Tag Archives: Islam

World Watch List #8 Pakistan

flag-pakistan-M

Christian mother, Asia Bibi, has spent the last 5 years on death row in Pakistan after being accused and convicted of blasphemy. Her problems began when she offered water to a fellow human being. Asia herself had drunk from the well, but later she was told that Christians were forbidden to use that well.  An argument arose among the women to whom she had offered a drink. They were all Muslim, and they began to make fun of Christians.

In self-defense Asia asked a simple question “Jesus died on the cross for us, what has Mohammed done for you?”

Her Muslim neighbors instantly challenged her comments as blasphemy. The women attacked her and drove her back home. Later, she was brutally beaten and raped. Two of her daughters were also later assaulted.

Due to the culture of Pakistan Christians are considered untouchable. Within the Muslim majority most believe that Christians should be humiliated and shamed. Every Christian who breaks even simple cultural traditions is subject to the charge of blasphemy. Many Christians have been imprisoned on the charge of blasphemy, but most are eventually released. Some have been exonerated, due to evidence that the original charge was made up. Asia Bibi is not the only Christian prisoner in Pakistan, but she is the only one sentenced to death.

Asia Bibi

Asia Bibi must obtain all her food in prison from family and friends. She must prepare it herself, because if Muslims handle her food she is at risk of being poisoned. The risk that any Muslim will feel free to shame or harm any Christian is rampant in the culture.

When natural disasters strike, such as earthquakes and floods, the Muslim majority receive help from the government to recover from the tragedy and to rebuild their homes. Christians are ignored Mr. Khurram Daud Gill, a social activist in Pakistan said, “We witness that Christian flood victims have been treated as untouchables by the government. The rescue, relief and then rehabilitation work was done unfairly. The district government did not provide adequate machines or cranes to lift the mud from the streets and heavy debris of ruined buildings. None of the high scale government officials visited the victims.

Pray

  • For Asia Bibi who remains in prison for alleged blasphemy after her appeal was turned down by the Pakistani High Court
  • For the growing number of Christian women and girls who are targets of killings and sexual assault
  • That the Taliban will be driven out of the country by government forces

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Images:
Flag of Pakistan
Courtesy of All-Flags-World
Source:http://www.all-flags-world.com/country-flag/Iran/national-pakistani-flag.php

 

Image: Asia Bibi
Source: http://www.persecution.com
Used by permission

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How Do Christians Find Common Ground With Muslims?

When the director of liturgy for the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., planned a worship service for Muslims to pray to Allah within the sanctuary of the cathedral, the fraud that is the pseudo-virtue tolerance was clearly shown for what it is. Suicide. Surrender. Self-immolation.

Every Christian knows that the God we worship, the Mysterious Three in One, is one God in three Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Every Muslim knows that the god he or she worships is “Allah,” who is one and only one and Mohammed is his prophet. Christians and Muslims have no common ground on which to pretend that they share something except for the genetic connection of Ishmael and Christ with Abraham. Both Ishmael (ancestor of the Arabic families that founded Islam in the 7th century after Christ) and Isaac (ancestor of the Jews through whose genetic line Christ was born) were sons of Abraham. The genetic connection is no foundation for any interfaith dialogue, because there is no common ground between Christianity and Islam. Mohammed himself made that clear. He thoroughly believed that Christians had become polytheists and idolaters, and if he were alive today, he would call the idea of interfaith dialogue with Christians “anathema.”

Explaining the decision to open the doors of the cathedral to such a service, representatives of the Cathedral said, “Leaders believe offering Muslim prayers at the Christian cathedral . . . demonstrates an appreciation of one another’s prayer traditions and is a powerful symbolic gesture toward a deeper relationship between the two Abrahamic traditions.” Such a statement is completely without justification, because it implies that the core of the two religions is Abraham. Abraham is not the point. Abraham is a human being whose genes have migrated through descendants such as Mohammed and Jesus. Never at any time did those descendants worship Abraham. Mohammed spend part of his life claiming to be a Christian, but he felt that Christianity had become polytheistic. If he had ever understood Christianity, he would have known better, which calls into question whether he could ever have been a Christian at all, but that is not the real issue. The issue is that Mohammed founded a religion that worships a god it calls Allah, and that god is not the God by whom the world was created and through whom Christ came to bring salvation to the world.

