THE MIDDLE EAST AND US – PART 4 – RESPONSE

This is the fourth and final of a series of  posts entitled  THE MIDDLE EAST AND US.

Part 1 can be found at this link https://drstuartrobinson.com/2014/09/10/the-middle-and-us-part-1/

Part 2 can be found at https://drstuartrobinson.com/2014/09/16/the-middle-east-and-us-part-2-northern-syria-and-iraq/

Part 3 can be found at https://drstuartrobinson.com/2014/09/24/the-middle-east-and-us-part-3/

or by searching my home page.

The Middle East and Us – Part 4

As Christians swirling in the vortex of this super heated cauldron of confusion how do we respond?

Response

  1. Reject all personal violence, hatred and political triumphalism.

Six centuries before Mohammed, followers of Jesus attempted to make him king. He rejected their political invitation, journeyed from Galilee to Jerusalem and accepted crucifixion.[i] As Mohammed is the example of the perfect man for Muslims (Q.33:21;53;1-3), Jesus is the model for Christians. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)

  1. Refuse to fear. That is what Islamic terrorism tries to produce {Q6:80}. We live by faith not fear. Jesus said, “ I tell you my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more….Fear him who after killing the body, has power to throw you into hell.” (Luke 12:4-5)

God is still in control. If we have read the book, the Bible, we already know how all this will end. FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real.

  1. Develop friendships with Muslims. Don’t hate them to death. Love them to life. It’s not their fault that they have been somewhat coercively persuaded into believing a cosmic deception.
  1. Share generously with Christian agencies that are working in the current refugee crisis.
  1. Be ready to offer hospitality to any real refugees from this crisis. “Do not forget to entertain strangers..”(Hebrews 13:2)
  1. Persevere in persistent prayer.

“Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary they have divine power to demolish strongholds…. Take captive every thought to make it a obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

  1. Always commend Jesus in your words and deeds. If you do, amazing things may happen. You may discover what God is doing.

What God Is Doing

Undoubtedly he grieves to see what is happening. But he is not inactive.

In the troubled areas of Iraq and Syria today church planting has accelerated 5 to 10 times what it was previously.[ii] Muslims are tired of Muslims killing Muslims. They are looking for real peace, not the mirage of peace that apocalyptic Islam proclaims.

One former foot soldier recently put it like this:

“I have been a man of violence. I was a jihadist. But I observed that violence only begets violence. In my search for another way I met Jesus. He has transformed me. He is peace”.[iii]

In another area of Muslim domains, former violent jihadists have become the best Christian evangelists. Authorities are reluctant to send them to prison because that results in many other inmates becoming followers of Jesus.[iv]

“The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)

Muslims consider themselves the slaves of Allah and the harsh Law formulated in the name of this unknowable spiritual entity. People tend to become like the God they worship.

Jesus Christ fulfilled the demands of the law and freed us for a relationship with a loving Heavenly Father. Our Muslim brothers and sisters are in need of that same deliverance more than ever. The process can quite startling.

A Muslim of Turkish Indian origin trained for 10 years in a Madrassa[v] i.e. an Arabic medium Quranic college. He wanted to become an Imam in a mosque. His preaching included the standard Muslim teaching that Jesus was not the Son of God. But that raised the question, who then is Jesus? Diligently he sifted through the 666 000 words in the 114 chapters in his Quran. He noted that the name Mohammed is mentioned 4 times but that of Jesus is mentioned 25 times.

Why would the Quran give more prominence to Jesus than Mohammed?

The Quran also mentions miracles that Jesus performed and that he brought dead people back to life. Furthermore the Quran affirms Jesus is still alive. Mohammed did none of these things and he is dead. He also concluded that the Quran identifies Jesus with the Word of God and the Spirit of God.

He went to a Muslim scholar with his difficult questions but the teacher grew annoyed and ordered him to leave.

Unable to think what to do next he prayed, “Allah, tell me what I should do”? His Quran fell open at chapter 10:94, which says: “If you are in doubt about as to what we have revealed…then ask those who have been reading the Book… ie the Bible.

So he studied the Bible intensely.

From John 1 he discovered that God created through his Word and that Word is Jesus. In John 1: 12 he read that those who receive Jesus become children of God and that a relationship is established whereby followers of Jesus are privileged to address God, the creator of the Universe, as Father! How extraordinary.

When his family learned of his decision, his father beat him into unconsciousness, stripped him of all clothing, bound him in chains, rubbed chili powder into all his wounds and body orifices and left him locked up without food and water for 20 days.

His father then returned with a large knife to finish him off. But to see if his son was still alive he proceeded to choke him. This caused the young man to gag. All he could do was to refuse to revert to Islam and to utter the name “Jesus”.

Immediately a brilliant light fell onto his forehead. Incredible energy surged through his body. His father fell back onto the floor and in so doing slashed his own chest and started to foam from the mouth. The family ran in, gathered up the father and rushed him to the hospital. In their haste they forgot to relock the door. The young man struggled to his feet, got dressed, ran outside and just happened to be picked up by a passing Christian taxi driver who looked after his needs.

