THE CHURCH IN CHAD: GROWING BUT ONLY IN THE SOUTH

1. History

The Republic of Chad is a landlocked African country occupying most of Libya’s Saharan border and progressing through the Sahel down into the vast forests of Africa. Beginning in the 7th millennium BC, human populations moved into the Chadian basin in great numbers. By the end of the 1st millennium AD, a series of states and empires had risen and fallen in Chad’s Sahelian Strip, each focused on controlling the trans-Saharan trade routes that passed through the region satisfying the Roman need for salt and slaves.

Traditionally, the fertile oasis region around Lake Chad was a focal point for these trans-Saharan trade routes. In the 7th Century Arab traders penetrated the area. Shortly thereafter, nomads from North Africa entered the Chad basin and eventually established the Kanem Empire which reached its zenith in the 13th Century. Its kings soon converted to Islam, the religion also practiced by the successor kingdom of Bornu. The Bornu fell to the Wadai and Bagirmi empires in the 16th century. By the early 1890s all of these states fell under the control of the Sudanese. Fighting for power and control is in the Chadian blood.

French expeditions advanced into the region in 1890 and by 1913 the conquest of Chad was complete. In 1920 it became a separate colony and it was granted its own territorial legislature in 1946. Full independence was attained on Aug. 11, 1960.

In 1900 Islam was still only the second most dominant religion to animist African beliefs and practices. This changed dramatically after independence as Islam advanced to become a majority religion in the country.

2. Today

Chad is now 52% Muslim. Being desperately poor, it has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world. Around half the population is 15 years old or under and literacy is just over 50%. Its average income is just 2% of the USA, and that is only because of the discovery of oil which mostly finds its way into the hands of the elite and the army. Droughts are common, as is political instability. Sadly, Chad frequently picks up the gong for the world’s most corrupt country.

Since 2003 the Darfur crisis in Sudan has spilt over the border and destabilised the nation, with hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees living in and around camps in eastern Chad. Corruption, lack of economic incentive and government failure to support local agricultural production has meant that the majority of Chadians live via subsistence agriculture and in daily uncertainty and hunger.

3. Evangelical Highlights

Being a French colony, only the Catholic version of Christianity was promoted in Chad up until independence. Since then there has been a strong and steady increase in the number of evangelical believers who now surprisingly number just under 10% of the total population. There are now over 2 million Christians in total out of 13 million people and there are over 6,000 individual church congregations. Unfortunately almost all of these Christians are in the deep south where African Animist religions once prevailed.

Little impact has been made on the dominant northern Muslim community. Since independence Islam has grown from 25% to 57% of the population and is now in the political ascendency. Sadly, there is a huge cultural, ethnic, linguistic, geographic and religious divide between the north and south that is not easily bridged. Subtle pressure is now also being exerted on the country by Muslims in high places in the government and military via financial missions money from the Middle East. The tragedy that is Darfur has also brought many disillusioned Sudanese Muslims from the east into contact with the Gospel for the first time.

At the present time the surge of growth in Christianity seems to have run its course. Many congregations are losing their missions vision. Division between churches is rising, as is nominalism and the occult. Traditional religions are trying to reclaim their lost adherents through such activities as the Yondo initiation rituals. Most new believers just want to find a religion that will deal with the power of the occult that invades so much of life in this part of the world.

To its credit Chad’s government has maintained a strict policy of freedom of religion and welcomes Christian missionaries. Within this framework of tolerance, the number of Muslims coming to Christ continues to grow slowly. Chad’s Arabic Christian radio station is a great resource in these efforts in a country that has such a low level of literacy.

4. Prayer Points

Praise God for the amazing harvest in the southern tip of the country over the last 40 years.

Pray for the breaking of occult powers and demonic strongholds.

Pray for the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to be revealed in dark places.

Pray that the love of Christ becomes visible through the actions of both the evangelical and Catholic church.

Pray that Chadians will reject the pressure of Middle eastern Muslim fundamentalists.

Pray for a renewal of the missions vision of the church.

Pray for cross cultural workers from the south to move into the north.

Pray for an insider movement within Islam to show them the way to Jesus in a culturally sensitive way.

Pray for souls to be set free.

Lord, Your Kingdom come, your will be done, no earth as it is in heaven.

Next week: Comoros

Kevin Davis

Check Out This Blog Site

Hi Friends,

Every now and then I come across an individual who is making a difference in peoples lives via sharing their thoughts on the internet. One such person is Matt Clark. His blog site is full of wisdom beyond his years.

It is therefore with great pleasure that I ask you to check it out for yourself. His tact is completely different from mine. He speaks to the human heart, and on issues relating to a generation younger than myself, whereas I speak more to the intellect. We need both.

So, here is the site and I trust you enjoy having a look.

www.walkingtheshoreline.com

Matt tells me it is read by several hundred people globally and has already saved at least one marriage.

Kevin

THE CHURCH IN CHAD: GROWING BUT ONLY IN THE SOUTH

1. History

The Republic of Chad is a landlocked African country occupying most of Libya’s Saharan border and progressing through the Sahel down into the vast forests of Africa. Beginning in the 7th millennium BC, human populations moved into the Chadian basin in great numbers. By the end of the 1st millennium AD, a series of states and empires had risen and fallen in Chad’s Sahelian Strip, each focused on controlling the trans-Saharan trade routes that passed through the region satisfying the Roman need for salt and slaves.

