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Libya beyond Gaddafi: Prays for access to Jesus
Ava Thomas, Baptist Press
August 23, 2011
3 MIN READ TIME

Libya beyond Gaddafi: Prays for access to Jesus

Libya beyond Gaddafi: Prays for access to Jesus
Ava Thomas, Baptist Press
August 23, 2011

TRIPOLI, Libya – Tripoli, Libya, woke up Aug. 22 to the

imminent end of 42 years of rule by Muammar Gaddafi – the longest-running Arab

leader ever.

In Syria, meanwhile, violent clashes continue in the streets between President

Bashar al-Assad’s forces and his opponents.

NATO-backed rebel forces in Libya seized control of much of Tripoli on Aug. 21

after months of brutal war tactics by Gaddafi. The rebels continue to fight for

the rest of the capital city.

In one part of Tripoli, a local imam sang not the call to prayer but the

national anthem of the pre-Gaddafi monarchy, according to BBC News.

President Barack Obama called it a “tipping point,” asserting in a statement

that Tripoli is “slipping from the grasp of a tyrant.” He and other world

leaders are calling for Gaddafi to end his claim to power.

Christian leaders like Nik Ripken*, meanwhile, are praying for stability of a

different kind in Libya.

“Often we ask people to pray that governments provide the safety and security

necessary for the Gospel to spread, such as the early church had under the

Roman Empire,” said Ripken, who has served 25 years with the International

Mission Board and is an expert on the persecuted church in Muslim contexts. “But

when stability is the stability of governments that deny their people even

access to Jesus, then that is the worst form of persecution.”

Ripken asks believers worldwide to pray for the kind of stability in Libya

where access to Jesus is a basic human right.

And Christian leaders across the region join him in that request, praying for

similar freedoms in other nations affected by the “Arab Spring,” the wave of

political protests and change sweeping North Africa and the Middle East since

December 2010.

Violent clashes still happen in countries like Syria, where al-Assad released a

statement Aug. 22 saying that his government would not fall. About 2,500 have

died in Syria’s crisis, according to the BBC.

Natalie Shepherd*, who formerly lived and worked alongside her husband in

Syria, said she believes God will work through the unrest there to bring people

to salvation in Jesus Christ.

“Years ago during Ramadan we joined a small group of Christ-followers inside

Syria to pray all night. I remember we cried out to God to do whatever it takes

to bring millions inside Syria to salvation in Jesus,” Shepherd said.

Today she is praying that God will use what is happening in Syria now as a

catalyst for that very thing.

“I want to see thousands encounter Christ just like Saul did on his way to

Damascus, so we begin to see bold, passionate disciples like Paul spreading the

Good News,” Shepherd said.

Ripken said Christians in the West can help not only by praying for the spread

of the Gospel in war-torn nations but also by learning not to be persecutors

themselves.

“Pray today that we will not join the persecutors by denying our family,

neighbors and friends access to Jesus,” Ripken said.

*Names have been changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ava Thomas is an International Mission

Board writer/editor based in London.)