The Extinction of Christianity in the Middle East?
There has been a dramatic decline in the number of Christians in the Middle East and they face some difficult dilemmas. At the time of the Islamic Conquests in the 7th century, a few thousand Muslim Arabs were ruling over a population in which the majority were Christians.
Since 1900 the Christian population of the region has gone from 14% (around 7 million) to 5% (around 25 million) in 2015…
During the 5th Crusade St. Francis undertook what most considered a senseless and foolhardy mission: convert the most powerful Muslim in the world. So radical was the Sultan he had promised a Byzantine gold piece for anyone who brought the head of a Christian. He was “treacherous, brainless and false hearted,” but where others saw the face of evil, Francis saw a man without the Savior and compassion welled up inside of him.
As Francis and his trusted friend Illumimato walked onto the battlefield, they were caught, beaten and brought to the Sultan who was happy because he thought they wanted to become Muslims. “On the contrary,” said Francis, “We have a message that you should surrender your soul to God.” Thus he proclaimed the Triune God and Jesus Christ the Savior of all. The Sultan did not convert for it was he who retook Jerusalem. By God’s grace St. Francis was not killed but that possibility did not deter him.
In these perilous times, when radical Islam is carrying out horrific acts of violence, Christians must reach out to Muslims with courage and compassion. We must understand their concerns and engage with them in witness. Most Muslims wake up with no church, no Bible, and no one to tell them about the Way, the Truth and the Life. Five times a day from countless minarets in their midst, they hear God is great, but who will tell them God is love?
Several times recently I have been asked by concerned Christians questions along the lines of “will Muslims take over in the UK/the West?” or “how should we respond to the violence of Jihadists/ Islamic State etc?”. My precise answer depends upon the circumstances but is usually along the lines of “keep calm and think biblically”!
What do I mean? There is a danger that we allow our thinking to be manipulated by the secular media or the agenda of people who want to scare us into supporting their particular cause. So here are five suggestions for a calm and biblical approach to Islam and current world events:
I have just returned from an amazing conference in the far East! There were approximately 1000 people present. The most gripping moment was the simple testimony of a little woman (non-white), serving in what may be Central Asia’s dirtiest, darkest and most dangerous country. Dressed in the garb of a village Muslim woman (for security, only eyes showing), she told of a few converts who had believed, despite the cost. One day a friend and fellow worker wept, asking God how these people would ever know He loved them. Shortly thereafter, she and her family were martyred. This little woman was warned her family was next on this list, so she prayed: “God, if that’s your will, we are also willing to die.” One daughter (age 14) said, “Mom, we can’t leave; my best friend has not yet accepted Jesus.” It was a family decision to stay. She was on her way back and asked for more workers. Seven young people got up from their seats and went forward (5 women, 2 men)—all from the same city. By now many (myself included) were in tears.