By a Middle Eastern Christian
At one stage or another we each face unsettling events. It might be a problem in the family or at church or at work. It might be some sickness or the loss of a loved one. It might be business failure or the loss of a job. Still, it might be a major national event such as what happened in the US on September 11, 2001. Sooner or later we are confronted by things that disturb and shake the depths of our being.
Recently, an Egyptian Muslim acquaintance of mine spoke to another Muslim friend of his, in my presence about that which is unsettling for him. Guess what? He was speaking of the current conditions and events in the Arab and Muslim worlds. He is disturbed by the poor economic situation in Egypt and the corruption of government officials. He is also shaken by deeper and more philosophical things such as the ongoing, bloody conflict between the Algerian government and Muslim fanatics, the situation in Iraq and in Afghanistan, the plight of the Palestinian people, the conflict in Sudan, Sunni and Shiite Muslims attacking and killing one another in Pakistan, the unending civil war in Somalia, the corrupt Arab Muslim rulers in the Gulf states, the failure of the Islamic experiment in Iran and many other matters. My Muslim friend was clearly very unsettled and disturbed. I could have jumped in and blamed it all on Islam and thus ended any possibility of gaining his hearing for the Gospel message. How, then, to respond?
In Egypt you can see a popular Arabic poster around proclaiming: "Islam is the Solution." Commenting on that, a retired university professor of medicine, also an Egyptian Muslim, said to me, "But these ignorant people do not realize that Islam is the problem." He assured me that he was neither an atheist nor a Christian. Yet, he went on to say that Christians do not have that problem. He too is unsettled. He has come to a diagnosis but has not found a healing treatment for the disease!
Why am I sharing this with you? Very simply, so you get a glimpse of the wearying, heart-shaking turmoil of people in the Muslim world. Growing numbers of both highly and less educated Muslims are unsettled. Still, most are not going to respond kindly to anyone pointing an accusing finger at their religion. What they do not need is talk against the religion of their fathers and forefathers. Already these are the painfully deep, secret fears of most. Their need is for sympathy, understanding and caring friendship. That is the most winsome way to a Muslim's heart and mind, especially these days. That is how Christ dealt with distraught people.
The message of the Gospel is about the God who gives himself in Christ to miserably undeserving sinners like us. This is the message that Muslim people desperately need; and it has to be presented to them in the same self-giving spirit of Christ.