His family later conducted a funeral service for their son, who in their eyes was now dead. They even prepared a tombstone with his name and the dates of his birth and “death”. They placed it in a local cemetery plot.

Thinking back to those events this man says, “On that day I really understood that Jesus is alive and he saved me. Before I was following Mohammed into an uncertain future. The penalty for our sin is death, permanent separation from God for eternity. But Jesus, who is coming back, has taken the punishment for my sin and given me life forever. All must die. It’s the only certainty we have. But I no longer fear death because of what the living Jesus has done for me and for all who believe in him.”

That’s his experience and estimate of Jesus. What is ours?

If you are interested in reading more about this subject my books including  Mosques and Miracles – Revealing Islam and God’s Grace are available for purchase at https://drstuartrobinson.com/books/

 

[i] Jonathan Borman, Confessing the Peace of Jesus in a Terroristic World. A Statement and Appeal by EMM Christian/Muslim Relations Team. n.d.

[ii] Source withheld.

[iii] Source withheld.

[iv] Source withheld.

[v] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjUXd4gW9mg

 

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The Middle East and Us – Part 3, Why Is This Happening?

This is the third of a series of four posts I will be doing entitled  THE MIDDLE EAST AND US. The following posts will be uploaded over the coming weeks.

Part 1 is found at this link https://drstuartrobinson.com/2014/09/10/the-middle-and-us-part-1/

and Part 2 can be found at https://drstuartrobinson.com/2014/09/16/the-middle-east-and-us-part-2-northern-syria-and-iraq/

or by searching my home page.

THE MIDDLE EAST AND US—PART 3

Why is this happening?

Firstly there is the teaching of Islam. Muslims are not our enemies. Like people anywhere they hold many different opinions. The real threat is Islam itself. It’s teaching is contained in:

The Quran, which is claimed to be direct revelation from Allah through its Prophet Muhammed

The Traditions (Hadith) of which there are many thousands. These tell us what Islam’s Prophet said and did.

The Life of Mohammed (Sirat Rasul Allah) by Ibn Ishaq written a century after Mohammed’s death (632CE).

Codified collections of material that constitute Sharia Law.

Whatever is found in these volumes validates or authenticates Muslim belief and practice. There seems to be nothing in the current revivalist upsurge of Islam around the world the example of which and the motivation for which are not first sourced in these books. Variant Interpretations of this body of literature sacred to Islam, were closed a millennium ago when Muslims turned away from the processes of philosophy and rational thought and took refuge in dogma. One of Islam’s greatest mediaeval scholars, al Ghazali, declared the gate of ijtihad was closed and “since then Sunni Islam has adopted the official position that no new interpretations of the law can be entertained”.[i] Therefore reform of Islam becomes mostly a Westernized vain hope.

So, it is taught that Muslims are the best people on earth, that they will rule the whole world, that they are winners and all others are losers (Q24:52;3:85;39:65) and that once Islam has conquered a country, it is theirs forever. When these aspirations are frustrated, reformers with revolutionary zeal arise and declare that Muslim people have become nominal and apostate. Allah’s will is thwarted. Regaining his blessing will only happen if all return to the basics, to resume jihad against the infidels and against Muslim rulers who have compromised the true Way, the Sunnah.

The siren call to reform Islam by returning to its earliest practices, becomes a compelling solution to the question that bedevils all Muslim societies, “How should we live?”

The former Kuwaiti minister of information, Saad bin Tafla al Ajami, sums up what is happening thus: “The truth that we cannot deny is: ISIS learned from our schools, prayed in our mosques, listened to our media and our religious platforms, read from our books and references, and followed fatwas (religious edicts) we produced”.[ii] Precisely so.

No Muslim wants to criticize another Muslim who longs to return to Islam as practiced and exemplified by Mohammed. This is so especially if they are in a minority in a non-Muslim country. Thus when the New York Towers were destroyed, there was muted reaction by Muslims in the West. But in many Muslim majority cities there was dancing in the streets.

The second major reason revivalist Islam is running rampant in the Middle East and increasingly behaving as it does in the West is Western Democracy.

Western Democracy

Nearly all politicians want to retain personal power more than anything else. In a democracy winning votes does this. Votes are won by giving people what they want.

In the case of Australia, reportedly after careful investigation, the Hawke government’s Department of Immigration issued a deportation order for anti-Semitic activities by Sheik Taj El Din Hamid Hilaly. But he lived in Lakemba, a suburb of Sydney, where there were lots of votes by Muslims. So the Hawke government overturned its own edict. Grand Mufti leader of Muslims in Australia, Imam Hilaly would later reportedly describe the New York atrocity as “God’s work against infidels”.

In the 20 Federal Parliamentary seats in western Sydney, all have significant Muslim populations. The Labor party holds 19 of these. When the former Foreign Minister Bob Carr reportedly spent an hour with Prime Minister Gillard emphasizing the electoral importance of the Muslim vote, the Gillard government dropped support for Israel in the United Nations.[iii]

The Abbot government in August 2014 under pressure from the Muslim community and others dropped its intention to change section 18(c) of the Federal Racial Discrimination Act. It was hoping that in so doing it would gain Muslim support for its proposal to enact tougher anti-terrorism laws. Muslims leaders approved the first action but opposed the second.

