For Imad Dabour, persecution is part and parcel of being a Christian in predominantly Muslim North Africa.
It is a region that has had next to no church for eight centuries. But now the church is rising again in spite of daily challenges, the pastor told delegates at Cape Town 2010 Tuesday night.
Although there are no exact figures, the number of Christians in North Africa is estimated to be in the tens of thousands.
In the likes of majority-Muslim Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, most Christians are converts from Islam.
In such a hostile environment, growing in their new identity as a Christian is not easy and many new converts face losing their friends and family, Dabour explained.
With persecution occurring daily across the region, becoming a Christian is a “serious decision.”
“There are two things about Christianity that we teach people – that it gives you salvation and a lot of joy with it, and persecution," he said. "Persecution is a basic teaching in our church."
Despite the difficulties, the church continues to teach converts the truth that Jesus is the only way.
“It is a hostile environment [and] a daily challenge for Christians with a new identity from a Muslim background,” he noted.
More than 4,000 Christian leaders are in Cape Town, South Africa, this week for the Third Lausanne Congress on world evangelization. Tuesday night’s session addressed the challenges faced by believers living in regions where conflict or persecution is a part of everyday life.
Also addressing the Congress was Rajael Achi, who serves in children’s ministry in Lebanon.
He said children were exposed to violence and fear in the face of ongoing unrest in the country and entire Middle East region.
“Many people have lost hope in a good future in the country and want to leave. The children dream of leaving as they grow up,” Achi said.
Although many families and children are choosing to leave Lebanon and the church, Achi is desperate to see those who remain in the country come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior.
The conditions for evangelism are favorable but he believes Christians must make the most of the opportunities.
“The Lord has given us freedom of worship and of ministry outreach and evangelism that we need to make use of," he said. “If we want a better future for Lebanon, if we want better leaders for Lebanon we need to start now in reaching out to children.”
He continued, “There are no unreached children in Lebanon. Every child is reached. But if they are not reached by the Gospel something else will reach them.”