Saturday, April 23, 2011

Europe and Islam

Published late in 2010 in Challenge WeeklyHave you noticed what is going on in our world? Almost daily some issue concerning Islam and western relations is in the news. As I write it is the Commonwealth Games in Delhi under threat from the Mujahideen. Before this, it was the threat to burn the Quran in Florida. The Ground Zero mosque remains a burning issue. Recently, France banned the Burqa. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a consequence of this tension. A little further back we have the Bali bombings, 7/7 in London and 9/11 in New York. The threat of Al Qaeda casts a shadow everyday; where and how will they strike next? We live with continuous tension between Islam and the western world. Here in NZ with a small Muslim population, thankfully this is not yet a real issue. But, as we look around, the temperature is rising.
On my recent trip to Europe I felt this tension strongly. In Turkey, the most secular Muslim country, I was taken aback by their nationalism and religious fervor. While there, the Israelis stormed the Gaza Aid Ship. The response was amazing with violent riots and 24/7 television revealing a deep hostility to Israel and the US. One local believed this would swing Turkey away from the US toward Iraq and Iran. Across Europe tension is rising with the growing Islamic population and influence. This is on the rise with ongoing immigration and the high birthrates of Muslims. One senses Europe is a continent heading for crisis as two great civilizations clash.
So where will this all head? The history of Europe and European-Islamic relations suggests to me that there will be a progressive increase of tension and violence as the right of European politics gains momentum. One senses that the future of the world is increased instability and perhaps in Europe, suppression of Islam, ethnic cleansing and dare I say it, ultimately even war.
How can we as Christians respond? First, we should not respond out of fear. Our security is in God and we can have complete trust in him that no matter what happens, all things work for the good of his loved and elect. Secondly, we can pray for the world. Let's pray that the power of God will restrain the forces of evil and lead the west of which we are a part, to respond in God's way. Thirdly, we can seek to understand Islam better with its various shades. This will ensure we do not react wrongly and condemn all Muslims on the basis of the lunacy of a few. Fourthly, we should show relentless and unconditional love to all whatever their worldview. Jesus was all for love for all, even enemies. Where we come into contact with Muslims, let's engage them in openness and not avoid them in fear. Let's reach out to them in love. Finally, let us love one another and show the world there is another way to live, the way of Jesus. Go deeper!

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