Traditionally, the fertile oasis region around Lake Chad was a focal point for these trans-Saharan trade routes. In the 7th Century Arab traders penetrated the area. Shortly thereafter, nomads from North Africa entered the Chad basin and eventually established the Kanem Empire which reached its zenith in the 13th Century. Its kings soon converted to Islam, the religion also practiced by the successor kingdom of Bornu. The Bornu fell to the Wadai and Bagirmi empires in the 16th century. By the early 1890s all of these states fell under the control of the Sudanese. Fighting for power and control is in the Chadian blood.

French expeditions advanced into the region in 1890 and by 1913 the conquest of Chad was complete. In 1920 it became a separate colony and it was granted its own territorial legislature in 1946. Full independence was attained on Aug. 11, 1960.

In 1900 Islam was still only the second most dominant religion to animist African beliefs and practices. This changed dramatically after independence as Islam advanced to become a majority religion in the country.

2. Today

Chad is now 52% Muslim. Being desperately poor, it has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world. Around half the population is 15 years old or under and literacy is just over 50%. Its average income is just 2% of the USA, and that is only because of the discovery of oil which mostly finds its way into the hands of the elite and the army. Droughts are common, as is political instability. Sadly, Chad frequently picks up the gong for the world’s most corrupt country.

Since 2003 the Darfur crisis in Sudan has spilt over the border and destabilised the nation, with hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees living in and around camps in eastern Chad. Corruption, lack of economic incentive and government failure to support local agricultural production has meant that the majority of Chadians live via subsistence agriculture and in daily uncertainty and hunger.

3. Evangelical Highlights

Being a French colony, only the Catholic version of Christianity was promoted in Chad up until independence. Since then there has been a strong and steady increase in the number of evangelical believers who now surprisingly number just under 10% of the total population. There are now over 2 million Christians in total out of 13 million people and there are over 6,000 individual church congregations. Unfortunately almost all of these Christians are in the deep south where African Animist religions once prevailed.

Little impact has been made on the dominant northern Muslim community. Since independence Islam has grown from 25% to 57% of the population and is now in the political ascendency. Sadly, there is a huge cultural, ethnic, linguistic, geographic and religious divide between the north and south that is not easily bridged. Subtle pressure is now also being exerted on the country by Muslims in high places in the government and military via financial missions money from the Middle East. The tragedy that is Darfur has also brought many disillusioned Sudanese Muslims from the east into contact with the Gospel for the first time.

At the present time the surge of growth in Christianity seems to have run its course. Many congregations are losing their missions vision. Division between churches is rising, as is nominalism and the occult. Traditional religions are trying to reclaim their lost adherents through such activities as the Yondo initiation rituals. Most new believers just want to find a religion that will deal with the power of the occult that invades so much of life in this part of the world.

To its credit Chad’s government has maintained a strict policy of freedom of religion and welcomes Christian missionaries. Within this framework of tolerance, the number of Muslims coming to Christ continues to grow slowly. Chad’s Arabic Christian radio station is a great resource in these efforts in a country that has such a low level of literacy.

4. Prayer Points

Praise God for the amazing harvest in the southern tip of the country over the last 40 years.

Pray for the breaking of occult powers and demonic strongholds.

Pray for the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to be revealed in dark places.

Pray that the love of Christ becomes visible through the actions of both the evangelical and Catholic church.

Pray that Chadians will reject the pressure of Middle eastern Muslim fundamentalists.

Pray for a renewal of the missions vision of the church.

Pray for cross cultural workers from the south to move into the north.

Pray for an insider movement within Islam to show them the way to Jesus in a culturally sensitive way.

Pray for souls to be set free.

 

Lord, Your Kingdom come, your will be done, no earth as it is in heaven.

Next week: Comoros

Kevin Davis

 

BURKINA FASO: THE CHURCH IS GROWING, BUT SO IS ISLAM

Here is my ninth weekly prayer newsletter on a majority Islamic country. If you would like to sign up to receive them into your email inbox just fill in the box on the right (lap tops and Ipads) or scroll to the bottom (phones).

BURKINA FASO: THE CHURCH IS GROWING, BUT SO IS ISLAM
1. History
Slightly larger than Victoria in Australia, Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa of some 20 million people that ranges from tropical savannah in the south to the Sahara Desert in the north. The name Burkina Faso means The land of upright men.

Its ancient history is one of small subsistence tribal groups until the arrival of the Mossi peoples from Ghana sometime around the 14th Century. The Mossi established an empire that covered much of modern Burkina Faso as well as a wider region. Being located near many of the main Islamic states of West Africa, the Mossi kingdoms developed a mixed religious system recognizing some authority for Islam while retaining earlier ancestor-focused Animist worship. Although they had initially resisted Islamic imposition and retained independence from the main Islamic states around them, eventually there began to be a growing number of Muslims living in the kingdom. But by 1900 the colony was still 90% Animist and 10% Muslim. As the 20th Century progressed the number of Muslims increased rapidly, as did the number of Catholics. By 2000 the country was over 55% Muslim and roughly 20% Christian, with Animism making up the remainder, but shrinking in influence.

