SYDNEY, Australia -- Australia is becoming a popular destination for Muslims leaving Asia and the Middle East, which is troubling to some natives of the land Down Under.
But, the country's Christians are using this as an opportunity to win followers for Christ.
Forty years ago, residents would rarely see Muslims on the streets of Sydney or Melbourne, since only about 20,000 lived in Australia at the time.
Now, as many as 500,000 Muslims reside in Australia. And when they immigrate to the island nation, they settle into neighborhoods that are exclusively Islamic.
Al Hayat Television, also known as Life TV, is working to make sure these Muslims have an opportunity to hear the gospel.
The Arabic television channel was launched in Australia by Michael el Masry, a former Muslim.
El Masry started the channel with his own limited finances and persevered despite fierce opposition from the Islamic community.
"I had many threats," el Masry recalled.
"But you are not afraid anymore?" CBN News asked.
"No, because the Lord protects. I believe in a special mission like that the Lord will provide extra protection," he said. "He died for them. They deserve the message of salvation. Who is going to give them the message?"
El Masry told CBN News Al Hayat TV Australia airs Christian programs in a way that Muslims understand.
"It's so important for Muslims that we expose religion. We love him as a man, we love her as a woman and they are beautiful people. But they are deceived," el Masry said.
Australian Muslims aren't only hearing the good news on the television airwaves.
Former Muslims recently attended a Christian worship in Arabic at a church in Sydney. Ali Bazzi has pastored the Al-Obour Church for nearly two years.
Al-Obour means "crossover" in Arabic. Most members are Muslims who converted to Christianity.
Some come to the church secretly because they fear being discovered by Muslim family members. Several attendees have received death threats for leaving Islam.
"Because the religion from the Koran encourages you to harm people," Bazzi explained.
Bazzi has also received many death threats since becoming a Christian. But he says he won't stop proclaiming the gospel.
Getting to Know Christ
He spent his youthful years as a radical Muslim in Lebanon. A Muslim friend who converted to Christianity introduced him to the Bible and to Jesus.
"I like the personality of Jesus Christ," Bazzi said. "The way they present Him in the Bible. How He used to share with people, healed them, fed them. I said, 'Mom, I'm a new man and she said, 'If there is a God able to change Ali, I want to believe in Him.' All my family became Christians except my dad."
Members of Bazzi's family are now serving in the Australian church. His brother is an active leader and his sister leads worship.
Helena Menadue, a former Muslim from Egypt, migrated to Australia after converting and accepting Christ.
"The national security police were coming to my house to take me away," Menadue recalled about her time in Egypt. "They could kill me. They could torture me. They could torture my sister. They could do terrible things."
She also experienced the rejection of a loved one and societal condemnation.
"After the rejection, which was sexual rape, I felt like I lost my identity. I don't know who I am anymore," she recalled.
Menadue says she was strengthened by a scripture that lifted her spirits.
"Come to me who are weary and heavy burden and I will give you rest. The only way God can reveal to me or I can receive even His peace and joy is only through Jesus," she said.
A Divine Mission
Former Muslim Alya Raad came to know Christ after she married a Christian.
Her parents initially didn't want her to marry outside the faith. They changed their minds after she was healed of lymphoma because of the prayers of Christians.
"I was cured from cancer and God actually made my parents change their mind so that I could marry my husband and I could live the Christian life that I wanted to live," she said.
Despite ongoing pressure from Australia's Islamic community, the former Muslims continue to share their testimonies with Muslim immigrants and others.
And they feel God's word will continue to reach souls everywhere -- especially Down Under.
--Published June 7, 2011.