Arab Spring

Posted on August 24, 2011 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Rankin Connecting

Mobs, riots, chaos, government repression. What is going on in the Muslim Middle East and North Africa? Other parts of the world have witnessed political upheaval in the last decade. Ethnic violence has become a common occurrence in many parts of the world. Banana republic dictators are still alive and well in Latin America. But the Arab world has been seen as a monolithic cultural fortress in which devotion to religious fanaticism supersedes economic discontent or political malfeasance.

It started in Tunisia where a street merchant had had enough of intimidation and corruption and burned himself in the streets. Others were emboldened and the streets filled with protesters that eventually overthrew the government. Mobilized by a social media network Egypt was next, demonstrating such resilience and resolve that the military finally capitulated and the decades-long control of President Mubarak came to an end. Yemen, Bahrain and other Arab countries quickly followed.

Success of mob action was deferred for a time in Libya, and the Syrian government continues to react with the brutal slaughter of their citizens in an effort of self-preservation. In spite of foreign sanctions the battle lines continue to be drawn between a populace fed-up with oppression and corruption and the strong-handed, arrogant leaders of the country. What is generating these developments, termed by the media as “Arab Spring,” and what does it portend for the future?  Is it, indeed, a springtime of renewal and hope for people locked into bondage to their culture and traditions for generations.

I think my most notable impression from serving as president of the IMB for 17 years is an awesome sense of God’s providence. Being in a position to have an overview of how God is at work to fulfill His mission around the world definitely changes one’s perspective. I am confident the warfare, chaos, economic uncertainty, natural disasters and political events are being used by a sovereign God to accomplish His purpose in the world. That’s not to say He is pulling the strings and manipulating these events, especially those that bring suffering and the tragic loss of life.

But at the same time, nothing that happens in the world takes Him by surprise. He has a plan from the foundation of the world of how to use human events and the flow of history for His ultimate purpose of being exalted among the nations. The Scripture affirms that God raised up and used a wicked ruler to accomplish His purpose. “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth’” (Romans 9:17).

Amazing things have happened in the last two decades. One of the greatest harvests in Christian history is taking place in China in spite of a repressive, atheistic government. The barriers in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have fallen and the gospel is being proclaimed among peoples long deprived of religious freedom. When those doors opened we recognized there was one remaining formidable barrier to global evangelization, and that was the Muslim world. Many things have precipitated the current rebellion. It is not unlikely that instability will continue and dictatorships will be replaced by even harsher Muslim regimes for a time.

But electronic media, social networking and globalization has created a dissatisfaction that cannot be turned back. A younger generation is not going to stand for education without job prospects, suppression of expression and the imposition of archaic social values while the rest of the world moves on. This may not be motivated entirely by a desire for liberation from religious restraints, but I sense that last formidable barrier is crumbling. The Arab Spring will result in an enhanced communication of the gospel into the hearts and minds of those searching for something that will give them hope and security.

4 Comments on “Arab Spring”

  1. Mark Sandifer

    Great article on the unrest a world away. It is comforting to know we serve a God who can bring good things from very difficult and challenging situations! BTW, Dr. Greg asked me to secure a video relating to praying for muslims. I think he mentioned you are in the video. Where can I find the link? Would love to have coffee this week or next if your schedule permits.

  2. Jerry Rankin

    Thanks for staying in touch, Mark. I will start promoting the five-minute video for use in churches on 9/11 next week. After the first of September it can be downloaded at “” and includes appeals for prayer from John Piper, David Platt, Steve Richardson, Crawford Loritts, Robertson McQuilkin, an Egyptian pastor. I will be introducing and hosting the video clip. Give me a call–I am home for the next ten days.

  3. CIU and the Zwemer Center | Down Home in Mississippi

    […] that barrier is beginning to crumble with disillusionment toward Muslim radicals and the recent “Arab Spring” in which a younger generation in Northern Africa and the Middle East is demanding new […]

  4. Zwemer Summer Institute | Down Home in Mississippi

    […] is moving in unprecedented ways throughout the Muslim world as noted by upheavals of the “Arab Spring” and current events in Egypt which were followed day-by-day. Researchers have documented the […]

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