congregation to have it!
Funds for Egypt urgently required
In the wake of the Revolution the Bible Society of Egypt is facing an economic crisis. Its annual book fair, by which it pays its creditors, was due to start three days before the Revolution began and had to be cancelled. By God's grace, your gifts and prayers will help them to weather this storm and to continue to reach out to the people of Egypt during these historic times.
Finding faith and security in Israel
Three issues are said to be vital to Israel's future: security, water and faith.
The Bible Society of Israel wants Jewish people to know the only real source of security: that which comes from being in a relationship with Him. It wants them to drink of the living water whereby no one need ever thirst again.
Bible Society is providing Scripture materials suitable for a Jewish audience to overcome common stumbling blocks to faith. Messianic Psalms, for example, is a booklet which uses Scripture verses to show that Jesus is the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy.
One elderly Jewish man from the south of Israel when he was given a copy of Messianic Psalms, said, "You must be talking about Yeshua. Don't you think you have gone too far?" But after only a few minutes of talking to a Bible Society staff member he was able to see how the Old Testament prophecies find their fulfilment in Jesus.
Security in the Promises, this time alluding to Israel's ever present security concerns, also focuses on this issue.
But perhaps the most important tool is the Hebrew Cross Reference Bible, printed for the first time this year, which will allow people to really explore the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament in detail.
"Returnees" finding Christ upon arrival
Some are calling it a miracle: the number of Russian and Ethiopian "returnees" who are turning to Christ.
"Returnees" are the almost three million Jewish migrants who, since 1948 under the Jewish "Law of Return," have immigrated to Israel from all over the world.
Ethiopian Jews first arrived in Israel as a result of two secret airlifts orchestrated by the Israeli and the US governments during a time of war and famine in Ethiopia. The first was from Sudan in 1984 and the second from Ethiopia in 1991.
But they struggled to be accepted by their fellow Israelis often suffering unemployment, poverty and discrimination. Russian Jews began arriving en masse after the fall of communism in 1991. There are now more than a million Russian Jews in Israel. But many of them are poor and elderly. They struggle to learn Hebrew and to understand the finer points of Jewish culture.
Ongoing hardships have made both of these groups more open to the message of the Gospel. Russian believers now make up 23 percent of Messianic congregations. There are six Ethiopian congregations.
Bible Society is working to bring the Word of God to both of these groups with a special Hebrew Russian Diglot Bible and Ethiopian Bibles.
Bibles still relevant in conflict stricken land
The tranquility of the peaceful walled garden at the Palestinian Bible Society's Living Stones resource centre for university students in Bir Zeit, a village on the West Bank, belies the struggle it has had during the last ten years.
Once the scene of two arson attacks, as well as outright rejection by churches, Muslims, politicians – in fact, the whole community – the centre has now found widespread acceptance.
Its work in Muslim schools is now a "dream come true," according to Palestinian Bible Society General Secretary, Nashat Filmon.
Perhaps such a dramatic turnaround, where former opponents become close friends, comes down to the approach that Mr Filmon and his team take.
Combining prayer with a willingness to build relationships in this conflict stricken land has taken them into towns and villages where otherwise Christ might not be known.
Take the case of Bible Society's Zacchaeus' House in Jericho, for example. Here, marginalised women and teenagers – both Muslim and Christian – are ministered to.
By attending weekly talks on topics relevant to them, such as self esteem and body image for teenagers, the door is naturally opened for the sharing of the Gospel.
Such an approach is leading to a thriving youth ministry on the West Bank which includes distributing Bibles in schools, using music and drama to nurture the well-being of children and running summer camps.
Gulf focus on Arab Spring
In a day which highlighted the unique role that Bible Society plays in the Gulf States region, it organised a forum in Kuwait for Christian leaders to discuss the events of the Arab Spring from a biblical perspective.
Sixty participants from Arab-speaking churches gathered to discuss issues, such as, does governmental authority come from God and do Christians have the right to protest at unfair regimes?
The day was welcomed by many as an opportunity to discuss these sensitive matters which, so far, the churches have not focused on.
"As Christians, we have many questions about the events unfolding in the countries around us," said Rola, a representative from the Maronite Catholic Church. "We need to know how to respond to these events in a Christian way," she said.
By the end of the day, lengthy discussions, much of it based on Romans 13:1-2 and 1 Peter 2:13-17, had taken place.
Common conclusions were reached: including that Christians should respect and submit to authority as appointed by God. However, abuse of power, the forum decided, does not come from God and Christians have the right to non-violent protest.
Father Ardag of the Armenian Orthodox Church praised Bible Society for its "daring and sensitive handling" of such critical issues.
Tuning in across the Middle East
Across the Middle East millions of people are tuning in to satellite TV. It's fast becoming the means of entertainment accessible even to the poorest people. It's also the means by which many are tuning in, often secretly, to the message of the Gospel.
This year, the Bible Society of Lebanon produced a mini-series entitled The Word is Yours, which was broadcast during Lent and Easter on two well known secular TV channels.
Each documentary consisted of a well known Bible scholar reading a book of the Bible; an interviewer asking people on the streets of Beirut questions about the Bible; and an interview with a famous Christian actor or artist.
The series, which was well received, will now be broadcast on Christian satellite TV station SAT-7.
Youssef El-Khal, a famous Lebanese actor, pictured, was one of the guests on the series who spoke about his faith.
Partner with us to support this programme by giving online.
This article is from The Word at Work – Spring 2011.