Showing posts with label Islam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Islam. Show all posts

28 May 2013

Islam and peace

The murder of a British soldier is just another example of violence between different groups of people. What is the greatest religious divide in our day? It may not be what you think or expect. But what we have in common far outweighs any of the differences we focus on so often.

Simulated image of the Earth
Following recent events in Woolwich, I want to write down my thoughts about the greatest religious divide of our time.

Just a week ago a British serviceman was brutally murdered by two men who justified the act by saying that British forces were killing Muslims.

The great divide - So what is that divide? You might pick something different, but for me the greatest religious divide is between violent fundamentalists on the one hand and everyone else on the other. Seen in that way, the great majority of Muslims are on the same side as the great majority of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and the rest.

Violent fundamentalists of any faith are a small minority, they always were and always will be. Most people are caring, kind, and want nothing more than to live peacefully and in safety. Fundamentalists are zealous and uncompromising about their beliefs, but only a few would say that violence is justifiable or necessary. And of those that say violence is justifiable, only a few would actually commit a murder. So the men who murdered the soldier are a minority of a minority of a minority. Islam has no monopoly on violent fundamentalism. We see it amongst Christians, Hindus, Jews, and even Buddhists.

Standing together - The vast majority of people in this world of any faith and of none must stand together. We must continue to declare peace to one another, to bless one another, and to recognise that all violence is wrong. We must make it clear that we do not accept violence as a way of solving problems and we oppose any person or organisation that does.

It's also important to remember that there may be many reasons for committing a violent act, not all of them are based on strongly held religious views. There are also political reasons, personal reasons, mental illness reasons and many more. Perhaps political reasons are the most common.

The brutal murder of an off-duty British soldier by driving a car into him and then hacking him to death causes fear amongst ordinary people. On the one hand the fear of Islamic fundamentalism is ramped up, and on the other hand the fear of reprisals against Muslims is also ramped up. It's a double whammy. It's likely that the motive, at least in part, was to raise tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims. We must make sure those tensions are quickly calmed.

Peace and vision - To any Muslim in the UK reading this I say 'Assalamu alaikum', 'Peace to you'. I understand that you may be afraid of retaliation, under the circumstances that is natural. It's up to all of us to draw closer to one another, not just within our communities but between them too. Talk to your neighbours of other faiths and of none, understand that they may be just as anxious as you are.

I condemn all violence and threat of violence, regardless of who is responsible for it, who it may be aimed at, and whatever reason may be given for it. There can be no justification for one human being injuring or murdering another. Nor can there be any justification for damage to property, for threats, or for any kind of intimidation. Violence and destruction simply cannot be right.

Instead we need a vision for cooperation, peace and love. Here's a great, international demonstration of peaceful cooperation, the song 'We don't need no more trouble'. This wonderful video will give you a better sense of the spirit of cooperation and fun that is available to us if only we will accept one another - not as black or white, male or female, wealthy or poor, Muslim or Christian or Hindu, but as people. How hard can that be?

Yes, but - Oh - I should have mentioned something else.

There is a cost to the goal of accepting one another in love. There is always a cost. The cost is that we (I, you) must make the first move. No matter the injustice or issue between us, we must forgive and move forward - for all our sakes.

Let's remember, whatever our differences we are one people, all of us are related, one family, living on one Earth. Nothing should cause us to destroy one another. Nothing.

Questions:

  • In what ways can you, personally, reach across a divide in your own, local community?
  • Have you been unjustly treated, hurt, ignored, overlooked, or picked upon?
  • Why do you think it's so hard to make the first move in reconciliation?
  • What will happen if nobody makes the first move?

See also:

04 November 2012

Astonishing tales of reconciliation

Hear some interviews with extraordinary people. This article provides a little background to some recordings available online and then suggests ways you might engage with the situations described. Listen and consider carefully what you hear.

A slimline microphone
In the last post we heard something of the need for reconciliation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. In this post we have more on the same theme.

Julia Fisher records interviews with some extraordinarily brave people engaged in sometimes suprising ways with Father's purpose for his people.

Here in the West we have little idea of what it means to be a believer in a place where it may be hard and dangerous.

Every week she broadcasts one of these short but informative, moving, challenging and encouraging interviews. Here's what she wrote about one of them a few weeks ago.

