Movement Day Global Cities 2016 will feature speakers who come to educate, inspire, challenge, and encourage city leaders. This month, we caught up with Sona Kazanjian, Director of Dubai Ministries who also is on staff with Fellowship of the Emirates. Currently residing in Dubai, Sona works to advance gospel movements by assisting churches and ministries around the Gulf States region.
Q: You have played an instrumental role in arranging for priests, pastors and church leaders to pay official visits to the Rulers of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). What benefits have you seen from the unity of the church and the government?
One of our goals in Dubai has been to create a Christian presence that is noticeable, available and can be touched. In other words “you can find it if you are seeking!” In our part of the world Christian faith is almost invisible. From what I understand, it’s becoming more and more that way in other countries.
Our aim is to be part of the fabric which makes Dubai a good place to live and work. That integrates our lives into the lives of people in a nice and soft way, and opens doors for sharing who we are and what we believe.
Also of importance is the great feeling of being united as the body of Christ. Twice a year leaders from all denominations come together to pray for the UAE and to go meet the Rulers. There was a tragic moment in the life of our city when our Ruler’s oldest son died. The church leaders went in one accord to give condolences and show love and respect. Things like this are important and are not forgotten.
Q: Can you share with us more about your work with Fellowship of the Emirates, a non-denominational evangelical church?
As the Director of City Ministries, my role is to be a catalyst for the churches working together. At Fellowship we believe our calling is to do more than just minister to our congregation. We feel we have a role in ministering to the body of Christ in our city. Through my role in the RTN (Regional Transformation Network), we encourage participation in the Global Day of Prayer and in a citywide prayer meeting on our UAE National Day. One of things closest to my heart is the Night of Power prayer gathering which takes place on the 27th day of Ramadan. People from all the churches stay up praying all night for God to reveal Himself through dreams and visions during this most special of nights in the Muslim world.
Additionally, I serve on the Global Leadership Summit Advisory Committee to help bring this great tool to the hands of the local churches. Our church also sponsors a ‘Business by the Book’ ministry to reach out to the business men and women in Dubai. Our vision statement is:
“Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.”
Q: You have been very involved with the recent refugee crisis. Can you share about how you have seen the church meet the pressing needs this crisis has presented?
Fellowship of the Emirates is very passionate about alleviating the suffering caused by the war in Syria and Iraq. Since the early days, we have been sending money to the churches in Syria especially those in the dangerous zones like, Homs and Aleppo. My home town Homs is in ruins now. Life will never be the same again. It’s so devastating to see the tragedy our friends and families go through just to survive another day.
One thing we did recently was to partner with evangelical Arabic churches in Cairo and Dubai to sponsor a Women’s Trauma Conference in Lebanon. A few hundred Syrian women were brought by bus to Beirut where medical, dental, psychological, and spiritual help was offered. The impact on these suffering ladies was so moving I cannot put it into words. Soon we hope to have a similar conference for families inside Syria to address the trauma in the lives of parents and children.
As the war has continued, our church sent short term mission teams to Jordan to help with the refugees in Mafraq. We partnered with full time workers there to help establish a knitting business for Muslim women. We provide the yarn and bring the products back to Dubai to sell.
We also have been deeply saddened by the tragic stories coming out of Iraq about what’s happening to the al Yazidis (an ethnically Kurdish religious community). Our church sent mission teams to Irbil to support the huge work that is going on there.
For several years Fellowship has been involved in training and sending missionaries to reach Muslims in Europe. We have done this through A2A (Arab to Arab) Ministry, Go! Ministry, and others.
Q: Do you have any advice for Christian leaders who also have a heart to serve in seeing greater unity come between the church and the government?
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “It’s amazing what God can do when no one cares who takes the credit.” We at Fellowship of the Emirates believe that very strongly.
Unity among Christians and churches is very difficult, but it is so precious!! It is what makes the world know that God came down to earth and lived among us. The question I’m prompted to ask is: Does the unity and cooperation of Christians in my city cause non-believers to wonder what supernatural thing is going on here?”
Q: How can we empower and catalyze men and women to bring change to their community and become agents to city transformation?
Love your neighbor, hug them and smile at their faces. Be available to drink coffee and to hear their pain, to answer their questions about God. ISIS is terrible, but it has been an amazing shaking in the Muslim world and has resulted in questions that have never been asked before. Let’s answer those questions together.
Q: What do you hope to share with the leaders at MDGC this fall?
A clear picture of who the Arab woman is and how can we be of help to her.