In 1897, the Mossi became a French protectorate and by 1903 France had subjugated all other ethnic groups in that region of Africa. The French kept the institutions of the Mossi empire largely intact for decades. Unlike the British, the French had little interest in social development in its empire. So what the French then called Upper Volta was left without much in the way of education, health care, administrative infrastructure and economic development when it became independent on Aug. 5, 1960.

2. Situation Today
This lack of development has led to an average life expectancy of just 54 years, an average income of 1% of the USA and a revolving door of military coups since independence. Population density is high by African standards in the south. With over 90% of the population involved in subsistence agriculture, in times of drought large migrations take place into neighbouring countries, especially to Cote d’Ivoire (The Ivory Coast). Democracy is now slowly taking root but the military is always a factor in the background. The country is still a secular state with a remarkable level of religious freedom.

Islam takes on an unusual flavour in Burkina Faso. On the surface it is largely Sunni , but Shi’a is growing in popularity. Then again Sufism is also very popular. Below these surface labels however, locals are quick to tell you that Burkina Faso is 55% Muslim, 20% Christian and 100% Animist! Witchcraft and the occult are still widely followed by people in all the new religions. This unusual blend of Islam continues to grow numerically and unfortunately will one day dominate politics and the culture.

3. Evangelical Highlights
Burkina Faso is therefore a country rapidly dividing between the world’s two major religions as the number of Animist continues to shrink. Most Christians are in the centre and south. The desert north belongs to Islam. The populated south west is disputed between the two religions. Sadly, because of the influence of French Catholicism, by 1960 there were still virtually no evangelical believers in the country. This situation changed dramatically in the decades leading up to the year 2000 and the country is now 10% evangelical, or some 2 million people are born again. This was one of the most dramatic growth rates in the history of Christianity. Growth has now slowed to about 4% a year, about the same growth rate as Islam. The great influx of new Christians has left the new churches with little in the way of missions vision because the harvest of souls was TOO easy for too long!

Unfortunately, only 10% of the evangelical community, or some 200,000 people come from a Muslim background. In addition, little energy is being put into evangelising the majority Muslim population. Topping this off, many parts of the church are still influenced by the Animism and spiritism. The power of the occult is yet to be decisively broken. This is the key point when considering how to pray for Burkina Faso as evangelical churches are still absorbing the huge growth of the last century and still developing a strong sense of mission.

4. Prayer Points
Pray for the crushing of demonic strongholds.
Pray that the 1 million members of the AOG church will launch the next wave of evangelism.
Pray for the 1 million Catholics to come to Jesus.
Pray for the many Christian radio stations to reach the unreached.
Pray for the Holy Spirit to tap Muslims on the shoulder, creating workers to reach other Muslims.
Pray for the millions of evangelicals across Africa to get a vision for Burkina Faso.
Pray for a deepening of understanding of the Christian faith among evangelicals.
Pray for religious freedom to continue.
Pray for souls.

How Repeatable Are Scientific Studies?

Every now and then I come across an article that is well worth passing on.

In the field of science the rock-hard foundation on which it all stands is repeatability. If a result can’t be repeated many times over we cannot draw serious conclusions about the studies claims regarding the material world.

I have just read an excellent report on how much of what passes as published scientific results is not repeatable. The levels are disturbingly high for the fields of psychology and historical sciences, less so in the fields of physics and chemistry, the hard sciences.

Here is the link. Enjoy.

Kevin Davis

Islams Mecca Part Four: Mecca’s Geography And Climate

Mecca is situated some 80 kilometres inland from the port of Jiddah. It is a barren, desert area, with small rocky hills jutting out of a flat sand-filled plain. It is devoid of forest, any oasis and accompanying grass and trees. It therefore had no timber to build with and no ships for trade. Because of its harsh climate, Mecca also had no agricultural hinterland. The logic of this fact forces us to rethink the whole concept of Meccan trade. How would massive camel caravans of a thousand or more animals have been replenished in such a barren place? Mecca only receives about 110mm of rain a year over an average of 22 days, or about 6mm per rain event. Rain was indeed a novelty. There was therefore no feed for livestock, let alone food for people. Barren places off the beaten track do not make natural sites for stopovers on international trade routes, let alone cities of trading empires producing armies of up to 10,000 men.

Yet Mecca is said by the Hadith literature to have been at the crossroads of significant international caravan trade routes. This is a complete fabrication as it is missing from all trade maps until the 9th Century. This lack of evidence makes sense if you consider that sea transport was vastly cheaper than land transport in late antiquity, and still is. Why would cargo be unloaded at Jiddah, taken 80 kilometres east to Mecca, then 80 kilometres further east and 1,500 metres up the mountains to the plateau town of Ta’if, then north toward the Mediterranean via overland camels when it could have continued in bulk by sea at a much faster pace? What a prohibitive and uncompetitive cost to the merchants receiving Meccan produce or spices! The need to provision such enterprises makes it without question physically impossible for trade to have originated from Mecca, or even transited through, as everything imported would have been very expensive. Making a profit via the uncompetitive overland trade route would have been utterly impossible.

