THE MANDATE OF THE CHURCH
We have all been deeply impacted by the horror of the evil attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th. Our hearts were filled with grief and sadness as we saw the carnage caused by people intent on inflicting maximum destruction.
Like everybody else, we have been grappling with how to make sense of this tragedy. We long for justice and an uprooting of evil, but we are also painfully aware of how many of our innocent friends in the Iran Region could suffer and possibly lose their lives.
President Bush has said that Operation Enduring Freedom to fight terrorism will now be the main task of his administration. Tony Blair has made rooting out the cancer of terrorism the priority of his foreign policy. Other world leaders have said they will stand shoulder to shoulder with America in this fight.
But what should the response of the Church be? How should the events of 11 September 2001 challenge the Church of Jesus Christ?
As Christians involved in missions to Muslims, we believe the Church needs to have a clear response to the tragedy. Just as politicians are rising up to the challenge of rooting out terrorism and protecting democracy, so too the Church should rise up to love Muslims by preaching Christ to them and campaigning for their religious freedom.
Make no mistake, how Christians respond at this time will decide the future and nature of mission to the Muslim world in our generation.
Love Muslims By Preaching Christ
As the world watches the political events unfold in all their complexity, the Church must not forget that the ultimate answer to evil in all societies is Christ. As it is rightly the task of politicians to lead their nations in responding to the atrocity, so it is our responsibility to preach Christ.
However because of fear, unbelief and a lack of love, the Church has rarely preached Christ to Muslims, as it should have done. Instead Christians have largely either ignored or appeased the Muslim world.
After the September 11th attack it is surely time for a massive shift in mission thinking. Christ-centred preaching to Muslims must come to the top of the Church's agenda.
Campaign for Religious Freedom in Muslim Countries
In the aftermath of the attack it is right to be concerned that Muslims in Western countries are not attacked.
But it is also right for Christians to be reminded that there is no freedom to preach Christ to Muslims, right across the Islamic world. Stretching from West Africa to the Far East there are over one billion Muslims living in 34 countries.
In the vast majority of these countries there is no religious freedom.
There is no freedom to proclaim Christ, no freedom for Muslims to convert, no freedom for Christians from a Muslim background to assemble together or be trained for ministry. In many Muslim countries there is no freedom to even print Bibles or build churches.
And in all Muslim countries the law of apostasy, that demands death for anyone converting from Islam, is either tolerated or actively sponsored.
Over one billion people are not allowed to hear the Gospel. This is the greatest violation of human rights in our time yet there is little passion to see things change.
Twenty years ago thousands of Christians campaigned for religious freedom in the former Communist countries. It was considered an outrage that they could not hear the Gospel. But when it comes to the Muslim world it seems as if our attitude is different and most Christians accept the status quo.
As politicians commit themselves to Operation Enduring Freedom, surely it is time for the Church to campaign for true religious freedom in Muslim countries.
In the coming months it is clear there are going to be dramatic diplomatic changes. The call to the church is to seize this historic opportunity and campaign for religious freedom in Muslim countries. This means that religious freedom must have priority in all the diplomacy that elected officials conduct with Muslims countries.
Let politicians urge Muslim leaders who denounce the attack on the USA to commit themselves to religious freedom, so Christians can preach Christ in the streets of Tehran and Riyadh, just as Muslims can preach Islam in the streets of London and New York.
We were deeply impressed by the bravery and commitment of the rescue services in response to the tragedy. While others were escaping to safety, they ran to the danger zone to save lives.
Our prayer is that the church will be obedient to her mandate, and do all she can to boldly proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ as the only Saviour to the Muslim world.
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