Why You Should Pray For Dubai
The wealthy, the marginalised, and the persecuted church
I wrote this piece for the ‘Country of the Week’ blog for Just Love Durham. The purpose of this blog series is to be informed of the needs of our world, and then to be encouraged to pray throughout the week. The original is here.
Dubai. The United Arab Emirates.
Perhaps not the first place that comes to your mind for a blog that highlights how God’s justice, made manifest in the form of social action, can reign supreme. Any Google search will make the case plainly: luxury seven-star hotels, world-breaking skyscrapers, and opulent shopping malls. Dubai might not sound like the most obvious of choices when it comes to praying for our world. Surely, with all the hurt and pain of our world, our prayers are best directed some place else?
This is the time, however, to remember that the broken, unredeemed state of the world can be seen in all sectors of society — even amongst the most wealthy. Even in this burgeoning busyness of human activity that has emerged from the desert over the past fifty years, there is cause to pray.
Pray for the lives of the expats, thousands of them, that move to Dubai. They contribute to eighty percent of the population. Much of this migration is down to work and vocation. New industries in new sectors of the market seem to be appearing out of nowhere. In all of this bustling trade and commerce, pray that the false god of Business would not be worshipped. Please join me in praying that the hearts of the wealthy would be turned to the true riches and splendour of Christ.
In our day of increasing globalisation, where developing countries base their economic system on Western capitalisation, there is both great risk and enormous potential. Imagine the business leaders of our generation coming to Christ. Consider the impact for Good that could occur. Revel in the possibilities of major corporations contributing to the ‘reconciliation of all things’ to God.
But of course, it would be only a vague and impressionistic picture that I am painting if I were to ignore the real presence of the poor in Dubai. As the taller-and-taller buildings make their ascent, we must think about those whose work is to build them. Many impoverished immigrants, from India, Malaysia, and other areas, come to Dubai in hope of a new start and new employment. Instead, the men are conned. Set to work on these huge infrastructure projects. Their tale is not untold. It is known that they are bussed into the city from their ‘living’ camps. Possessions, passports included, are removed and the men are pressed into small dorm-like quarters with at least a dozen others. Their food will not be the finest delicacies of the region. Their sole existence is to build. And while they build, they die. Again, pray against this cruel injustice that seems to go noticed but uninterrupted.
The Persecuted Church
Finally, do pray for the work of the church. What a wonderfully diverse church there is that awaits any Christian heading out to Dubai. With expats from seemingly every nation, it is a true foretaste of Revelation 7:9.
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.”
But whilst the church is so multicultural, there is one people-group whose absence is noted: the local Emirati people, who are largely muslim. Government restrictions, informed by Islamic law, means that it is illegal to proselyize to the local population. To tell of the consequences of doing so are not pleasing to the ear. It is not uncommon for muslim-converts to Christianity to be rejected by their families and communities. There are instances of familial or governmental punishment. And sometimes these Christian converts do not survive.
Pray for those converts that do survive. Pray that they might have supernatural boldness and courage, as they follow Jesus Christ. Although they may presently experience hardship, may they be assured of the Peace that awaits them in the near future. Furthermore, may we learn from their example, as they teach us that following Jesus is not cosy — it’s costly. May we heed their lesson that the Christian faith is not a cerebral massage or a pragmatic school for do-gooders. For these people, the Christian faith is a way of life and death. They spend their lives for the sake of the Gospel.
As we think about our brothers and sisters across the world, let’s bring to mind this saying: “Many Christians in the world fear the raised fist, whilst we in the West fear the raised eyebrow.”
Last week, as we followed Jesus, I wonder how many eyebrows we raised? Now, as we enter into a new week, lets double that number. At least.