In light of the above logic it is indeed surprising that the Qur’an also talks at great length about agricultural practices and the raising of livestock in the vicinity of its writer, who it claims lived in Mecca. These practices did indeed exist at and around Petra due to elaborate irrigation systems. Dry-land cereal cropping also existed in the upper Negev desert and lower Jordan. I have personally seen marginal grain fields around Beersheba at sowing time. In contrast, Mecca is totally devoid of any agricultural hinterland and associated livestock farming. Incredulously, the writer of the Qur’an, who was supposed to have lived in Mecca even talks about grape vines, olives, grain, fruit trees, dense shrubbery and fresh herbage (Q 80:27-31). This is in spite of the fact that olives are impossible to grow in the oppressive Meccan climate. But in the northwest corner of Arabia at Nabataea, in the lower Jordan and the upper Negev, agriculture flourished and it was even possible to grow olive trees. Why else would Abraham have settled there? It is looking more and more likely that the writer of the Qur’an lived somewhere else than modern Mecca and this city was theologically moved to central Arabia after the facts. The Qur’an itself suggests so.

On top of those significant agricultural contradictions we are told Mecca was a centre of pilgrimage with thousands flocking in for the religious festivals with their animals. I will talk more about this later, but let me just say that this would only compound the problem of food supplies. Crone says that when we first hear of Mecca as a pilgrimage site it is in the new Muslim era and not before. We also find they were importing grain from Egypt to feed the pilgrims, by sea of course. The more people we place in Mecca the more imports we must generate to sustain life there. All these difficulties vanish if we locate the Arab trading centre closer to established centres of agriculture, as the Qur’an points to.

Finally, in the era before the Roman Empire there was indeed an inland caravan route from Yemen to Palestine. It followed the elevated edge of the Sarawat Mountains, which run parallel to the coast all the way up the Red Sea. Yet Mecca is on the coastal plain, well over a kilometre in altitude below this inland route. Why would a caravan deviate some 80 kilometres from Ta’if, which was on the inland route and capable of resupplying a caravan with food, drop 1,500 meters in altitude down a canyon to barren Mecca, and then crawl back up to continue their journey? This would make absolutely no commercial sense.

You can read the whole essay under the Islam link on the home page.

Kevin Davis

THE CHURCH IN BRUNEI: DESPERATE FOR A BREAKTHROUGH

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1. History
Brunei is a tiny country of just over 400,000 people on the northwest coast of the Island of Borneo, an island shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. Records show that Brunei was trading with China as far back as the 6th century. Historical references in Chinese and Hindu chronicles refer to a maritime-based trading kingdom situated at the mouth of the Brunei River. Its history and existence in medieval times was closely linked to the founders of the Ming Dynasty in China and to Chinese Buddhism.

From the 13th to the 15th Centuries, through allegiance to the Javanese Majapahit kingdom it came under Hindu influence. Then, in the early 15th century the kingdom was then exposed to Muslim traders from Malacca and widespread conversion to Islam took place. Brunei became an independent Islamic sultanate after the king’s conversion. It was a powerful state from the 16th to the 18th century, ruling over the northern part of Borneo, adjacent island chains and even pats of the Philippines. Brunei eventually fell into economic and political decay and lost Sarawak in 1841 to the British. It became a British protectorate in 1888, and then a British dependency in 1905. Japan briefly occupied Brunei during World War II before it was liberated by Australia in 1945.

The sultan regained control over internal affairs in 1959, but Britain retained responsibility for the state’s defence and foreign affairs until independence in 1984. Oil has since made Brunei very, very wealthy. Citizens pay no income tax and Brunei even owns the Beverly Hills Hotel amongst many foreign investments. Brunei now has one of the highest per-capita incomes in Asia and the sultan is believed to be one of the richest and most ostentatious men in the world. He and his brother are extremely self-indulgent and the sultan even sports a harem of 30 young women flown in from all over the world.

2. Today
Brunei is practically an absolute monarchy, with very limited political representation. In 2013 the Sultan started imposing draconian sharia law on all Muslims, who make up two-thirds of the country’s 400,000 inhabitants. Attendance at Friday prayers is now compulsory and brutal punishments are handed out for actions deemed crimes in the Qur’an. Hypocritically, the Sultan is legally exempt from all sharia laws and just as well considering his lifestyle! Non-Muslims are now subject to creeping Islamisation via its compulsory teaching in the entire school system. This has led to a new brain-drain among the well-educated who hate the new restrictions on themselves and influence on their children.

Brunei’s wealth is built solely on oil. Ninety three percent of all government revenues come from oil exports which are now declining and oil will run out within two decades. Brunei’s declining economic fortunes are being countered by ever-growing Chinese economic influence. After many centuries it is once again becoming an outpost of Chinese mercantilism!

Sunni Islam is dominant and restrictive. Islam is obligatory for all Malays from birth. Leaving Islam is forbidden and punishable. It is believed there are only a handful of Malay believers in Brunei and they face severe persecution if found out. Christian witness and missions work by foreigners is not permitted, but Christians may freely convert to Islam and the government is constantly offering financial inducements to anyone, especially tribal Christians, to convert.

3. Evangelistic Highlights
Anglican missionaries first came to Brunei in 1848. The Roman Catholic Church has also been established in Brunei for over 100 years but its leadership were all expelled in 1991. Three Australian missionaries established the Borneo Evangelical Mission in Sarawak in 1928, a work that led to the birth of the SIB Church, which now numbers 500,000 in neighbouring Malaysian Borneo. Although still functioning among the village people, the SIB has no legal presence in Brunei.