It may surprise you to hear that in the Arab neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem and in the West Bank there are a growing number of Palestinians who were born into Muslim families coming to faith in Jesus – these people are called Muslim Background Believers or MBB’s for short.

It is very dangerous for them to openly declare they are Christians. Equally for Christian Arabs to witness to Muslim people is very dangerous. My guest today is such a person. To disguise his identity let’s call him “J”. I met J in Jerusalem recently – he lives there. He spends a great deal of his time encouraging MBBs in the West Bank. I put it to him that not many people realise these people exist.

There's a full list of these broadcasts on The Olive Tree Reconciliation Fund website. You can listen to them online or download them (click the 'Radio' link at the top of the Home page). They are all worth hearing but the interview she refers to in the quote above is week 115. Listen to week 116 as well where the story continues.

These followers of Isa (Jesus) have truly difficult and dangerous lives, probably much like those of the early church persecuted by (among others) Saul of Tarsus (Acts 7:54-8:3). They need our help and support in prayer, and perhaps in other ways too.

A suggestion - Download the recordings for weeks 115 and 116 and listen to them with your friends. You could do this with any small group of twenty or fewer. Perhaps you are part of a cell group, a Christian Union, or a prayer group. After listening you could discuss what you have heard, pray for the people you heard about, pray for Julia Fisher and her work as an interviewer and broadcaster.

Questions:

  • Do you think it would be easier or harder to grow as a believer if you had no access to the Bible? Why? Did the early church have Bibles?
  • What does it mean to you to store up the word in your heart?
  • Apart from the Bible, what other aspects of our lives do you think Western believers take most for granted?
  • How can you help these people? How should you pray? What else might you do?

See also:

02 March 2011

RESPONSE - Death of Pakistani minister

Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minorities Minister in the Pakistani cabinet, has been murdered by gunmen. An organisation called Tehrik-i-Taliban has claimed responsibility.

Satellite view of IslamabadThere had been death threats against Shahbaz Bhatti and he had chosen to ignore them. He recorded his thoughts about this four months ago in an interview. He was a brave man, a follower of Jesus (Isa), and he preferred to die rather than compromise his views and policies. More details and a video of the interview are available on the BBC website.

What are we to say about this assassination? Are the murderers so afraid of an idea that they must kill to prevent it spreading? Don't they realise that where one dies a hundred more will spring up? Don't they recognise that the Most High calls us to bless and not to curse, to love and not hate?

Violence (and particularly killing) is clearly against the law and will of the Most High worshipped by Abraham (Exodus 20:13). Tehrik-i-Taliban killed Mr Bhatti because they believe he blasphemed their prophet. But which is worse - to disobey the Most High or to blaspheme against a prophet?

Another of the prophets of Islam (Isa, Jesus, Yahshua) shouted out these words (John 12:44-50)...

Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.

Shahbaz Bhatti loved and followed this same Jesus and is therefore also my brother. My sincere condolences go to his family and friends. He was a man of sincerity and high principles. I know Shahbaz would have forgiven his murderers. I pray that they will come to know Isa for themselves and that their hearts will be open to receive him.

15 January 2011

RESPONSE - Heart warming news

A friend on Facebook posted a link to this news report. In Egypt, where there have been recent attacks against Coptic believers, a grass roots move of ordinary people has resulted in Muslims attending church services. They have been acting as human shields.

Alexandria HarbourIt's the sort of thing that shows human nature at its best, people putting the safety and well-being of others above their own. Aren't people amazing! The population in Egypt is about 10% Copt and 90% Muslim and ordinary people have decided that their minority neighbours need help.

So often, when there is violence in the world the response is some kind of counter violence. It's tit for tat, an eye for an eye. But revenge has never been a successful strategy for peace. Both Muslims and Christians claim to be people of peace. How often that has not been true historically. But this time significant numbers have moved to resist in a peaceful way. And that is inspiring.

Pray for a blessing on all people of peace, in Egypt, in the UK, and all around the world. Ask that people will be blessed whatever their culture, language or faith. Isa (Jesus) is the Prince of Peace.

The prophet Jeremiah knew what trouble was like in a wicked world, he cried out, 'They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. "Peace, peace," they say, when there is no peace.' (Jeremiah 8:11)

And Isa (Jesus) said in Matthew 5:3-12,
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Anyone who follows the teachings of Isa (Jesus) is doing what is right. Please join me in praying for all his followers everywhere, including both Copts and Muslims who read his words and study them and want to learn from them. May the Most High shine upon them and bless them in unexpected ways. May they find themselves coming closer to him in their hearts and minds. May his peace find a home in their hearts.

'Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.'

13 December 2008

Central darkness

A delicate and rather tricky subject came up recently on a mailing list I belong to. It was the topic of Islam and the meaning of the term 'jihad'. Light breaking through dark cloudOne of us posted a message suggesting that Islam does not support violence and that if we approach Muslims with fairness and kindness we would find the great majority of them to be peace loving people of goodwill, people who might be able to receive the good news of life in Christ if only we would set aside our fear of terrorism and religious war.

I replied, 'I believe we need to be
very cautious here. I'd be the first to recommend peace over war, love over hatred, gentleness over forcefulness, but there is something deeply dark about Islam.'

The original message post suggested we read the article 'Jihad' Not a License to Murder. As you will see if you read it yourself, it's a review of a book called 'A Deadly Misperception'.

I ended my reply with the following words,
We know that we serve the King of Kings, we know that the Father IS love. Certainly, it is love that will win the day in the end, not violence. We must pour out good things on those around us just like Jesus did. We must bless, not curse. But we should not accept anyone who comes with a different message. Be gentle, yes, always! But also be wise.

What was I getting at? What did I mean by 'something deeply dark'? Let's take a look at two aspects of Islam, what it claims and what it does. But before we start I want to stress that I have nothing in my heart but goodwill towards all people, everywhere, whatever they believe, whatever they do.

Love, sin, and forgiveness - I agree with the person who raised the subject on the mailing list. We must show love and respect towards Muslims whenever and wherever we meet them. We must accept all people at face value, not because they are Muslim or Hindu or Christian or Jewish (or of any belief) but because they are people. This is more true for a Christian than for anyone else. Yahshua told us and showed us that we are to love the Almighty with all that is in us, that we are to love one another as he loves us, that we are to love our neighbour just the same way we love ourselves, and that we are even to love our enemies. So on what grounds might we not love a Muslim?

We have all sinned, nobody walking this earth today or in the past can claim to have lived without sin except for one, Yahshua, Jesus, Isa, however you choose to name him. All have sinned and all will have to stand before the one who sits on the heavenly throne.

Will a person be forgiven or condemned? A Muslim cannot know until the judgement day, but if you have repented of your sin and fallen in sorrow and shame at Yahshua's feet believing he is who he claimed to be, if you have trusted in him and no other, he reaches down and raises you to your feet as a new creation. He forgives you, declares you to be free of sin, accepts you, and welcomes you. He also fills you with his presence so that he lives in you and changes you.

This changed life enables the believer to do things that would previously have been impossible. Loving your enemies is one of those things - Yahshua is love in person, because he lives in me I can love with his powerful love instead of my own feeble love.

So I must love all people even if they wish me harm, indeed even if they do me harm. This is utter foolishness to the world.

So what did I mean when I wrote, 'There is something deeply dark about Islam'?

First, I do not say there is something dark about a Muslim, but about Islam. There's a big difference, a Muslim is a person, Islam is a religion. So what do I mean by 'something deeply dark'?

What Islam says - Islam makes many claims and statements and most of them seem harmless enough. But there is one claim that Christians can never accept, and that is that anyone except Yahshua has preeminence.

Islam makes it very, very clear that Isa, though a great prophet, was a lesser prophet than Muhammad. They explain this by claiming that the New Testament writings have been corrupted since they were first penned. Muslims believe that Isa (Jesus) did not claim to be the Almighty dwelling in human form, this was an error added later. Muhammad is the last prophet, the Great Prophet, earlier prophets (including Isa) brought partial truth but Muhammad brought the full truth and the Qur'an (as recited in Arabic) is error-free. Translations are approximations to the meaning and can never be entirely error-free.

Yahshua said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.' And John wrote, 'This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: the Almighty is light; in him there is no darkness at all.' (John 8:12 and 1 John 1:5)

So we see that Yahshua is light and if we follow him we'll have his light as a guide, and that Yahweh is light without even a hint of darkness. We can see that in the same way the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Christ) must also be light. Only light can illuminate our hearts and lives as he does. There is only one light, made known in three persons.

