Protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and other Middle Eastern and North African nations over the past month-and-a-half have greatly interested me and their potential impact on the status and growth of the LDS Church in the Middle East. Many of these nations at present permit Latter-day Saint meetings in private but heavily restrict religious freedom by forbidding or strongly discouraging proselytism, banning the dissemination/importation of religious literature, not granting formal recognition to the Church, monitoring the actions of former-Muslim citizens who join the Church, prohibiting public worship services, and refusing or highly regulating humanitarian assistance. Consequently, the LDS Church does not publish information regarding the names and locations of congregations in many of these countries. Members who visit or move to these nations can obtain meeting times and locations by contacting the Middle East/Africa North Desk at Church Headquarters.
Protests calling for revolution and change in government in many Arab nations have potential to facilitate lasting change for the LDS Church if new governments come to power which grant official recognition to the church; permit public meetings; allow greater opportunities for humanitarian and development work; criminalize religious discrimination and persecution; and permit missionary activity to occur on a member-referral basis. The Church has a small community of Arab LDS converts in several nations, such as Egypt, Palestine, and Jordan, which would enjoy greater religious freedom if government policies and laws become more accommodating to religious minorities.
Unfortunately recent political turmoil and prospects for revolution have no realistic prospects for increasing receptivity to the LDS Church or Christianity altogether in Middle Eastern and North African populations for many years. The homogenous Muslim population displays strong ethno-religious ties to Islam resistant to missionary efforts. Change in government policy and administration would likely have little affect on how Muslim communities socially respond to converts to Christianity, which often includes ostracism, persecution, and ridicule. The Afghan government has granted greater religious freedom to non-Muslims than in many other Muslim-majority nations, yet societal abuse of religious freedom remains intense. A relaxation in government restrictions on Christian groups may allow the LDS Church to reach non-Muslims in the region, such as Coptic Christians - a religious group that the Church has yet to perform organized mission outreach among and who number in the millions in Egypt. Sustained religious freedom granted by the government for Latter-day Saints and other religious minorities may impact receptivity over the long term.
Lastly, there is always the threat a more oppressive government regime may come to power and impose greater restrictions on religious freedom. Time will only tell how current world events will unfold, and how the status of the LDS Church in many of these nations may be affected.