The religious atmosphere in Brunei is repressive but evangelical Christians still surprisingly number 6.1 percent of the total population, many are from the Dusun people group who are farmers living in the jungle villages. Some 15% of the Chinese population, who control most commerce in Brunei, are also Christian. Many believers are affiliated with a growing number of independent congregations and most of these are not officially registered. Some Christians do meet secretly but meetings in homes are being regularly raided by the religious police in an effort to shut them down. The number of believers is growing at around 4% a year, much to the consternation of the Islamist government. The government also greatly fears the influence of the internet and its access to alternative beliefs to Islam.

4. Prayer Points
Pray for the destruction of demonic strongholds and hidden powers.
Pray for miracles to multiply. It is only the supernatural that will destroy Satan’s grip.
Pray for internet access to bring people to Christ.
Pray for a hunger for truth and for Islam’s lies to be exposed.
Pray for the salvation of the royal family via a conviction of sin.
Pray for a revival among the tribal and Chinese believers that spills over to the Malay community.
Pray for strength in the face of creeping Islamisation.
Pray for hypocrisy in high places to weaken the reputation of Islam in the eyes of the people.
Pray that the eventual financial collapse will bring a flood of people to freedom in Christ.
Pray for the few Malay believers who must keep their faith a secret.

Kevin Davis

Mecca In The Qur’an

This is the third section of my extensive essay on the History of Mecca. It examines all references to Mecca and every other place mentioned in the Qur’an. It is further proof that Mecca’s true history is not the same as the history we are given in Islamic tradition. You can read the full essay under the Islam tab…

MECCA IN THE QUR’AN

Mecca’s current status is central to Islam and the Arab-centric nature of Islam. After the Qur’an, it is the epicentre of Islam. All historical, physical and theological roads lead to this mystical city. All Muslims the world over must pray in its direction. It is variously described as the mother of all cities, the centre of the world, the oldest city in the world and the city first established by Abraham as the first place of monotheistic worship.

It comes as something of a surprise then that what is taken for granted today to be Mecca is only mentioned twice in the Qur’an. Assuming the following references are talking about the same place, surah 48:24 describes it simply as the valley of Makkah, and surah 3:96 simply calls it Makkah. Sometimes it is also called Bakkah. Bakkah is a Semitic word that means The Valley of Weeping.

This startling lack of Qur’anic references is part and parcel of the structure of the Qur’an, it is an utterly confusing and frustrating book to read on its own as it rarely says who is speaking, who is being spoken to and what the context is. That’s why Muslim scholars invented the Sira and the Hadith. The Qur’an only mentions nine different geographic place names in over 149,000 words. This infrequency of geographic references, at the rate of one every 2,299, is one tenth what it is in the New Testament. One suspects this is deliberate. It’s as if the Qur’an is trying to avoid pinning down its original location. You will find out why as you read on.

Here is the full list of all place names in the Qur’an, with frequencies:

Location Frequency
Thamud 24
Ad 23
Midian 7
Yathrib (Medina) 2
Valley of Bakkah (or Makkah) 2
Tubb’a 1
Al-Ras 1
Hijr 1

And that’s it for a 400 page book! It’s not much to go on for any historian trying to find the truth about Mecca. But there are clues from that list, so let’s look at them now.

The Midianites were descendants of Abraham and lived at the top of the Red Sea. Moses is said to have lived with them for 40 years (Exodus 2:15-23). These people are easily located in lower Jordan. They lived nowhere near modern Mecca.

Ad (sometimes Aad) is a foreign word to Arabic. Specific details about the people of Ad are given in surah 7:65-72, surah 11:50-60, surah 26:123-140 and surah 89:6-14. From these passages we glean the following clues: They built high alters and monuments, they had cattle, springs and gardens, they had a leader called Hud, they had strongholds and homes in the rocks, they built a many-columned city called Iram and they lived close to the people of Thamud. From those clues we can safely say that the Ad knew a lot about Greek columned architecture, they were versatile farmers and lived in the rocks and mountains. This is definitely not a description of an Arabian city but a vivid picture of Petra. Nothing else anywhere further south fits the bill as Petra was the final outpost of Hellenistic culture and architecture. If it was Petra, and the Qur’an says the Thamud lived close by, then the Ad, Thamud and Midianites were all in lower Jordan or at the top of the Red Sea, not deep in the Arabian Peninsula. This was the centre of the land of the famous Nabataeans, the one group of Arabs who were culturally sophisticated, highly literate, commercially savvy and downright wealthy because they dominated the trade to Europe.

This view is reinforced by the evidence for Thamud in the Qur’an and the Hadith. The Qur’an says Thamud had gardens and water-springs and tilled fields and heavy sheathed palm trees (surah 26:141-159) and they hewed the rock into dwellings (surah 7:73-79). This is clearly a description of Nabataean rock excavating culture and its agriculture. Thamud’s location in the Hadith is given as Al-Hijr (Bukhari 4:562 and Fiqh us-Sunnah Hadith 4:83). Al-Hijr was the southern-most outpost of the Nabataean Empire, 800 kilometres north of Mecca. It is full of Nabataean tombs and is on the World Heritage list. The Qur’an’s repeated references to Thamud demonstrate its importance to the Qur’an’s writers.

