Islam sees itself in a state of war with Western civilization, which was shaped by the Judeo-Christian tradition.
The incompatibility of this worldview led Harvard professor Samuel Huntington, in his 1990s book The Clash of Civilizations, to predict that the clash between Islam and the West would be the great struggle of the twenty-first century. He is a prophet.
The question is, as with all prophets: Will we listen? Will we acknowledge that we are in the midst of a life-and-death struggle between two hostile worldviews? To listen to America’s politicians say we have to bring the troops home, three years is long enough to fight, is tragically comical.
One Down, Millions to Go Abdul Rahman and Religious Freedom
March 29, 2006 Listen: Windows Media | Real Media | MP3
Note: This commentary was delivered by Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley.
Last week, Chuck told you about Abdul Rahman, the Afghani Christian who faced death for converting from Islam. Since then, there have been positive developments in this case, which we’d like to share with you—not only because we can all use some good news, but also as a reminder of what Christians can accomplish.
As you will recall, Rahman converted to Christianity sixteen years ago while working for a Christian group that helped Afghani refugees. After he returned to Afghanistan, a custody dispute with his parents brought his conversion to the attention of the authorities. Under Islamic law, the punishment for his conversion to Christ is death.
The idea of a Christian being executed in a country where three hundred Americans had died to rid the people of an Islamic theocracy was intolerable. Chuck and others throughout the Christian community asked you to let our leaders know that “Abdul Rahman’s execution must not take place.”
You heard us, and our government leaders, in turn, heard you. After a shaky start, public pressure yielded results. President Bush courageously said that he was “deeply troubled” by Rahman’s case and added that he expect Afghanistan to “honor the universal principle of freedom.”
Afghani officials initially resisted Western pressure to free Rahman. They were worried about the kind of sentiment expressed by one Kabul resident to the BBC: “If [president] Karzai listens to them, there will be jihad.”
So, instead of releasing Rahman on grounds of religious freedom, they dismissed the case on technical grounds. They cited “a lack of information and a lot of legal gaps in the case” and expressed doubts about Rahman’s sanity.
“BreakPoint” listeners and readers should be happy and gratified that their efforts paid off. The events of the past week are a powerful reminder of the difference concerned listeners and readers like you can make.
Still, we shouldn’t celebrate too much or too long. While Rahman’s release saved his life, the grounds on which he was released still leaves the door open for similar prosecutions. As if to underscore this fact, his release was greeted by demonstrations where protesters chanted “death to Bush.” There have been calls for similar protests across Afghanistan.
What’s more, Rahman is hardly out of danger. His future in Afghanistan is, to put it mildly, uncertain. The Taliban may be out of power, but it’s not out of business.
Then there’s the status of Christians in the rest of the Islamic world. Just last week, Algeria enacted a law against “anyone urging or forcing or [even] tempting, to convert a Muslim to another religion.” The law was prompted by recent mass conversions of Berbers—North Africa’s native population—back to Christianity. I said “back” because Berbers, such as St. Augustine, were once Christians.
That Algeria felt free to enact such a law, even as religious freedom was in the headlines, demonstrates just how daunting the task of promoting religious freedom is. That’s the bad news—the good news is that our leaders are paying attention. Now we need to make sure that our Christian brethren in the Islamic world keep ours. For further reading and information:
Today’s BreakPoint offer: Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?: Understanding the Differences between Christianity and Islam by Dr. Timothy George.
BreakPoint Commentary No. 060321, “Democratic Apostasy: The Martyrdom of Abdul Rahman.”
Daniel Cooney, “Afghan Lawmakers Demand Convert Be Held,” Associated Press, 29 March 2006.
Tony Karon, “The Afghan Christian: Freed but Not Free,” Time, 26 March 2006.
“Algeria Bans Muslims from Learning Christianity,” Arabic News, 21 March 2006.
“Afghan Protest Greets Freeing of Christian Convert,” Toronto Star, 27 March 2006.
Daniel Cooney, “Afghan Christian Should Be Released Soon,” Associated Press, 26 March 2006.
Daniel Cooney, “Afghan Court Drops Case Against Christian,” Associated Press, 26 March 2006.
