Wherever I look these days, I cannot escape Islam, especially since taking up an interest from an early age. I make this statement, not to elicit a positive or a negative emotion, but rather state the simple fact that Islam is strongly embedded in all aspects of our culture and it is nigh impossible to escape the implications that follow. My point is not to incite feelings of fear or hate but rather to improve peoples understanding so we can better deal with Islam when faced with it.
I have been dealing with Muslim folk ever since I came across them after I left school and went to university, and did so on the basis of trying to cultivate friendship and understanding, which for most of the time was a positive experience. I continued in a similar vein when I became fully involved in community work, until the present day. Besides wishing to positively engage with Muslims, I have a desire to win them to Christ, just as Muslims who are earnest about their religion wish to convert Christians to Islam. Notwithstanding the fact there is much Muslims and Christians have in common, starting with a shared humanity and fear of God, the truth is that both earnest Muslims and earnest Christians believe they have the truth in a way the other doesn’t and their religion compels them to so act. I should add that my evangelistic zeal in this matter is also tempered by my belief that we who follow God’s path are called to love our neighbor, whatever his/her religion or lack of religion.
This is the background behind my decision to spend three days at a Christian conference centre, away from other distractions, to consider the subject of Islam and to pray for the Muslim world, over the weekend just gone, along with seventy other like minded individuals from all over, all sharing that same interest. It turned out to be a pretty intensive time, but helped by spending time with like minded folk in pleasant surroundings. While I know a lot (compared with most) about Islam and the world of Islam, I am still relatively ignorant. I am not one for going away to conferences these days but I felt this was one I should not pass up on. I won’t give away too much by way of details because of sensitivities involved, it is easier to write generally rather than specifically and I want this article to be short and therefore will focus on the main points.
While Muslim beliefs were referred to during the conference, it was not the main purpose of my time away to increase my understanding of what these are exactly, and these were generally referred to only when relevant to the messages being presented. However, I am resolved to study more on this matter, including reading the Koran, and will do so. Many shared on all sorts of subjects. Many had specific knowledge on specific situations in particular countries where Islam was a major and usually the majority religion, often having lived and worked in those countries. Whenever we learnt of a situation, we would break up, into small groups usually, and pray, realizing there were needs that only God could deal with.
I suppose, as I reflect on the program, there were several elements that were brought out:
- Prayer – committing what we learned and the needs as we saw them to God.
- Theological – understanding our own and the religion of Islam in accordance of our study of the Bible.
- Reports – (more dipping in) into what is happening into many of the various regions in the world.
- Reports – of what is happening in our own country e.g. around the London area.
- Understanding – the Muslim mindset and why some act in the way they do
- Listening – to the testimonies of individuals e.g. having been converted from Islam or those working in situations where Islam was a significant factor.
- Considering – the needs of refugees and asylum seekers and in the light of Islamic terrorism.
- Understanding – the nature of Jihad and Islam expansionism
- Reflecting – on the question of whether Islam is trying to take over the world (focusing particularly on the UK) for Islam and seeing how successful they were thus far. The matter of non violent jihad was explored.
- Meeting – and getting to know better individual delegates on a one to one basis.
Rarely do I go away to conferences when I learn so much that is relevant and useful, but I did on this occasion. Rarely am I taken outside of my comfort zone in the way I was on this occasion. Rarely am I challenged to respond to what I learned as I have been on this occasion. It was one conference I was very pleased to have been part of. Those who know me will know that I am quite adept at chipping in with my own two penneth worth when the occasion warrants it, but this time, but for one question about the extent the UK was changing to accommodate Islam I tended to keep my own counsel, recognizing that this was definitely one occasion where I would do better to listen and learn rather than speak and teach.