It would be no accident that the Nabataeans feature in the Qur’an, howbeit under a different name, having their status theologically transferred to Mecca by the Abbasids. It was they who controlled the ancient spice trade from Arabia into Europe. It was they who pioneered sea-based transport up the Red Sea. It was they who became so fabulously wealthy as middle men that the Romans had to invade and conquer them to get in on the trade. It was they who gave the Arabic alphabet most of its letters. It was they who were by far the best adapted Arabs for handling the larger world around them in the centuries before Islam. It was they who worshipped at many cube shaped temples called a Ka’ba. We will talk in depth about Petra later.

Now let’s focus back on the two enigmatic references to Makkah/Bakkah for a moment. Makkah/Bakkah is further described in surah 3:95-7 as the spot where Abraham stood. Pilgrimage to the house is a duty to Allah for all who can make the journey.  This is clearly the role Mecca plays today, but contrary to Islamic tradition, there is not a scrap of objective historical evidence that Abraham ever went to the Arabian Peninsula. So where was Makkah/Bakkah? History records that Abraham lived at Beersheba in the Negev desert in southern Israel, as did his immediate descendants including his first-born son and the ancestor of the Arabs, Ishmael. Another son of Abraham was Midian. One of the sons of Ishmael was Nebaioth, ancestor of the Nabataeans. The Syrians are descended from Abraham’s brother Nahor. The Jordanians are descended from Abraham’s nephew Lot. These ancestors of the Arabs all lived in the Levant, not lower Arabia.

In times concurrent with the rise of the Arab Empire these descendants of Ishmael had a famous pilgrimage site close to Beersheba, near Abraham’s great oak of Mamre. They all knew where to go to honour their combined ancestor. An excellent description of this place comes from Sozomen’s Historia Ecclesiastica, chapter 4. So it seems logical that the original Makkah/Bakkah could also be located close to Midian, Ad and Thamud in the region of the Negev Desert and lower Jordan.

In addition to this hard evidence, all mosques in Islam’s early years actually faced Petra, not far from Mamre, and were then switched to face Mecca at a later date in the 8th Century. Yes you read that correctly. They all initially faced Petra, not modern Mecca. The Qur’an even records this change in direction for prayer, called the qibla which is Arabic for direction, from the north to the south in surah 2:143-4. But as usual the Qur’an it doesn’t say from where it was in the past to where it was to be in the future, or even when the change took place. Significantly, the oldest Qur’ans do not have Surah Two, so do not mention this change of direction. On the other hand the Hadith literature kindly and conveniently declare that it took place early, during the life of Muhammad in 624AD to be precise, and was a switch from Jerusalem to modern Mecca. None of this information is in the Qur’an. I will explain more about this change of direction toward the end of the essay.

The view that Makkah/Bakkah was in northern Arabia and not central Arabia is strengthened by the reference to a place called Baka in Psalm 84 of the Old Testament:

Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

Below I will line up the two Qur’anic quotes about Makkah/Bakkah so we can compare the three together:

Surah 3:96-7: Indeed, the first House [of worship] established for mankind was that at Makkah – blessed and a guidance for the worlds. In it are clear signs [such as] the standing place of Abraham. And whoever enters it shall be safe. And [due] to Allah from the people is a pilgrimage to the House – for whoever is able to find thereto a way.

Surah 48:24. And it is He who withheld their hands from you and your hands from them within the valley of Makkah after He caused you to overcome them. And ever is Allah of what you do, Seeing.

After reading all three references, you will notice similarities. They refer to a house of God. They refer to the valley of Baka/Bakkah/Makkah. They refer to a place of worship. But then there’s the mention of autumn rains covering the valley with pools of water in Psalm 84. Mecca has virtually no rain, let alone autumn rains. It receives only a total of 50 millimetres in those three months on hot baked ground. Baka was not Mecca by any stretch of the climatic imagination.

Could it be that the Qur’anic references are a plagiarised version of a poem written some 1,500 years earlier referring to Jerusalem, often called Zion in the Old Testament? Could this be why Abd al-Malik, king of the Arab Empire from 685-705AD built his ultimate statement of the emerging religion, the Dome of the Rock Mosque, on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem itself which many believe to be exact spot called Zion? After all some 7% of the Qur’an is plagiarised passages from the Old Testament. Additionally, the temple Abd al-Malik built on the Temple Mount faced Petra and still does. Abd al-Malik cleverly combined the Jewish, Christian and Nabataean pagan Ka’ba holy sites.

The fact that the Qur’anic references say absolutely nothing about Makkah/Bakkah’s location being in Arabia or about its precious Ka’ba is to be expected. Modern Mecca is completely missing from all maps, inscriptions, trade notes, graffiti, official documents and church records for the period up to the middle of the 8th Century, It is only in 741AD, some 110 years after the traditional death of Muhammad that Mecca first appears in the Apocalypse of Pseuido-Methodius Continuato Byzantia Arabica. It doesn’t even appear on any maps until 900AD.

The Qur’an does, however, contain some more subtle clues as to the location of Makkah/Bakkah. Let’s now look at those clues.

Although the Qur’an is almost totally absent in geographical references, it does talk about a military defeat of the Byzantine Empire and specifically says that it was in a nearby land (Q 30:1-2). The fact that this defeat happened close to where the Qur’an was written raises significant questions about where the author of the Qur’an lived. You see, the Byzantines never ventured deep into the Arabian Peninsula, but they had already conquered and occupied Nabataea hundreds of years earlier, and were in control of Palestine, Syria and Jordan at the time of the birth of the Arab Empire.