Therefore, the notion that Islam and Christianity have something to discuss is ludicrous, since they do not worship the same God. When factions in a Christian group such as the Catholic Church have disputes over whether women are to be ordained, they discuss their differences in the context of listening to the same God for guidance. When Muslims and Christians discuss prayer, they do not have any common ground on which to stand, because each stands before a different god. In the eyes of Christians, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no one approaches God except through him. In the eyes of Muslims, there is no god but Allah. This difference is irreconcilable. The only way there can be any discussion of prayer is for one party or the other to reject its own god.

The sad part of the whole story is that in the eyes of the Muslim world, Christians have rejected their own God. Muslims would never permit Christians to pray in a mosque, because to do so would make the mosque unclean. Muslims have such a strong perception of the “uncleanness” of Christians that when Pastor Saeed, a prisoner in Iran, was taken to an Iranian hospital for medical treatment, the doctors and nurses refused to touch him because he was “unclean.” To Muslims, to be Christian is to be unclean. Muslims are taught to regard Christians the way Brahman Hindus regard the Dalit (the untouchable caste).

The people who are leaders in the National Cathedral have abdicated their right to be called Christian leaders, because they clearly believe that it is fine to reject Christ in order to be hospitable to Muslims. They have, furthermore, demonstrated complete ignorance of Islam by permitting such an event inside a Christian church building. If they do not yet know that Muslims around the world now believe that Islam has conquered that building and subjugated it to Allah, they are not paying attention. No Christian prayers are or ever will be permitted in Muslim holy sanctuaries, and when Muslim prayers are offered in a sanctuary, it is henceforth subject to and dedicated to Allah. Mark Christian, a former Muslim who has been disowned by his family since he received Christ as an adult, says, “In Islamic tradition, supremacy is demonstrated to all by practicing Islam where Christianity or Judaism once reigned. This is what animates the building of mosques on the holy sites of other religions. It is a conqueror’s philosophy.” Watch for continuing efforts for Muslims to worship and pray in the Cathedral. Watch for Muslims to attempt to expand the area they use. Watch for enhanced efforts to shield their view of the cross or the stained glass windows or any other Christian symbolism in the gradually expanding space where they will be allowed to worship Allah in a house dedicated to worship and service to the Triune God under the guise of tolerance.

Americans are bombarded daily with demands that they show tolerance. This word is touted as the opposite of hatred and bigotry. Actually, it is the tool of hatred and bigotry. In the name of tolerance, affronts to religious liberty, freedom of speech, and other personal liberties are being accepted culturally, because in the name of tolerance training, activists for a variety of agendas are permitted to club their opponents with arrest, fines and even re-education. Expressed this way, tolerance simply becomes hatred and bigotry expressed by the winning agenda.

The opposite of hatred is actually love. It is love that transforms people and relationships from confrontation to respect. People who have suffered insults and been treated as less than human do not really want to be simply tolerated. That is what Hindus do with the untouchable caste in India. To this day, and Americans may find this very surprising, a Hindu of the Dalit caste, the untouchables, need not aspire to a middle-class life, let alone to political leadership or national acclaim in any field. Yet the Dalit are tolerated. It is against the law to shoot one down in the street, for example, or to force one into slavery in a household. The days of unfettered abuse of a Dalit are over, more or less. Still, the Dalit are pointed out as Dalit and recognized as Dalit. All citizens have heightened awareness of what a Dalit is. To initiate interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Christians is to accede to the necessity that Christians become the Dalit in a culture operated by sharia law. This “historic” prayer service is interpreted by some as a step forward in cordial relations between Christians and Muslims. Those who think that way ought not to plan to hold their breath until the Muslims extend an equivalent invitation.

The proponents of the interfaith dialogue initiated by allowing Muslims to pray in the National Cathedral while being protected from all the signs and symbols of what that cathedral is about are simply heightening our awareness of the Muslims. At the same time, they are unwittingly heightening Muslim awareness of the weakness of Christian affection for their God. Those who believe that we must surely have something in common with Muslims and we must exert ourselves to uncover and work with that something are clearly willing to create something for common ground if none exists. They have made common ground out of a section of the cathedral sanctuary where Muslims cannot see the cross of Christ. It will be enlightening to see what Muslims do with that common ground.

