Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Speaking My Mind

Tony Campolo

The increasingly strained relations between Muslims and Christians have huge implications for the entire world. Samuel P Huntington, in his book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, sets forth the thesis that conflicts between civilizations (which he defines as religions) and the cultures that they generate will dominate world politics in the twenty-first century. Henry Kissinger called Huntington’s book the most important to have emerged sine the end of the Cold War. Foreign Affairs, the most prestigious journal on international relations, says that Huntington’s thesis has generated more discussion than any other in the last sixty years. Zbigniew Brzezinski, one-time national US security advisor, says that this book ‘will revolutionise our understanding of international affairs.’

Assuming that Huntington is right, the years that lie ahead will be marked by armed warfare between followers of the Judeo-Christian religion and followers of Islam. This is already happening. In the Philippines, in Indonesia, in the Sudan and in Serbia, the battle lines already are drawn between Christian cultures and Islamic cultures. The only question remaining is whether evangelical Christianity will add fuel to the growing fires of this warfare or follow the admonition of Jesus, who called us to be peacemakers. Regardless of how the Muslim world positions itself in relationship to us, ought we not to reach out in love and take upon ourselves a ministry of reconciliation?

Think about how a war between Christian and Muslim civilisations would regenerate the ongoing struggles that have been evident since the Crusades. The bitter battles that marked those religious wars so marred the image of Christianity that missionary efforts to Muslim peoples have been dramatically thwarted even up to this present day. What I see happening, starting with September 11th, 2001, and our actions against Iraq, could set back another five hundred years any openness to the gospel in Islamic countries.

At just about every missionary conference I attend, the speakers talk about the need to evangelise those who live within the ’10/40 window.’ This is a reference to that part of the world between 10 degrees and 40 degrees north of the equator, which covers North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The window has in view the areas encompassing most of the world’s greatest physical and spiritual needs, most of the world’s least-reached peoples, and most of the governments that oppose Christianity.

What evangelicals have to recognise is that the majority of the people who live within that 10/40 window are Muslims. And if we really want to evangelise them, we had better find ways to show love to them rather than wage war against them. To that end, we must critique our rhetoric about Muslims, study who they are and what they believe, and seek out common ground for a creative dialogue in which we can tell them about Jesus and his salvation.

A survey reported in USA Today on September 16, 2003, showed frightening declines in favourable attitudes toward the United States in Islamic nations, primarily because of their perception of how we regard Muslim people. In Morocco, the percentage of people holding favourable attitudes toward America dropped from 77 percent in 2001 to 27 percent in 2003. In Jordan, it went form 27 percent to 1 percent; in Indonesia, from 75 percent to 15 percent; and in Turkey, from 52 percent to 15 percent. Americans invented the field of public relations, but it’s obvious that we’ve done a lousy job of it recently, despite the fact that our government spends more than a billion dollars a year on promoting a positive image of America.

From chapter 9 of Speaking My Mind – the radical evangelical prophet tackles the tough issues Christians are afraid to race, published by W Publishing 2004
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