“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.”
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 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 Read the rest of this entry »