In Western Europe, materialism, secularism and a tendency to confuse historical Christianity with the prevailing culture have become the obstacles to the advancement of the Gospel. In Belgium, a country of 10 million people, however, God is still building his Church. The following story illustrates well how God is calling former Muslims to Himself.
Muslims in Belgium
Laura, not her real name, is a young woman who was born into a North African family and grew up in Brussels. Her childhood and adolescence were less than ideal and her view of Islam as practiced in her family and culture was not favourable. She fled her home situation when she reached adulthood and remained relatively free from the family pressures to marry a Muslim boy. A former classmate talked openly of his Christian faith and eventually invited her to a Sunday morning service. In that evangelical assembly she heard vibrant testimony about living faith in Christ Jesus, and was soon invited to study the Bible with one of the women of the church. Within a very few weeks Laura came to the conclusion that she would rather follow a living Messiah than a prophet in his tomb. Her smile reveals a new joy, a new life, and she continues to grow in the knowledge of God and in witness to those around her.
There are precious few like Laura, however, who have come to Christ out of the 300,000 members of the Muslim community in Belgium, mostly Moroccans and Turks. Despite the dozen or so full-time workers among Muslims in Belgium, there exists only one or two strong core groups of Muslim-background believers. Though workers are free to witness openly to Muslims in Western Europe, Muslims in Europe tend to be less open than Muslims in their countries of origin.
The Netherlands (Holland)
A similar situation exists in The Netherlands. Dutch Muslims number about 573,000 (3.7% of the population of 15.6 million people). Most Muslims in The Netherlands come from Turkey and Morocco. The vast majority originally immigrated to The Netherlands for economic reasons. There are also Muslims from Suriname (Indian and Javanese), Egypt, India, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Somalia, Ethiopia and Bosnia.
In The Netherlands there are about 300 mosques and prayer centres as well as 30 Islamic grade schools and one Islamic high school. While there is no single institute to train Imams (Muslim leaders), Dutch universities often have Islamic courses. As in Belgium a few Christian groups are seeking to actively reach out to Muslims. Many more Dutch Christians have been mobilized for prayer for Muslims in recent years through efforts such as 30-Days of Prayer for the Muslim World.
Prayer Guide for Belgium and the Netherlands
* Pray that Muslims in The Netherlands and Belgium would understand the difference between real Christianity and the “Christian culture” surrounding them ( 2 Corinthians 4:6).
* Pray that young Muslims, such as Laura, would be presented with an invitation to hear the Gospel.
* Pray that the Christians in Belgium and The Netherlands would become more aware of the Muslims within their own neighborhoods and regions and for an increased number of workers to reach out to them (Matthew 9:37-38).
* Pray for the increasing contacts with Muslims through refugee and prison ministries, English courses and literature distribution.
Background on Belgium (World Factbook)
Belgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830; it was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II. It has prospered in the past half century as a modern, technologically advanced European state and member of NATO and the EU. Tensions between the Dutch-speaking Flemings of the north and the French-speaking Walloons of the south have led in recent years to constitutional amendments granting these regions formal recognition and autonomy.
Economy of Belgium
This modern, private-enterprise economy has capitalized on its central geographic location, highly developed transport network, and diversified industrial and commercial base. Industry is concentrated mainly in the populous Flemish area in the north. With few natural resources, Belgium must import substantial quantities of raw materials and export a large volume of manufactures, making its economy unusually dependent on the state of world markets. Roughly three-quarters of its trade is with other EU countries. Public debt is more than 90% of GDP. An ageing population and rising social expenditures are mid- to long-term challenges to public finances.
Population: 10,438,353 (July 2012 est.) World rank #82
Life Expectancy at Birth: 79.65 years. World rank #38
Ethnic groups: Fleming 58%, Walloon 31%, mixed or other 11%
Religions: Roman Catholic 75%, Protestant or other 25%
Languages: Dutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%, legally bilingual (Dutch and French)
School life exptectancy: 16 years
Undercover in Little Morocco – Video
A TV report about the young Belgian journalist Hind Fraihi.