While the U.S. government has made changes in response to the rise of radical Islam, an expert on terrorism and the Middle East Crisis is wondering whether churches have changed and, if not, how they should.
Last Friday, on the eighth anniversary of the infamous 9/11 terrorist attacks, some 650 churches – mostly from the United States – participated in a town hall style webcast hosted by Joel C. Rosenberg, author of The Last Jihad and Inside the Revolution.
The event, titled “The Threat of Radical Islam and the Church’s Response,” sought to inform churches about radical Islam and teach Christians how to reach out to their Muslim neighbors.
“I believe we are at the most dangerous moment in the Islamic revolution right now,” said Rosenberg, an evangelical Christian with an Orthodox Jewish heritage. “I hope tonight is the beginning of a conversation about the threat and the response.”
During the webcast, Rosenberg, Christian radio host Janet Parshall, and Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (retired) – the former deputy undersecretary of defense intelligence and founding member of Delta Force – discussed various pressing issues in the Middle East, including how close Iran is to possessing nuclear weapons, how Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is doing in his country, and the conflict between Israel and its Muslim neighbors.
Rosenberg emphasized multiple times that the vast majority of Muslims in the world (93 percent by some estimates) are peaceful and do not believe jihad is the answer to problems.
But the remaining seven percent of the Muslim population, or 91 million, do believe in using violence to achieve their objective. If the Muslim radicals all came together, said Rosenberg – a former political consultant to then-former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – they would be the fourth largest country in the world.
Despite the initial grim updates about the Middle East crisis, the webcast program shifted gears and began focusing on the “big untold story” of the tens of thousands of Muslims coming to Christ in the Middle East.
Tom Doyle, a mission leader to the Middle East with E3 Partners, said it is the timing of God now to reach the Muslims in the region. Looking at the Gospel, Doyle said, the last place it is reaching are those in the Middle East and Central Asia.
The former pastor of 20 years recalled his first visited Jordan and how a Christian leader there said to him that every believer should go to jail at least once because it is good for them and after that there is nothing to be afraid of.
“That’s the kind of commitment they have when they come to Christ,” Doyle commented.
At another church, when it was time to recite the week’s memorized verse, a 79-year-old man who was a former Muslim stood up and recited all 47 verses of Acts 2, the mission leader recalled. Similarly, an 11-year-old girl, a 34-year-old mom, and others in the church also enthusiastically recited the whole chapter.
“The passion and the boldness,” said Doyle. “They are willing to serve, they are willing to be persecuted, they are willing to die for their faith.”
But initially, Doyle, like so many other Christians, struggled to love Muslims.
And loving Muslims became harder in light of the 9/11 attacks, the persecution of Christians living in Islamic countries and the constant threat Israel faces from its Muslim neighbors.
But Doyle shared about his experience in Gaza right after 9/11. A woman in a burqa came up to him and grabbed his arm and asked if he was from America. He said “yes.” She then asked if he saw the people in Gaza cheering when footage was shown of the twin towers collapsing.
Doyle said “yes.”
The woman then said, “Not me. I was crying for those people because they didn’t deserve to die. That was wrong.”
Doyle said he thanked God for bringing that woman to him and reminding him that as bad as the situation is, people are made in the image of God and no one is unreachable.
“Muslims do not expect Christians, generally, to love them and Jewish believers of Jesus to love them,” commented the messianic Jew. “I think ‘the love your enemy, love your neighbor’ strategy was given to us by Jesus for a reason.”
Following Doyle’s story, radio talk-show host Janet Parshall, who was the emcee of the event, pointed out that churches need to learn how to respond to Muslims because the issue is at their doorsteps now.
Parshall highlighted the case of runaway convert teen Rifqa Bary, who alleged that her Muslim father threatened to kill her for leaving Islam. Rifqa, 17, was taken in by an evangelical pastor after she ran away to Florida. She is now in a high-profile custody battle with her parents, fighting to stay in Florida until she turns 18 next year.
“Our hearts go out to little Rifqa because of what she has gone through,” said Doyle. “She’s just this sweet, young, passionate for Jesus girl who is saying, ‘I love Him and I will not deny him.’ She left her family and is in Florida.
“Again, we don’t know everything about it, but I think pastors need to know that this may be headed their way,” he added.
In continuing, Doyle offered steps on how to reach Muslims and share the Gospel with them.
He said the first step is for Christians to confess that they have a prejudice against Muslims. Then, they should build friendships with them. The mission leader to the Middle East said Muslims like it when Christians offer to pray for them and they won’t get angry or offended.
“You don’t have to argue them to Christ, you just have to love them,” said Doyle. “Love them. That is the number one thing we are seeing in the Middle East today that is bringing Muslims to the Lord, besides dream and visions, is the love they feel from Christians.”
Doyle shared stories of Muslim radicals who have seen the love exhibited by Christians and converted to the faith. The mission leader also noted that Muslims who recently moved to America are probably lonely and could use a friend.
“There is no peace in Islam,” stated Hormoz Shariat, a former Iranian Muslim extremist who is now a pastor and dubbed the “Billy Graham of Iran” by some. “I ask Muslims, ‘Do you have peace in your heart? Do you have peace in your relationship with God?’ A Muslim is always worried about his relationship with God. They fear God. They are always fearful of what Allah will do to them.
“So Islam, even though it says it is a religion of peace, it is not,” Shariat continued. “It has not brought peace to people’s lives personally, to families, to relationships with others and with God.”
The Iranian pastor advises Christians to see Muslims as God sees them – not with fear or hate as many view them because of the 9/11 attacks.
“So to love God is to love them,” he said. “You have to get rid of hatred or fear. If you fear them, you won’t approach them.”
Shariat, who oversees the largest church of Iranian Muslim converts in the United States, says Islam is a religion of fear and the first thing he does when he talks to a Muslim is pray and fight the spirit of fear in them.
The “Billy Graham of Iran” also said love is not in the Quran. He said he is joyful when angry Muslims call into his radio show to verbally abuse him because it is a great opportunity to show the love of Christ. While the Muslim is shouting at him, he said he would pray, love and bless the caller.
“Every time after such a call, Muslims would call and receive Christ,” Shariat said. “They say this, ‘We have been studying about Jesus, listening to the program, but we were not convinced. But the way you answered that man who is angry, we are now convinced that your Jesus is the way.”
The event last Friday on the eighth anniversary 9/11 was broadcast on 750 Christian radio stations and five major Christian TV networks in addition to the Internet.
Aside from being a New York Times best-selling author, event host Rosenberg is also the founder and president of the Joshua Fund, a nonprofit charitable and educational organization that provides humanitarian relief for victims of war and terrorism in Israel and the Muslim world.
Among his latest works is a documentary, titled Inside the Revolution, which is based on his novel of the same name and explores “the three most dramatic movements of our time.”
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