Mark Steyn, “Will We Stick Our Necks Out for His Faith?” Orange County Register, 25 March 2006.
J. Alexander Thier, “The Crescent and the Gavel,” New York Times, 26 March 2006.
Sanjoy Majumder, “Mood Hardens Against Afghan Convert,” BBC News, 24 March 2006.
Spengler, “The West in an Afghan Mirror,” Asia Times, 28 March 2006.
Rob Moll, “Weblog: What’s Next for Abdul Rahman?” Christianity Today, 28 March 2006.
Abdul Waheed Wafa and David Rohde, “Kabul Judge Rejects Calls to End Trial of Christian Convert,” New York Times, 24 March 2006.
Hesham A. Hassaballa, “Converts from Islam: Let God Be the Judge,” Beliefnet, 28 March 2006.
Gregory Rodriguez, “Keeping the Faith, Globally,” Los Angeles Times, 26 March 2006.
Lawrence F. Kaplan, “Crossing Over: The Plight of Iraqi Christians,” New Republic, 23 March 2006. (Available to subscribers only.)
Kristin Wright, “Beleagured Remnant: Assyrian Christians in Iraq,” BreakPoint WorldView, May 2005.
Alex Wainer, “Does Culture Beat All?” Culture Beat, 25 March 2006.
BreakPoint Commentary No. 020328, “‘Christianity Is Life, Islam Is Death’: Berbers Embrace Christianity.” (Free registration required.)
Overcoming the Clash of Civilizations The Bible and Other Faiths
March 24, 2006 Listen: Windows Media | Real Media | MP3
Note: This commentary was delivered by Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley.
The clash of civilizations is a term most of us are familiar with. But it’s more than just a catchphrase or a book title. It’s a grim reality that we live with every day, as we deal with acts of religiously inspired terrorism.
In such a difficult and often frightening situation, how should we live? How do we relate to the people of different backgrounds and beliefs that we see every day? And going beyond that, how do we talk to them to about Christ? In these tense times, we’re in need of a thorough and practical answer.
Ida Glaser helps us to meet that need in her new book, The Bible and Other Faiths: Christian Responsibility in a World of Religions. Glaser is uniquely qualified for the task. She is the daughter of a Christian mother and a Jewish father who later converted to Christianity. She has spent her entire career working with international students and studying interfaith relations.
In her book, as her subtitle suggests, she focuses on the responsibilities that Christians have in dealing with their neighbors of other faiths. Glaser acknowledges the difficulties and problems in dealing with people of other beliefs. But she calls us to account for our own behavior.
Tragically, Glaser has seen situations where Christians have killed in the name of religion—in Nigeria, for instance, when Christian youths killed Muslims who tried to pass their roadblocks. More commonly, Glaser has known Christians whose skewed theology has led them to look down on people of other faiths and to think that some people groups are inherently better than others.
Glaser takes us where we need to go—back to the Bible—to emphasize that God’s care and provision has always been for all people, as demonstrated by Christ’s death on the cross. Looking at current events in the Middle East, for example, Glaser says, “Whatever their interpretation of the current state of Israel, Christians have no basis either to treat the Jews as people whom God hates or to treat Israel’s enemies as people whom God hates. Any theology which leads either to hatred of Jews or to hatred of Muslims must be wrong in itself or be wrongly applied.”
This truth has radical implications about how you and I as Christians should live our lives and deeply convicts many of us. Both Chuck and I take seriously the words of God in Genesis 12:2, where He blesses Israel and says, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.” Therefore, we have an especially strong attachment to Israel and the Jewish cause. Chuck has also spoken many times of our support for Israel, because it is a beacon for democracy in that troubled region. But that’s no excuse for hating Arabs and Muslims. The fact is that we have a Savior who came for all people.
This is the very point our founding fathers understood when they wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”
Glaser’s book, The Bible and Other Faiths, can be a helpful guide for Christians to look beyond the barriers that separate us from our neighbors. Its central message is one that we need to take to heart: We can only share the Gospel of Christ and the hope of Christ with other people, however great our differences, when they know that we care about them and respect them as human beings made in the image of God. For further reading and information: