Christianity’s perception of Islam as a challenge or a threat is not new. Soon after the emergence of Islam as a ‘power’ that started to influence and win converts from other faiths in general and from Christians and Jews in particular, the two ‘peoples of books’ started to feel the potential of Islam. They also knew that arguments against Islam and in favour of their corrupted ‘religions’ were not strong enough to check the flow of people to this ‘new’ faith. Hence the need for measures like occupation, colonisation, crusade etc.
The situation hasn’t changed in recent times. Nineteenth and twentieth centuries witnessed a renewed mobilisation of efforts to get in the way of Islam gaining any further grounds. These efforts included teaming up of scholars known as Orientalists to make in-depth study of Islamic scripture, doctrines, practices as well as history to pick the spots which they thought were vulnerable for attacks. Once they were armed with the ammunition, an all-out assault was launched to thwart any advance of Islam to the hearts of their co-believers or the followers of other faiths or atheists. They also thought that mere preventive measures were not enough and it was necessary to weaken the body of Islam itself. This led to planning and implantation of what is known as ‘evangelism to Muslims’.
The planning part of this venture was meticulous and the execution painstaking. Myriad of literature was and continues to be produced, institutes of higher education and training in Muslim evangelism set up in dozens and teams of missionaries in thousands thrown into action. Study and research go on to find newer tools and methodologies to ‘win Muslims for Christ’. There are full fledged institutions with the stated aim of ‘wiping out Islam’ side by side proposals of softer approaches. Muslims’ increasing presence in the Christian lands during the last century and present times has further awakened their urge to engage them in their favour before the opposite happened.
Cross and Crescent by Colin Chapman is a study with the purpose outlined in its subtitle, ‘Responding to Muslim Challenge’.
The author first explains why he has used the word ‘challenge’ citing numeric, cultural, political and economic, and intellectual and theological influence of Islam as the justifications for such a feeling among Christians. However, he emphasises that instead of being carried away by such feelings (of Islam being a challenge), Christians needed to ponder how to relate to Muslims.
A ‘genuinely Christian response to Islam’ according to the author involves:
1. Knowing our Muslim neighbour
2. Understanding Islam
3. Entering into discussion and dialogue
4. Facing fundamental issues, and
5. Sharing our faith with Muslims
Each of the five issues is discussed in detail in the five parts of the book. Dealing with each of the issues, the book offers practical, down-to-earth suggestions to the Christians to prepare them for the final objective: “Sharing our faith with Muslims”. He belongs to the rare genre of evangelists who are ready to concede that Christians have in past committed mistakes and at times injustices to the Muslims. He also emphasises the need for understanding the Muslim mindset by ‘entering into their shoes’ and accepting the wrongs done and being done to them (crusades, illegal occupation of their territories, creating a Zionist state in their land, undue favour to Israel, invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, etc).
He pleads for allowing Muslims living in Western societies all genuine privileges like halal food, freedom of worship and building mosques, practising their culture, peaceful da’wah efforts and using their finances for this purpose and so on. However the purpose of all this concession remains to win their sympathy in order to psychologically prepare them for ‘sharing the good news about Jesus’. And also, so that Christians living in Muslim societies may ‘at a proper time’ demand same privileges from Muslims!
The author is a seasoned missionary. He has worked in Egypt at the Anglican Cathedral and the Coptic Evangelical Society (1968-73), in Pakistan during late seventies with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students and in Lebanon where he taught at the Near Eastern School of Theology. Among his other works are
Islam and the West: Conflict, Co-existence or Conversions?
Whose Promised Land: The Continuing Crisis over Israel and Palestine
Christianity on Trial
The Case for Christianity
Christian Zionism: A Fourfold Approach
Going Soft on Islam? Reflections on Some Evangelical Responses to Islam
He delivered a lecture on “Islamic Terrorism: How should the Christians and West Respond?” at Radcliff College, Gloucester, on March 14, 2005 as Radcliff Lectures in World Christianity.
Muslims, particularly those in the field of da’wah, may learn a thing or two from this weathered missionary:
· His strong faith in the truth of his belief about Jesus and the scriptures;
· His total commitment to his mission;
· His willingness to accept mistakes done by his coreligionists to others;
· His continuous hunt to find newer means and methodologies to reach out to others with his message;
· His in-depth study of the “target” community’s beliefs, traditions and mindset;
· His search for commonalities between his and the followers of the ‘other’ in order to build upon them; and
· His soft approach in relating to ‘the other’ with the message
[The writer is a researcher in evangelism to Muslims and lives in Riyadh. Can be reached at email@example.com ]