These days, I don’t venture out all that much to attend conferences and such like but this past weekend (Friday to Sunday) I decided I really ought. This conference was arranged by an organization called “Fellowship of Faith for the Muslims” with the aim that the delegates, all with a common interest in the Muslim world and engaging with them in order to win them for Christ, can find out what is going on and why, encourage one another as fellow Christians (thus the “fellowship of faith”) and pray over matters presented. As always it is inspirational and humbling to be around those who devote their lives in the service of others.
The conference was held at the Hayes Christian Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire, a place I have visited on a number of occasions over the years. It is a splendid setting for gatherings like these, with excellent accommodation and meals, beautiful gardens and the right facilities for conferences like this to take place. Because the program was pretty full and time was short, the luxury of simply chilling out, reading etc. was not afforded to the extent I would have liked, but no matter, for the business to attend to was pressing and while I did excuse myself from some sessions, I felt constrained to go to most, absorbing what is taking place and enjoying the various presentations. Underpinning every session were times of prayer.
I am pretty sure the around sixty delegates all had their own reasons for attending (many attend every year and some this is their first time) – a good number, maybe most, were engaging with Muslim and ex-Muslim folk on a regular basis. Many assorted stories were told and points were made, and all could share (and most did). I tried to take in as much as I could, feeling privileged to partake. Given the events happening in recent months where Islam was a factor (in the UK – two terrors attacks in London and one in Manchester) and many more around the world, many given scant media coverage, I felt it was important to gain in understanding as to what is going on in order to formulate a response. I have addressed such matters in previous blogs arguing, notwithstanding most Muslims I know are nice people, Islam is a threat the powers that be too often do not admit to due to ignorance and political correctness, responding to “problems” inappropriately. It is right to befriend Muslims and engage with them winsomely, but as was stressed at the conference it is on the basis of love balanced by truth.
I won’t go into detail as to what was said (and much was said) partly because that is not the point of my writing here and besides it is important to be discrete when discussing matters that will appear in the public domain. It is clear, as if I needed reminding, that in many places, including in Europe, to be seen to oppose Islam can result in recriminations and even forfeiting one’s life. Islam has a presence one way or another (often negative) in most countries in the world. While we did not cover all these, we did consider many, especially when it related to the work people were doing in these places, and their interests, and I learnt much. From a prayer point of view there is much fuel for prayer. I even began to get answers to questions that have been bugging me, like the rising tide of Islam in the West (whys and wherefores), and making sense of the world events with an Islamic element, which I intend to articulate in future blog posts. I should also add that I much appreciated the biblical teaching at the conference as it helps me respond to these matters in the right way.
While it is a daunting prospect to think in the course of my lifetime Islam has gone from being a non issue when it comes to western countries, including the UK, to being perhaps the main issue facing us today, with the Islamification of the culture set to increase, and all too often this flies in the face of my own Christian convictions and the sort of country I would like mine to be, it was encouraging to be reminded none of this happens without God’s foreknowledge. He is after all sovereign and is the rightful Lord of all and he will reign on the earth. Things are bad and a lot worse than many Christians think, but our job is to be faithful doing what he has given us to do, including loving our Muslim neighbor, and leaving the rest to Him.