Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Church In The Middle East and Muslim Nations

I understand that talking about the Church in the Middle East is a delicate issue. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we believe in following the rules and regulations set forth by governments even if they restrict our freedom to share the Gospel. However the Church does operate, sometimes in the privacy of members' homes, in areas of the world in which we are not welcome. Yet we know from prophecy that the Gospel will go forth to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. This would include the Middle East. President Monson stated the following last General Conference which I feel is pertinent to this discussion:

There remain, however, areas of the world where our influence is limited and where we are not allowed to share the gospel freely. As did President Spencer W. Kimball over 32 years ago, I urge you to pray for the opening of those areas, that we might share with them the joy of the gspel. As we prayed then in response to President Kimball’s pleadings, we saw miracles unfold as country after country, formerly closed to the Church, was opened. Such will transpire again as we pray with faith.

These areas of the world are being prepared now for the Gospel to go forth to them. I urge those reading this blog and sympathetic to the Church to pray for those areas to open to missionary work. In this post, I wish to discuss the extent of the Church's presence in the Middle East and predominately Muslim countries.


The Middle East Africa North Area


Last Summer the Church reorganized two of the areas in Europe into one area and created the Middle East Africa North area. According to the Deseret News 2009 Church Almanac, this area had about 2,800 members organized into one stake and two districts at the end of 2007. The stake is the Manama Bahrain Stake and one of the districts is in Israel. I do not know exactly where the second district is, but I suspect it is in Jordan. To get information about exact meeting times and locations for the congregations in this region, contact the Middle East Africa North Area Desk at 1-801-240-2146.

Below is a list of countries in which there are congregations of the Church. These congregations are almost, if not entirely, made up of members from foreign countries, specifically the United States, Europe and the Philippines.

Bahrain

Israel

Jordan

Kuwait

Lebanon

Oman

Qatar

Syria

United Arab of Emirates

Currently the Church is growing rapidly in the United Arab of Emirates where, just a couple years ago, there was only one congregation. Now there are four I believe. There are also several congregations in Saudi Arabia and branches or groups in Yemen, Egypt, and Morocco. There are branches or groups for those in the military in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the mid-1970s a mission operated in Iran for a few years. Most of the few converts fled to other countries.

Asia and Europe East Areas

Many of the predominately Muslim countries in Asia and Europe have a smaller LDS presence than in the Middle East. There are members of the Church, both natives and foreigners, which meet in the name of the Church in Kazakhstan in a couple cities and in a group in Kyrgyzstan. A couple years ago a news article about the Church in Eastern Europe reported that a congregation existed in the capital of Tajikistan. A branch or group for those in the US military operates in Uzbekistan. Other than what I wrote above, this appears to be the limit of the Church's presence in Central Asia.

Pakistan is probably the Muslim country with the strongest LDS presence. There are two districts in the country and probably somewhere around 2,000 members and 10-20 branches. Pakistan is part of the India New Delhi Mission and only native Pakistani missionaries serve in the country. There are Church built meetinghouses and strong activity among members. Many of the members live in Christian communities. There is also a branch of the Church in Bangladesh, where the first baptism in that country recently took place.

In Europe, the Church does have a small presence in the predominately Muslim country of Kosovo where the first baptism occurred in the past year or two. Members meet in at least two locations: Pristina and Gjakovë. Albania has its own mission and close to 2,000 members in almost a dozen congregations. I have not been able to find any Church presence in Azerbaijan. In Turkey, the Church has four branches and recently began translating General Conference into the Turkish language.

16 comments:

Gnesileah said...

Great article! I am fascinated by the foundation that is being prepared in these parts of world and join others in praying for the work to expand and grow among these nations.

Dan Knudsen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Larry & Lillian Hansen said...

Malaysia is a Muslim country and there are at least five districts in Malaysia.

Matt said...

Yes, Malaysia is a Muslim country...along with Indonesia and Brunei. I was mainly focusing on the Middle East and South Asia.

It is exciting to see the growth of the Church in Malaysia. Last year over 1,000 converts were baptized in Singapore and Malaysia, placing Church membership in Malaysia probably around 5,500 in five districts. The next likely district to be organized in the country would be in Sibu.

Gnesileah said...

It appears that the other district in the Middle East is in fact in Amman, Jordan, at least according to this blog:

http://dnile.wordpress.com/2008/12/14/bellydancing-in-the-aisles/#more-311

Robert Freeman said...

I find this blog very interesting and enjoy reading it. However, I would urge caution talking about units in certain parts of the world, including some of those mentioned in this particular post.

Also, I'd be very careful discussing individuals within those units (for example in Dan's comments).

I can't go into great detail, but I can tell you I know enough to urge caution about this particular topical area.

Matt said...

Thank you for expressing your concern Robert. I understand this is a very sensitive area in the world for the Church. All of the information I have gathered about this topic came from member blogs and the Church, all of which can be accessed by anyone. I will remove content which may be seen as too sensitive on this post.

Robert Freeman said...

Thanks Matt... Really do enjoy this blog. It's fun reading!

Taru said...

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Joannah

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Tuheva said...

I am very happy to know that the Church grows in this region which is predominantly Muslim. Thank you for all information on the evolution of the church in these parts of the Middle East. I would like for the next time you do a summary of the number of faithful in each country and as the name of each country where the church is present. Thank you again because I am grateful for the work that you provided to many who read those new to the church around the world. I have an email or you can send me the latest news: kilimoana@hotmail.fr, is that God bless you in your work. I pray our Heavenly Father strong.

Nathan said...

I'm pretty sure there was a branch in Bethlehem back in the early or mid 1990's.

All Things RJ said...

This is so fascinating to me. How did you find all this information? Do you know someone I could speak to about the church growth in the middle east? I distinctly remember that part of President Monsons address and have been praying for these miracles. Thank you for your post.

Matt said...

All of the information I used to write this post came from information the Church publishes or what members living in the area have written online. In the past month or two the Church has provided the names of different congregations and bishops and branch presidents for the congregations in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the U.A.E, all available on maps.lds.org.

The Manama Bahrain Stake is likely to be divided in the near future I believe. Nine out of the 16 congregations reported to be in the stake by the LDS Church News are in the countries listed above. The stake only has around 2,000 members, but at least 1,500 are active.

As for the request to list every country and the number of members in each, I will not be able to do that online. The Church has a great map under the Statistics tab for their Newsroom website in which most of these statistics can be access. I have not created an up-to-date list of countries the Church is and is not in because there are many countries in which the Church is just starting and wishes not to publish about yet. Most of these countries are in Asia.

rfelsted said...

Membership increased from 2813 in 2007 to 3161 in 2008, or 12.4%, while congregations went up to 31 from 25.

With 16 units in the Manama Bahrain Stake and 3 in Israel, that leaves 12 units in the balance of the Area, not counting home groups that may have been set up.

andrew said...

Rfelsted, How did you find area membership records for the 2008 year end

Otaku Saiyajin said...

well, my english is bad, but I need that anyone help me with some question, please, I'm mormon but my boyfriend is from Argelia, then I want know if exist the church LDS in these country, or at least a small branch, please!!!! I need to know!!!
please, send me a message to: otakusaiyajin@gmail.com