Interaction with Islam and Muslims is important for Christians to think about these days – especially given the climate of the world of just the last few weeks.
John Dickson – a pastor and Christian leader from Australia – has written a pastoral letter to his congregation which is worthy of wider readership and reflection.
The beauty of his admonition is that he avoids looking Islam with rose-coloured glasses – think of all “the religion of peace” stuff. And he avoids the twin mistake of seeing Islam as universally violent and threatening. Westerners, Dickson says, “tend to impose their own imaginings onto Islam. Following September 11 years ago, and again more recently, people seem to break into two camps: those that rush to condemn Muslims per se as violent and poisonous, and those that defend Islam as a perfectly loving, non-retaliatory, democratic religion.”
But Dickson also makes clear that most Muslims we meet in the Western world share many of the desires we do. “I have no doubt that almost all the Muslims we’re likely to meet in Sydney [insert Winnipeg, or wherever else here] wish us no harm. They want what we want—health, safety, education, and a future for their kids.” This is acknowledging that we have shared common ground with our Muslim neighbours and should seek fruitful co-citizenship.
But best of all, is his desire for personal connection. “Common sense and Christian faith urge us to shun both a naïve recasting of Islam as the mirror-image of liberal democracy, and a hateful projection of our own tribalism onto Australian [or Canadian] Muslims. Instead, let’s go out of our way in the coming weeks and months to pray for the Muslims around us and to convey love and friendship toward them.” Make friends, seek the common good of all, be good neighbours, have conversations. I, personally, have never had a conversation with a Muslim who has not wanted to talk about God with me. Why can’t we seek to understand one another, and share the radical Good News of Jesus?
Dickson’s pastoral is brief, balanced, biblical, and heartfelt. I agree with almost everything in it and encourage people to read it.