Voice of the Martyrs is an organization that tracks pockets of extreme persecution of Christians, by Muslims (http://www.persecution.com/). One of the features of the organization is a weekly email that calls for prayer for specific situations. I receive the emails on Fridays and part of my Friday prayer is for Christians who undergo violent persecution all over the world.
In many of the cases, the story is of Christ-followers in predominantly Islamic regions. The persecution runs from job loss to eviction to beatings to imprisonment to loss of life. The website does not report on incidents of Christians committing acts of violence and evil against Muslims. I believe that happens and in the name of balance, I wish that the website would not make it appear as if Christians were thoroughly innocent. However, VOM data aside, I believe that more violence between the two religions occurs from Muslims attacking Christians than vice versa.
That is the current state of affairs. In the past, during the Crusades, Christian violence against Muslims was hideous, sinful, and a complete violation of the way of Jesus. What we see in the world today is not an indication that Christians are more civilized or less hateful than Muslims. I wish to emphasize that Christians are no better than Muslims. We are all human beings and this means two things.
First, it means we are all made in God’s image. There is much good about us. We have conscience and we have creative capacity. We are self-aware. We have the capacity to believe and to love; all of us.
Second, because we are all humans, each one of us has inherited the legacy of the fall. Whether you believe there was a literal Adam and Eve or you believe their story is a type-story, an origin story, either way, you have inherited a tendency to sin. So have I. We sin and when you take a life-time of sins combined with the lifetimes of billions of other sinners, you get a world with wars, prostitution, addiction, sexual sin, greed, and deception. It happens among individuals and among nations.
But all of this is just to say, Muslims and Christians are people. I think the best bet for people is to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and that in Him, God came to earth and the Kingdom of God was inaugurated. My Muslims friends will disagree. They will call Jesus a prophet who is secondary to the supreme prophet, Muhammad. We should be allowed to talk about our disagreements in an atmosphere of peace and love. The conversation should happen at a neighborly table where there is plenty of bread and tea and no guns are allowed. People should be free to assess the truth claims of a religion and then select the path they will walk.
I appreciate this report from Voice of the Martyrs this past Friday. It is the story of an Indonesian Muslim Cleric who left Islam to follow Jesus as Lord. His Father-in-law threw him out and he lost all his possessions and his home. It is a story of dispossession. However, it does not end with the man begging as a vagrant. A Muslim friend took him in.
This is extremely important. His friend practiced the faith he had abandoned. He was a Muslim. The man who had converted to Christ was now put out, and this Muslim, out of friendship, took him in. Christians need to recognize that within the various Muslim groups, there are kind-hearted people looking to do good, helpful things. The Indonesian convert’s story is an example. A dispossessed Christian was given hope when his Muslim friend extended hospitality.
Stories of violence always get told. They make the front pages. The stories of hope, of people helping each other, slip through the cracks. I invite my Christian friends to seek out stories of Muslims doing good things. If people in these two groups will extend themselves to tell each other’s most positive stories, it has the potential to counteract all the negativity that dominates the media and colors our views of each other.