If we are not walking in the light, we are walking in darkness. Everyone who is not following Yahshua does not have the light and is walking in darkness. And who would want to draw a veil of darkness across our minds to prevent us following Yahshua? Why, the accuser, the enemy, the Prince of Darkness - who else?

Yahshua also said, 'The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!' (Matthew 6:22-23) A follower of Islam, denying that Yahshua is the light, is walking in darkness. See how this can change in the most dramatic way.

Quoting another member of the mailing list,
The Spirit of God will always point men to Christ. So if God is
revealing Himself to men through Islam, or any other religion it
will be evident by that alone.

The history of Islam - There is no space here to cover the history fully, it would take many books. Good places to start for anyone wanting to know more would be the Wikipedia articles on Islam, Muslim history and Muslim conquests. It is the spread of Islam that I want to mention briefly here.

Christianity spread by entirely peaceful means in its earliest phases. Believers were often imprisoned or killed for their faith, but they spread by sharing the good news, not by waging war on those around them. Yahshua criticised Peter for using a sword, and that is the pattern we should continue to follow.

There have been times when so-called Christians have used warfare to spread their control and influence. The Crusades in mediaeval times and the Spanish Inquisition are the most obvious examples of violence of this kind. But true followers of Christ would never use such methods! Knowing that Yahshua preached and practiced love towards enemies, how could we ever think that spreading our faith by war or torture could possibly be right? No, the people who did these things were not walking in the light!

And what of the early spread of Islam? Muhammad used warfare against his enemies, taking control in Yathrib (now Medina) and finally conquering Mecca. After his death, his followers continued to use warfare to conquer further cities and nations.

True followers of Yahshua are people of peace, loving all without distinction. Due to misunderstandings, false teachings, and trusting in worldly power rather than in grace those who claimed to follow Jesus have often fallen far short of his command to bless and love.

The same cannot be said of the followers of Islam where violent means are sometimes justifiable. Christianity has sometimes spread by the sword and should hang its head in shame. Islam has often spread by the sword and sees nothing wrong in that. In this way it swept across the whole of once-Christian North Africa. And the trend continues today. Islam aspires to bring the entire world under it's sway and some elements are willing to kill and maim by delivering bombs or raiding cities. We have seen it again and again and again - New York, London, Madrid, Mumbai.

There is a deep darkness hidden in Islam, it is more than just an absence of light. There is something lurking there that always tries to crush the light when he is brought near. Why is it that in the West, Muslims are allowed to build mosques but in Muslim lands Christians are persecuted? Why is it forbidden to share the gospel even in a 'secular' state like Turkey? Why is a Muslim punished (even sometimes with death) for converting to another faith?

Jihad? - Oh yes, there's the little matter of the meaning of the term 'jihad', also part of the original mailing list message and discussed in 'Jihad' Not a License to Murder.

Dictionaries are compiled by researching words as they are used in print. Or to look at it another way, a word means whatever people mean by it. Words also drift in meaning over time. 'Gay' used to mean no more than happy, colourful, joyful, and fun-loving but in today's dictionaries it has shifted considerably.

So what about the Arabic word 'jihad'. It has two meanings, the underlying sense is of a struggle, striving to achieve something, not giving up. It is sometimes used by Muslims to mean the internal struggle to live a holy and pure life, but it is also sometimes used by Muslims to mean warfare against the non-Muslim world. To claim the word has only the first meaning is simply unsupportable. Like all words - it means what people mean by it, no less and no more.

23 June 2008

Jesus in the prison cell

This example of Jesus dealing individually and personally with an Iranian Muslim is quite extraordinary.

Afshin was in prison, there was nobody to tell him about Jesus, he had no access to a Bible, articles, or books that might explain what it is to be a believer. There was no-one to answer his questions or bring the truth to him.

Here, in his own words, he explains how he came to believe. Nothing can prevent Jesus reaching you and changing you, not isolation, or ignorance, or lack of resources. However, like Afshin you need to recognise that nothing you can do for yourself is sufficient, that you cannot save yourself. You cannot lift yourself into the Presence of the Almighty. But he can lift you into his own presence if you are willing to know your need of him!

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