By Joel C. Rosenberg
(Washington, D.C., September 9, 2008) — You have probably never heard of Father Zakaria Botros.
But you need to know his story. He is far and away the most-watched and most-effective Arab-American evangelist focused on reaching the Muslim world, and by far the most controversial. The Rush Limbaugh of the Revivalists, he is funny, feisty, brilliant, opinionated, and provocative. But rather than preaching the gospel of conservatism, he is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. And his enemies do not simply want to silence him. They want to assassinate him.
Last week, I had the honor of interviewing Botros by phone from a secure, undisclosed location in the United States, where he now resides. He told me that he had just learned that an al Qaeda website had posted his photograph and named him one of the “most wanted” infidels in the world. The Radicals have even put a bounty on his head. The Christian Broadcasting Network reported the figure was as high as $60 million. Botros does not know for certain. But just to put that in context, the U.S. bounty on Osama bin Laden’s head is “only” $25 million.
Why are the Radicals so enraged by an elderly Coptic priest from Egypt who is in his 70s? Because Botros is waging an air war against them, and he is winning.
Using state-of-the art satellite technology to bypass the efforts of Islamic governments to keep the gospel out of their countries, Botros is directly challenging the claims of Muhammad to be a prophet, and the claims of the Qu’ran to be God’s word. He systematically deconstructs Muhammad’s life, story by story, pointing out character flaws and sinful behavior. He carefully deconstructs the Qu’ran, verse by verse, citing contradictions and inconsistencies. And not only does he explain without apology what he believes is wrong with Islam, he goes on to teach Muslims from the Bible why Jesus loves them and why is so ready to forgive them and adopt them into His family, no matter who they are or what they have done.
If Botros was doing this in a corner, or on some cable access channel where no one saw him or cared, that would be one thing. But his ninety-minute program – a combination of preaching, teaching and answering questions from (often irate) callers all over the world – has become “must see TV” throughout the Muslim world. It is replayed four times a week in Arabic, his native language, on a satellite television network called Al Hayat (“Life TV.”) It can be seen in every country in North Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, as well as all throughout North America,Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. And not only can it be seen in so many places, it is seen – by an estimated fifty million Muslims a day.
At the same time, Botros is getting millions of hits on his multiple web sites in multiple languages. There, Muslims can read his sermons and study through an archive of answers to frequently asked questions. They can also enter a live chat room called “Pal Chat” where they are not only permitted but encouraged to ask their toughest questions to trained on-line counselors, many of whom are Muslim converts to Christianity who understand exactly where the questioners are coming from and the struggles they are having.
As a result, Botros – on the air only since 2003 – has practically become a household word in the Muslim world. An Arabic newspaper has named him Islam’s “Public Enemy #1.” Millions hate him, to be sure, but they are watching. They are listening. They are processing what he is saying and they are talking about him with their friends and family. When Botros challenges Radical clerics to answer his many refutations of Islam and defend the Qu’ran, millions wait to see what how the fundamentalists will respond. But they rarely do. They prefer to attack Botros than answer him. Yet, the more the Radicals attack him, the more well-known he becomes. The more well-known he becomes, the more Muslims feel compelled to tune in. And as more Muslims tune in, more are coming to the conclusion that Botros is right and in turn are choosing to become followers of Jesus Christ. Botros estimates at least 1,000 Muslims a month pray to receive Christ with his telephone counselors. Some of them pray to receive Christ live on their air with Botros. And this surely is only the tip of the iceberg, as it represents only those who are able to get through on the jammed phone lines. There simply are not currently enough trained counselors to handle each call.
Many leading Arab evangelists I have interviewed for Inside The Revolution say God is using Botros to help bring in the greatest harvest of Muslim converts to Christianity in the history of Christendom. Botros refuses to take any credit, saying is just one voice in a movement of millions. But he is certainly excited by the trend lines. He does see more Muslims turning to Christ than ever before, and he told me he has cited my book Epicenter at least three times as evidence of the enormous numbers of conversions taking place. What’s more, he vows to keep preaching the gospel so long as the Lord Jesus gives him breath. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus], that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” That verse – John 3:16 – is the verse that drives Botros. He believes passionately God loves the whole world, including each and every Muslim. He believes that “whosoever” believes in the Lordship of Jesus Christ – Jew or Muslim – will, in fact, receive eternal life. He does not believe all Muslims are Radicals, but he does believe all Muslims are spiritually lost, and he wants desperately to help them find their way to forgiveness and reconciliation with the God who made them and loves them.
“I believe this is the hand of God,” Botros told me. “He is directing me. He shows me what to say. He shows me what to write on…the web sites. He is showing me more and more how to use the technology to reach people with his message of redemption.”