Next, the Qur’an talks about the old woman who was left behind and became a pillar of salt when Lot and his family escaped the city of Sodom (Q 37:133-38). What is interesting is that the location for this event was universally held to be near the Dead Sea, and the writer of the Qur’an says that his readers pass by these ruins day and night. This places the location of the writer far closer to Israel than Mecca, some 1,300km to the south.

And there’s more. All Islamic commentators claim that Muhammad was a trader who frequented the lands of Palestine and Syria. Trade routes were the freeways, railways and internet of their time. For the record though, Mecca was not on any known historical trade route, none. On the other hand the Nabataean capital of Petra had been in the past the hub of several very important trading routes connecting Europe to Asia from east to west, and Europe to Africa/Arabia from north to south. It had a major trade highway to Damascus in Syria. That’s the only way Muhammad, if he grew up in Petra, could have been a trader with the Syrians. Petra was wealthy. Petra was influential. That’s why the Romans took it in 106AD. If Muhammad, the trader, came from somewhere else than modern Mecca then the logical place is much closer to the known trade routes further north. The story tellers that created the Sira and Hadith were using historical memory of Nabataean glory to project a plausible history of trading and spiritual significance down into the Hejaz and Mecca.

How could all this lack of evidence and contradictory evidence for the location of modern Mecca be sitting under our noses all along? Yet we are still just scratching the surface. In the rest of this essay we will explore Mecca’s geography, the statements of ancient historians, the flow of ancient trade routes through the Middle East, the actual commodities traded at that time and where they came from, the real location of ancient Arab religious sanctuaries, the political allegiances that shaped the Middle East in the era of the birth of the Arab Empire, and the shifting religious currents that created Islam. These evidences will give you a thorough understanding of the true history of Mecca, or lack thereof. Let’s start with modern Mecca’s location and climate.

Kevin Davis

PICTURE Edition 6: Pray for Bangladesh

History

For most of its history Bangladesh was a part of greater India. What is now Bangladesh was first unified under ancient Aryan influence and from these origins came the great Bengali ethnic population of some 240 million today. For thousands of years Bangladesh ebbed and flowed to the rhythm of greater Indian imperial politics and its Hindu religion.

Islam arrived peacefully in the 8th Century via traders. But then in the 14th Century greater India was conquered by Muslim armies. Most Hindus resisted conversion to the new faith. However, over time, and especially during the era of Moghul rule from 1526 till 1857, the Bengali people became the greatest missionary success story in all of Islam. Today, at over 200 million people, it is the largest single block of Muslims in the world, and the largest people group in the world unreached with the Gospel.

In the 15th Century Portuguese traders arrived. Jesuit missionaries soon followed. They were eventually followed by the British who conquered all Moghul lands and Bengali peoples through a policy of divide and rule. The British set up their capital in the Bengali heartland at Calcutta. In 1786 a Baptist missionary arrived in Calcutta by the name of William Carey, who translated the Bible into Bengali and four other languages! He started schools, universities and charities for the poor. He is now considered the father of modern Protestant Christian missions and is still considered a great hero to the Bengali people. 2018 marks exactly 500 years since Catholic missionaries arrived with Portuguese traders.

Independence from India came in 1948 as part of Pakistan called East Pakistan. Independence from Pakistan came in 1971 after a bitter civil war. The Bengalis finally had their own nation and in 1988 Islam was declared its national religion.

2. Today

Bangladesh is now a desperately poor country of some 170 million people with an average income is just 1% of the USA. Needless to say it is also one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Since independence it has been ruled mostly by two dynastic political families drawn from the upper class. Since 1991 it has been ruled by the two women who represent these dynasties today.

It is 90% Muslim, 9% Hindu and less than 1% Christian. However, most Muslims follow “folk Islam” which is a blend of Sufism, Hinduism and indigenous culture. Radical Islam is on the rise and their goal is convert all Bengalis to Islam. A decade ago radical Islamist parties were banned from politics and several leaders executed.

3. Evangelism Highlights

Following a half century where the church has surprisingly grown much faster than the population, today some 0.4% of Bangladeshi citizens, or 0.75 million people, are now an active follower of Jesus. This is up from 0.05% in 1960. Fascinatingly, Bangladesh has seen Christianity take root with great cultural sensitivity, which means many followers of Jesus are now embedded within the traditional Islamic cultural structures and institutions. Some even call themselves perfect Muslims. Up until the year 2000 most new Christians are from Hindu backgrounds, but then reports started to flow in of large numbers of new Muslim Background (MBB) converts, especially among the young. The tipping point seems to have been reached and within this century followers of Jesus could top 10-20 million. The non-Muslim hill tribe peoples close to India are also coming to faith in large numbers. The Santal, Munda, Khasi and Garo peoples are now more than 10% evangelical.

In practice this means the Christian practice in Bangladesh is ethnically divided into the underground Church, which consists of those who converted from Islam, and the visible Church, which consists of those who converted from Hinduism. Moreover, the underground Church can be divided into those who worship in secret and those who worship openly, such as when an entire village converts to Christianity, which is reportedly happening a lot in rural areas. Poverty among the general Christian population is severe, even by Bangladeshi standards.

