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Gibson’s ‘Passion’ drawing large crowds in Arab world

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Mel Gibson’s new movie, “The Passion of The Christ,” is drawing large and enthusiastic crowds to theaters in the Arab world.

News reports from all over the Middle East indicate a high level of popular interest — and surprising openness among governmental and religious leaders toward the movie, which graphically depicts the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life.

Muslims respect Jesus as a prophet in the same way they regard Moses and Muhammad. Though they have been taught that He did not die on the cross or rise from the dead, they believe He was born of a virgin and lived a sinless life. In Arabic, He is called “Isa al-Masih” — Jesus the Messiah.

Christians in the region believe that widespread viewing of the film could leapfrog barriers of confusion and give large numbers of Muslims an opportunity to understand who Jesus Himself said He was, according to a report circulated by Joel News (http://www.joelnews.org).

“The film is so popular here that they have been canceling the other films to show ‘The Passion’ in all the theatres at the cinema complex,” said a Christian living in Kuwait. “I would estimate that well over 50 percent of the people in the theatre were local Muslims including women completely veiled.

“You could see how this film had impacted everyone. On the second day, several of the local newspapers had the advertisement for the film on the front page.”

Audiences in Qatar, like those in the United States, were deeply moved by the sight of Jesus’ suffering.

“All of us watched the film in absolute amazement in what God had done,” said a Christian living in that country. “The Muslims sitting around us were being moved — gasping, crying and reacting with disgust to the brutality that Jesus faced.”

Accusations that “Passion” is anti-Semitic actually have sparked Arab interest in seeing it, the Christian in Qatar said. Since Arab Muslims are taught to hate Jews, they want to see “Passion.”

“How interesting that God is using this film to communicate the Gospel and the very opposite spirit that might be motivating them to go and see it,” the believer said. “The message to love your enemies, and Jesus praying for them to be forgiven while on the cross, would hit the Muslim theatergoer in a powerful way.”

Arab Muslims in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are flocking to see the movie, and Arabs in neighboring countries are eagerly waiting for its release.

“Passion” reportedly is even showing in Saudi Arabia — a country that has no movie theaters — through pirated DVDs.

The film is generating new interest in Jesus and the Gospels, which Arabs call the “Injil.”

The Christian living in Kuwait wrote: “Just today a couple of local women asked me, ‘Do you have the New Testament in Arabic? Me and all my friends want to read it!’ Another asked about where to get the Arabic Bible on the Internet. This has never happened!

“Pray that many would watch this movie and that it would spark an interest and hunger to know more of Jesus and the Bible,” the believer added. “Pray that hearts would be drawn by the love of Jesus.”

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