Heeding the Times from Harry Antonides' Desk

Zakaria Botros:  Apostle to the Muslim World

October, 2011 

“I used to hate Christians because I had been taught that they are infidels, polytheists and that they would be the fuel that God would use (for fires) in hell. Your  program eliminated  all the lies that were injected  into my mind and replaced  them with the love of Christ . Thank you for showing me the Way.”  (A Moroccan convert from Islam, Defying Death, p.146) 

My guess is that very few in the West have heard of Zakaria Botros, a fearless proclaimer of the Good News to the Muslim, Arabic speaking world.  In contrast, he is very well known in the Muslim world, where he has been described as Public Enemy #1 with a multi-million dollar fatwa on his head. Al Qaeda has called him “one of the most wanted infidels of the world.”

The amazing story of this 76 year-old Egyptian Coptic priest is well worth re-telling since he has succeeded in reaching millions of Muslims with the Christian Gospel. The secret of his success lies in his method of comparing Islamic teachings with the truth of the Bible.  Furthermore, he has made effective use of the Internet to reach out to millions.

Botros’s  life story is well told in a biography by Stuart Robinson and Peter Botros, Defying Death: Zakaria Botros – Apostle to Islam.  (See www.fatherzakaria.com.)

Botros`s Mission

In an interview with FrontpageMagazine.com  on June 5, 2009, Botros explained his mission in life as “the salvation of souls.” He elaborated as follows:

 “As I always say, inasmuch as I may reject Islam, I love Muslims. Thus, to save the latter, I have no choice but to expose the former for the false religion it is. Christ commanded us to spread the Good News…. This is more important considering that many Muslims are ‘religious’ and truly seek to please God; yet are they misdirected. So I want to take their sincerity and piety and direct it to the True Light.”

Asked to summarize why he thinks that Islam is a “false” religion, Botros answered with a directness and honesty that is rarely found in the free West:

“Theologically, I am a Christian priest, I believe that only Christianity offers the truth.  Based on my faith in Christ, I reject all other religious systems as man-made  and thus not reflective of divine truths. Moreover, one of the greatest crimes committed by Muhammad – a crime which he shall  surely never be forgiven  for is that he denied the grace and mercy that  Christ brought , and took humanity back to the age of the law.”

Early in his youth Botros displayed a knack for leadership and study. Because he was a Christian, his application for the study of law was rejected. But he still managed to qualify as a teacher and to obtain a teaching position. In the meantime he was involved in church work, especially with the young. He also  began to study for the priesthood  and in early 1959 was ordained as a priest in the Coptic Church. According to custom, at this time he also married and received a new name instead of his birth name, Feyez.

Botros became a powerful preacher and teacher that led to growth in numbers and discipleship, as well as miraculous  healings  including exorcism. His success also aroused jealousy among his colleagues,  which led to false charges, suspension  and relocation  that  must have been heartbreaking for him and his family.

His ministry also helped Muslims  convert to the Christian faith, which attracted the attention of the authorities.  On the night of September 2, 1981 the police  arrested  Botros together with several other  church leaders.  For several weeks his family did not know what happened to him. The prisoners were subjected to humiliation and terrible deprivation for 318 days in appalling conditions.( His teenage brother was killed for the “crime” of being a Christian.)  Botros  was expelled from Egypt in 1998, then served as pastor of Coptic churches in Australia and England.

Breaking Down Barriers

While  living in England he had been invited to preach and teach in the U.S., which  led to his move there in 2003. This enabled him to conduct a very effective ministry to the Arabic- speaking world via the Internet.  Prior to that he participated in the televised PalTalk program, wich he used as an opportunity to teach Muslims about the teachings of Islam versus that of the Bible. In 1999, he launched his own site, which grew from three hours per week to four days per week in 2001.

Botros divided his presentations into two sections. First, he discussed biblical teachings verse by verse; second, there followed a discussion of comparative religion. Over the years, he developed a comprehensive curriculum dealing with the many contradictions in Islam and in the life and practice of Muhammad

Not surprisingly, this aroused the hatred and vilification by Muslim leaders, all the more so since Botros always remains calm and friendly. What really annoys his Muslim critics is that Botros, backed by his thorough mastery of classical Arabic and all the Islamic canonical works, often leaves them looking foolish and unable to respond convincingly.

His audience kept growing, especially after 2003 when his program was broadcast on Al Hyaft (Life) TV. Botros estimates that during his ministry in Egypt from  1963 to 1989, about 500 Muslims converted to Christianity, while the estimate for today is 1000 per month.

Botros  has been the object of fierce opposition by Muslim leaders on his own chat room and even more in newspapers in the Arab world and on many Egyptian TV programs.  By the end of 2006 more than 200 articles had been published in a number of newspapers, magazines  and on the Internet  attacking him  and his programs. He made it a point to answer every article that came into his possession. Only one U.S. newspaper, The Immigrant Voice, published  Botros’s response.

In May 2010, Botros’s program on  Al Hyaft  suddenly stopped, after an especially graphic episode about Muhammad.  Muslim preachers and sheikhs rejoiced and celebrated the silencing of their Public Enemy # 1. But now Botros has reappeared on his own satellite station  FadyTV (Redeemer TV). His admirers rejoiced as he began with his first episode, “Knowledge of the Truth,” which, as Raymond Ibrahim  wrote, “was like witnessing a reunion between a lost flock  and its spiritual shepherd.” (frontpagemagazine.com, July 8, 2011)

Fighting Fire With Fire

Ibraham explains why Botros is so loved and hated. To begin with, he is a native Arabic speaker and as a man of God he is able to take his message straight to the heart of the Islamic  world – something the Western approach cannot achieve.  The argument that Islam falls short of Western/secular standards  has little impact on Muslims.  But an attack on the veracity of the religion itself, that is, an attack articulated  through a spiritual as opposed to a secular paradigm, must be confronted by Muslim leaders.

Botros fights fire with fire, because he speaks the same language Muslims do--not just literally, Arabic, but figuratively, the language of religion and faith, the language of God; that’s why he cannot be ignored.

 Here is an example of Botros’s approach. He disussed Sheikh  Huwaini’s  claim that Islam advocates  plundering, enslaving , buying, and selling infidels -- because that is what Muhammad did.  Many have written that this is proof of Islam’s intrinsic violence  and its incompatibility with the West. But Botros takes this a step further, right to the heart of the matter, as explained by Ibrahim:

After  asserting   that’ God created mankind in his image,’ he [Botros] sincerely addressed his Muslim viewers: ‘Would God  truly  want you to kill your neighbour, to enslave him? Would the Almighty truly want believers to buy and sell other human beings like animals? Think people! Use your minds, listen to your hearts – for your souls are at stake!”

Mindy Belz, writer for World Magazine once asked Botros what he feared. This is his answer:

“Fear: I fear nothing… My dictionary does not contain the word fear. I believe in God and I believe that the epistle  Ephesians  says we are created in Jesus Christ for a plan, which was engaged from the early beginning.  No one can cut it, and when it is completed no one can continue it.”

This proven, fearless man of God has much to teach us. His life and work is above  all a sign of God’s power  to overcome  man-made barriers so that the truth of Christ  shines even in the darkest corners and calls  thousands, even millions  out of the prison of a false religion. Defying Death should be in every Christian  home, church and school library. You will be encouraged. Indeed, Christ Lord.

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