Persecution is also very severe. Many new believers are disowned by their spouses, children, employers and community. Beatings are common and the police usually turn a blind eye to the violence. The rising tide of radical Islam is particularly brutal against those that leave Islam, and toward all Christian evangelists. This is why many new believers stay inside the Muslim culture once converted, and this is actually speeding up the growth. Open Doors says Bangladesh one of the worst countries in the world for persecution, making active Bangladeshi evangelists some of the spiritually strongest in the world, sometimes being murdered for their cause. I personally met one evangelist in 2009 who had been introduced to Jesus years earlier by an Australian. When I met him he had already brought 12,000 Muslims to Jesus!

4.  Prayer Points: The Harvest is huge, but the labourers are few.

Pray for the spiritual trickle to become a flood, there are signs this is starting!

Pray for the evangelists who daily defy the culture to bring good news to a suffering people.

Pray for the underground church to continue to penetrate Islamic culture.

Pray for internet evangelism to reach the young.

Pray for creative ways to reach the 50% who are functionally illiterate.

Pray for the Indian Bengali speaking evangelists cross the border to spread the good news.

Pray for the hundreds of Christian NGO’s helping to alleviate suffering.

Pray for the radical Muslims to go from a Saul to a Paul.

Pray that current growth continues and we will see a flood of Bangladeshi Christians by the end of this century.

PICTURE Edition 5: Pray for Bahrain

1. History
The tiny island country of Bahrain, just off the Arabian coast in the Persian Gulf, has been a strategic asset for many empires right through history. While under Persian rule in the 4th Century, many Christians arrived in the area around modern Bahrain after being pushed out of Iraq. The Persians at first persecuted these Christians but then adopted a policy of toleration later that century because the numbers of Christians kept growing. By the beginning of the fourth Century we have records of Christians inhabiting many places in the Persian Gulf and in Eastern Arabia. Monasteries and churches were common and there was a strong Christian literary output, mainly in Aramaic, the lingua-franca of the Middle East at that time as Arabic did not yet exist.

With the arrival of the Arab empire and its evolution from Syriac Christianity to Islam between 630 and  800 AD, most pagans in the region converted. However most of the Jews, Christians and Persian Zoroastrians elected to pay an onerous tax in order to keep their faith. It was not until around 1000 AD that Christianity largely, and sadly, died out in the region around Bahrain.

However, Persian rather than Arab influence remained strong on the island, and the population became mainly Shia Muslim, as in Iran today. This would lead to much political conflict with the Sunni Muslims of nearby Arabia throughout history, conflict which continues simmering even today.

In the late 18th Century the British took control of Bahrain and turned it into a cosmopolitan international trading centre full of merchants from all over the Persian Gulf and South Asia. Each brought their food, culture and religion, and that’s when Christianity first came back. In 1932 oil was discovered and this turbocharged Bahrain’s economic development, bringing in Christian expats from many western countries who remain today.

2. Today
In 1971 the British left and Bahrain became an independent country with the majority Shia being uncomfortably ruled by a minority Sunni monarch. In 2001 Bahrain became a constitutional monarchy with a parliament that allowed minority religions and women to participate. But this wasn’t enough for the Shia majority and in 2011 the Arab Spring came to Bahrain and stirred up massive protests against the Sunni government. There was a brutal crackdown.

Oil supplies 50% of all revenues and the economy is now suffering badly because of low oil prices. The country is being financially propped up by nearby Sunni Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to keep the king in power and the Shiites placated.

The nation now consists of about half Bahraini people and half expatriate workers. The mix is as follows: Bahraini 46%, Asian 45.5%, other Arab 4.7%, African 1.6%, European 1%. Most expatriate Christians come from the South Indian guest worker community. although there are now believed to be some secret believers inside the large Iranian expatriate community. Western churches and denominations are permitted in supervised areas. Evangelism to Arabs is forbidden.

3. Evangelism Highlights
There are basically four parts to the body of Christ in Bahrain and communication between them is very limited. There is the Western expatriate Christian community, the large South Indian guest worker house church community, the 1,600 strong native Bahraini Orthodox Christian community and the tiny but heavily persecuted Muslim background believer (MBB) underground church.

Although tolerant of expatriate workers following their own faith, there are approximately 188,000 expatriate Christians in total but only 19 expatriate church buildings, so many groups must share them.  Bahrain takes a very hard-line approach to any Muslim citizen who converts. Persecution is severe. In 2010 Operation World estimated there were about 1,650 Muslim Background Believers now in the country, today this figure would be higher. These people face severe persecution and social disadvantage. They must worship in secret. Bahrain needs a spiritual breakthrough!

There has been a well-respected Christian hospital in Bahrain since 1903, and this gives Christianity a good reputation. The former ambassador to England, Alees Samaan, is a Christian (and a woman!).

4. Prayer Points
Pray for Iranian evangelists among the expatriate workers as these have less trouble reaching the locals.
Pray for the many online avenues by which Muslims can now secretly search for a new faith. Chat rooms are especially popular.
Pray for those who’ve been rejected by their families for their faith. Pray that they will find a bigger family in God.
Pray for fathers to come to Christ, they will then win their family and family is the basic church building block in the Middle East.
Pray for all Christians to have the courage and boldness to reach out to Muslims.
Pray for the Christian satellite TV stations that reach many homes.
Pray for the 30,000 or so expatriate evangelical Christians who can influence many through their prayer and actions.