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God's love: An urgent message for Muslims

By Mark Kelly

editorial article

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)--If the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon didn't prove the urgency of proclaiming God's saving love to Muslims, take a quick look around the world.

-- In Indonesia, Muslim "holy warriors" are killing residents of "Christian" villages, looting their homes and churches and burning everything to the ground. An estimated 10,000 Christians have been massacred and another 8,000 forcibly converted to Islam in the Malukus over the past three years.

-- In northern Nigeria, about 500 people -- mostly Christians -- died and 10,000 people were forced from their homes when Muslim mobs ravaged and destroyed 10 Christian communities in July. Twelve states in Nigeria are enforcing harsh Islamic law even against non-Muslims, in defiance of Nigerian law.

-- In Pakistan, six armed Muslims dragged eight Christian women off a bus and brutally raped them in front of witnesses. Two years later, a court succumbed to Muslim community pressure, acquitting three of the attackers and sentencing the others to time served and fines.

-- In Israel, 588 Israelis have been killed by Islamic militants in assaults that have included commuter bus bombings, sniper attacks on Israeli settlers and even a massacre at a bat mitzvah. The recent round of suicide attacks is made possible in large part by a promise in Islam's holy book, the Koran, that martyrs in holy war enter heaven immediately.

A SPIRIT OF TYRANNY
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, America's secular media worked very hard to paint a picture of peaceable Islam -- and rightly so. The vast majority of Muslims want nothing to do with terrorism that uses Islam as an excuse for murder.

But most Americans -- and many Christians -- fail to understand that "normal" Islam nurtures a spirit of tyranny that inspires the terrorism of groups like the Taliban, Laskar Jihad and Hamas. The Koran contains passages that seem to justify violence against people who do not submit to Islam's rule.

For example, Surah 8, verse 5 states: "Fight and slay the Pagans [non-Muslims] wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem [of war]."

Islam is an aggressive religion that requires everyone in the world to either convert or submit to its rule, says a longtime missionary among Muslims. In fact, the word "Islam" means submission. It emphasizes submission of Muslims to Allah, but also submission of non-Muslims to Muslims.

"Islam's domineering nature is seen the clearest in lands where it is the predominant religion," the missionary said. "There, Christians are second-class citizens, at best, and often face persecution. Muslims who convert to Christianity often face persecution from their families, prison, torture or death."

HISTORY OF OPPRESSION
Unlike Christianity, Islam has no concept of "unalienable" human rights, and the result is a history of oppressing religious minorities wherever Islam has ruled, says Egyptian-born author Bat Ye'or.

Since Muhammad's conquests in the 600s, Islamic law has discriminated against non-Muslims. Christians, Jews and others have been overtaxed, forced into slave labor and prohibited from testifying in court. Muslims have been free to ransack non-Muslim places of worship. Non-Muslims have had to accept being shouldered aside on the street, forced to wear patches with the images of apes or pigs, even forbidden to wear matching shoes.

Islam divides the world into the Muslim realm, the "land of peace," and the non-Muslim world, "the land of war." Non-Muslim lands are regarded as rightfully belonging to Islam, and a state of war exists until the day Islam reigns supreme. No good Muslim can accept the idea of permanent peaceful coexistence with Christians or Jews or any other religion.

From a Christian perspective, Muslims don't understand that God in his great love has made a way for people to be forgiven of their sin and to spend eternity in his presence. Taught that God is harsh and demanding, Muslims despair of achieving heaven. Convinced that God's kingdom must be established by earthly power, Islam is on a collision course with any society that believes God created his children for freedom.

BEYOND THE WALL
And fortress walls isolate Muslims from the good news, says Avery Willis, the International Mission Board's senior vice president for overseas operations.

"Muslims are separated from God's love and truth by walls of religious and civil law, tradition, family and community relationships, history, mistrust and fear," Willis says. "Christians often stay behind their own walls of prejudice, ignorance, anger and comfort -- unwilling to move beyond them to penetrate the walls of Islam."

To help Muslims find freedom in Christ, the IMB launched "Beyond the Wall" in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. The emphasis seeks to share the God of love with Muslims by increasing prayer for Muslims, developing effective tools for sharing the gospel with them, enabling Christian partnerships for Muslim outreach, conducting human needs and disaster relief projects for Muslim people and helping Southern Baptists hear God's call to the Muslim world.

The new vision for sharing Christ with Muslims comes at a time when Muslims themselves are questioning a religion that could spawn an atrocity like Sept. 11, says IMB President Jerry Rankin.

"Personnel throughout North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia are seeing signs of disillusionment among adherents of the Muslim faith," he said. "People are asking questions that indicate a search for hope and security, and the answer is Jesus Christ.

"In God's providence, he has turned the tragedy of a year ago into an unprecedented opportunity for penetrating the Muslim world. Our sovereign Lord is shaking the nations. May we be found faithful in going and sharing the hope of the gospel."




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