"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Nashotah Speakers on Islam and the Realities of Persecution

Rubble in Protestant Church of Islamabad after the March 18, 2002 grenade attack that killed four Christians during Sunday worship

The overwhelming majority of the world's Muslims are peaceful and moderate, but the three speakers at the annual academic convocation at Nashotah House warned that Christians, and Americans, must not underestimate the religious fervor of the radicals nor the reach of sharia law. "Worldwide Christianity and the Encounter with Islam" was the title for a day-long series of lectures and multimedia presentations Nov. 12 sponsored by the Wisconsin seminary.
The Rt. Rev. Benjamin Kwashi is Bishop of Jos, in Nigeria, where, he said, 50 percent of the population is under 20 years of age. "We are persecuted where we are, and there is nowhere to turn," he said. But persecution has sharpened Nigerian Christians" theology, he declared.
"Whoever chooses Christianity in northern Nigeria knows the possibility of persecution," said Bishop Kwashi, who related the history of the Church in North Africa, which flourished until the Europeans left. "The Bible had not been translated into Berber, so Christianity was only in the cities. When the Europeans left, the native peoples went over to Islam." Making the kingdom of God real now involves practical initiatives such as donations of food, medicine and support for education. In Nigeria, school fees are not covered by the government.
The Rev. Canon Patrick Sookhdeo is director of the Barnabas Fund, a British non-governmental organization which "exists to assist persecuted Christian minorities by prayer and practical support." He has written and lectured on Islam and multiculturalism, and is himself a convert. Most Muslims, he said, are peaceful and moderate, and the history of Islam and Christianity reveals not only conflict and confrontation but, frequently, cooperation.
Islam, he said, has a different world view from Western societies. The sacred and the secular, religion and politics, are united, with God at the center. Sharia law demands submission to divine rule, and is not a system of legislated, flexible law but is seen as perfect law revealed of God.
Christians, he said, are often caught in the middle, between "The West" and Islam, and are often viewed as agents of the U.S. and the CIA. Conversion, apostasy from Islam, is extremely dangerous. "In Saudi Arabia," he asserted, "I'd be dead."
Baroness Caroline Cox is deputy speaker of the British House of Lords. She delivered the convocation address, and participated in the afternoon discussion. Photographs she presented showed people in the most devastated places, the dire "frontiers of faith" where people beg not to be forgotten. She spoke of burned villages in Indonesia, where such persecution had been going on for years but which "we only heard about when a Bali nightclub was attacked." She told of Sudan, where moderate Arabs buy back enslaved women and children to free them. "Why are we silent about slavery?" she asked. "The clergy, the people, are crying out for any Christians to visit them, help them. We must build bridges of understanding and love, not walls."
Baroness Cox issued three challenges: Islam, she said, must have the courage to promote moderate religion, and to think critically from within. Democratic societies must find ways to overcome the terrorist training which uses their cherished freedoms against them. Finally, Christianity, she said, must keep a strong vision, a real faith to hold to, a cause to commit to.
"Pray for discernment," she said.
The Living Church
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