Christians who want to prevent anyone from seeing the cross of Christ have, in my view, a very strange way of expressing their faith. The Bible teaches me that the cross is evidence that the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom. The Bible teaches me that all of us find our common ground at the foot of the cross, not out of sight of the cross. The Bible says that the mission of every Christian is to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them all the things Christ taught his disciples. When we do that, I believe that we will all find common ground in the heavenly throne room of the God who dwells in ineffable light, where the slaughtered Lamb sits at the right hand of the Father, where the Holy Spirit reigns and calls forth the praises of angels and myriads of myriads of the faithful in heaven. Now that is what I call common ground!

 

A Verse for Meditation

Torah ScrollIf we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Galatians 5:25

  • What does Paul mean when he says, “live by the Spirit?”
  • Secular thinkers believe that only time and space exist. How would you explain “guided by the Spirit” to someone who feels that way?
  • Faithful Muslims believe they must serve and obey God, but they don’t expect to be able to know him. How would you explain “guided by the Spirit” to a Muslim?
  • Do you believe that the Holy Spirit is guiding you in any way today? What will you do today because the Holy Spirit is guiding you?

Christians feel Battered

Many people in the US today feel as if their world has been turned upside down. They feel almost adrift in a tumultuous sea. They feel that events swirl around them completely out of control.

What causes this feeling?

Probably one of the big issues is the nagging feeling that somehow the threat voiced long ago in the Soviet Union that “we will bury you” has come true. After all, the Soviet Union was a place where the government owned everything. Everybody worked for the government.  Businessmen were reviled as filthy capitalists. All healthcare was free, but it was administered by the government, and many people waited so long for service that they died waiting. Healthcare institutions looked more like prisons than hospitals. Christians and their churches were scorned and even punished. The government confiscated churches, stole anything valuable from the buildings, and turned them into government offices and agencies. Five-year plans for economic recovery never recovered anything and the country ultimately collapsed. Former refugees from the Soviet Union cry out that they came to the US to escape this sort of thing, yet it has now caught up with them. Both the culture and the government in the US are starting to look a lot like the former Soviet Union.

The refugee testimony that verifies the changes taking place makes it clear that Christians are not crazy when they feel battered on the one side by rampant secularism expressed both in the culture and in government and on the other side by Islam, which for reasons unknown, is accommodated by the government in deference not accorded to any other religion.

Secular pressure on Christians arises spontaneously in the culture with rising numbers of secularists who claim no connection to any religion while scorning those who do connect. Government in the US has historically been neutral or even benevolent toward religion in the culture, but in recent years it seems to be developing an aggressive and antagonistic attitude toward Christianity. (It might look equally antagonistic toward other religions if their adherents were as numerous as self-identified Christians.) Rulings forbidding prayer in schools or Christmas displays in parks or monuments to the Ten Commandments portend future policies and legislation that will make it difficult to exercise Christian faith in the public realm. Laws that upend moral codes that Christians believe to be the revealed will of God make it hard to express Christian teachings in public.

Islam presses for change in the culture more than it presses directly on Christians. Yet Christians are caught up in the pressure, because Christians are affected by every trend that develops in the culture. For example, there is no outcry from Muslims in the US to make Christian evangelism illegal, (as is normal in Islamic republics) but there is an outcry to apply sharia law in the courts when a Muslim is involved. The ultimate effect of invoking sharia in the courts, however, would be to risk suppression of Christian evangelism if a Muslim were involved. The Quran teaches that it is a deadly sin for a Muslim to convert to any other religion, and the Christian who may have led the Muslim to conversion would also be regarded as a threat. Couple Muslim rejection of a right for Christians to evangelize Muslims with secular demands that Christians refrain from “proselytizing” and a Christian is caught in a pincer attack from secularism and Islam.

Christians experience such challenges every day in the US. This threat level will not likely be reduced in the foreseeable future. How can Christians remain strong and faithful when under threat?

Christians in the US must look to the persecuted church around the world for inspiration and education in standing strong. Christians must learn from the persecuted church worldwide to be fearless in using the weapons God provides for this sort of warfare – truth, Christ’s righteousness, ready testimony to the gospel, faith, salvation, the Bible, and prayer. Read Ephesians 6:10-20 to get the whole picture of the way God intends for Christians to defend themselves. In many countries, the church thrives under oppression US residents have never seen, because the persecuted church uses these weapons with fervent commitment. US Christians must live the love of Christ in the cultural “no man’s land” between secularism and Islam. Christians must be the love of Christ to everyone who enters the “no man’s land” which is God’s workspace where he transforms darkness to light and death to life in the hearts of humankind for Jesus’ sake. There is a reason Christians feel battered; they are under attack. Nevertheless there is a way to thrive and live fulfilled lives if they use the tools God has provided for their well-being. This blog is devoted to helping people find and use these tools for blessing in their own lives and the lives of others.

Dangerous Places

You have been hearing news over the past few weeks about Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen imprisoned in Evin Prison in Iran. He was arrested in September, tried in January, convicted and sentenced to 8 years in prison, and his crime was that he worked with Christian house churches in Iran. He was accused of being a threat to national security, because of his work with the house churches.

Such an accusation sounds outrageous to American ears, but it is not uncommon in countries around the world. Iran is more familiar to us, because this nation has been considered a threat to the US since 1979 when the US embassy in Tehran was invaded and many Americans were held hostage there. News of Iranian hostility to the US is common. Sadly, while the arrest of Pastor Saeed is a direct insult to the US because he is a US citizen, Iran does not limit such arrests to American visitors in the country.

On March 10, five Iranian citizens,  Christians of Muslim background in Iran, were put on trial for charges related to public order, national security and evangelism. They were all arrested in October during a prayer meeting in a private home. Again, Christians were accused of being a threat to national security.

Over recent months, arrests of Christians during house church meetings or at the homes of house church members in Iran have increased. The government of Iran views Christianity as a deviant anti-government movement. That view only makes sense because the government and Islam are inextricably intertwined. The Islamic worldview is that there can be no distinction between the religion of Islam and the way of life of the people. Those who convert away from Islam are perceived as having torn the fabric of the culture.

Furthermore, the government of Iran considers Christians to be pawns of the West. The government ignores the fact that there have been Farsi-speaking Christians since the day of Pentecost. Travelers from Persia were in Jerusalem on that day. They heard Peter’s sermon, they were converted and baptized, and they took their faith with them back to the land that became present-day Iran. Sadly, the current escalating assault on Christianity recently added the shut-down of Christian worship in the Farsi language to the many prohibitions on Christians in Iran. Church buildings in Iran must be registered with the government, and the services held there must also be individually authorized. For many years, the government allowed worship in the Farsi language in two churches in Tehran, but in recent months, even those services have been prohibited. The pressure on Christians is justified as protection of the culture from pollution of Western ideas, and Christianity is viewed as a Western idea, despite its 2000-year history as part of Iranian culture.

There are many countries where it is dangerous to be a Christian. In some countries, the dangers arose via gradual cultural pressure that blended into legal and political restrictions. In countries like Iran, where Islam has become dominant through revolutionary action, the danger has dramatically increased as soon as an Islamic constitution takes effect. In other countries, Islam is becoming a threat to Christians as rebels simply overwhelm territories unprotected by weak governments, as in Mali. Some analysts actually consider Christianity to be the most heavily persecuted religion on earth at this time. Today, a Christian in the USA is free to believe and pray and worship and even wear religious jewelry, but there are forces in the culture that want to limit all these freedoms. We must pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Iran and other dangerous countries, but we must not forget to pray for our own testimony and courage to live our faith in the face of cultural and even governmental pressures to shut up.

In the US, it has for many years been possible to be complacent about Christian faith and its place in the culture. That is not justification for failure to live our testimony, but it may serve as a partial explanation. The letter to the church at Laodicea in the book of Revelation sounds a lot like US Christians:

14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

15 “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ” Revelation 3:14-22

 

Pray for Pastor Saeed, who now needs medical care due to internal bleeding brought on by torture. Pray for all Iranian Christians imprisoned for their faith, that they may have strength and courage to continue to testify faithfully. Pray for yourself and your church that you may be faithful to testify to Christ in the US culture despite scorn and smirking and even vicious assaults on you and your faith. Pray that we who claim the name of Christ may, indeed, conquer the evil that assaults us both insidiously and obviously. May each of us hear what the Spirit says.