Democratically elected governments seldom do anything that may risk votes at the next election.

An election in the autonomous region of Catalonia in Spain is due in 2014. 465,000 Muslims live in that region. Their leaders report that the government, the Convergence and Union Party, has promised permission to build the third largest mosque in the world financed from Qatar if the Muslims vote for them. The mosque’s minaret is planned to tower 300 metres to overshadow symbolically the spires of the Sagardia Familia Roman Catholic cathedral by 130 metres. In one of the mosques in that region, Abdelwahab Houzi preached in support of the concept saying that it would represent a significant step in Muslims accumulating power with a view to implementing Sharia Law.[iv]

Secular politicians disallow theology in public debate. World-renowned secularist sociologist Peter Berger recently said, “Those who neglect religion in their analyses of contemporary affairs do so at great peril.”[v]

Part four of this series will be uploaded next week.

If you are interested in reading more my books on this subject and more are available for purchase at https://drstuartrobinson.com/books/

[i] Robert A. Reilly, The Closing of the Muslim Mind. ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware, 2011, x-xi.

[ii] The Clarion Project (Radicalislam.org). Issue 128. August 21 2014 (viewed August 22 2014].

[iii] Andrew Bolt, We’re muzzled, but bigots rant. Herald Sun, August 17 2014, 13.

[iv] Soeren Kern, http://www.clarionproject.org/print/analysis/barcelona-mega-mosque-promised-separatists-votes (viewed August 17 2014).

[v] Bernard Lane, Academic looks for theoretical salvation. The Australian, August 27 2014, 28.

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The Middle East and Us: Part 2 – Northern Syria and Iraq

This is the second of a series of four posts I will be doing entitle  THE MIDDLE EAST AND US. The following two posts will be uploaded over the coming three weeks.

Part 1 is found at this link https://drstuartrobinson.com/2014/09/10/the-middle-and-us-part-1/

or by searching my home page.

THE MIDDLE EAST AND US—PART 2

The situation in Northern Syria and Iraq shares similarities with the Gaza Israel conflict.

Northern Syria and Iraq APG_syria_iraq_map_sk_140611_16x9_992

In northern Syria and Iraq there are at least 18 different jihadi groups who seemingly spend as much time fighting one another as they do fighting the Shi’ite surrogate regimes of Assad in Syria and until recently Malaki in Iraq. Unleashed from the restraints imposed by dictators in those and other Middle Eastern countries, they rampage across the land causing death and havoc wherever they go. They torture, rape, kill adult non-Sunni males, by beheading, crucifying and shooting. Reports say they rape and sell women, girls and boys into slavery while saving some to gratify their own sexual desires.

To those who object to what’s happening, prominent writer and cleric, Hussein bin Mahmoud is reported as saying that “…beheading is an effective way to terrorize the enemies of Islam. Under Islamic law, American journalist, James Foley was a Harbi, that is, a non-Muslim whose life was not protected by an agreement of protection. Islam allows and encourages such acts since it is a religion of war and fighting.”[i]

UK Muslim leader Anjem Choudary justified the beheading of American journalist, James Foley, by reportedly saying that beheading was permissible under Shariah (Islamic) law. “Muslims who abide by Shariah and follow the jurisprudence do not make a distinction between civilian and army. This fellow was not just a civilian of America. He was a journalist.”[ii]

Even to question from within the community, what is happening may be dangerous. HAMAS in Gaza, like the movements in northern Iraq and Syria, is also known for its practice of extrajudicial execution. Recently about 20 people were summarily executed and their bodies were dragged through the streets. Two of those executed were women. They had been asking questions about Palestinians who had been killed.[iii]

When it comes to people like Yazidis who are regarded as infidels and Shi’ites whom Sunnis consider to be apostate, they automatically qualify to be killed.

The Quran refers to Jews and Christians as “People of the Book”. They are at least first invited to become Muslims. If they refuse they may be exiled, taxed into impoverishment or killed.

Muslims whom the West would have regarded as moderates, who have lived in harmony next to their Christian neighbors for centuries in these countries, have reportedly suddenly turned on their Christian and other non-Muslim neighbors telling them to leave because these lands are exclusively Muslim countries.[iv] Assyrian Christians equate what is happening with the genocide of 100 years ago in which it is claimed that the Ottoman government was responsible for the deaths of 1.5 million Armenian and Christian groups, which included Assyrians and Greeks.[v]

It has been estimated that 1.2 million people have been forced to flee. As in previous invasions, churches are destroyed or turned into mosques. For the first time in 2000 years, Christianity has been obliterated from these lands.

But concerning these atrocities there are few processions in the streets of Western cities. When the movements like Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Shebaab in Kenya and Somalia, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt the governments of Sudan or Iran, carry out their atrocities, there is little overseas public response.

Mehmet Gormez, the head of Turkey’s religious affairs directorate, has claimed that around the world each day an average of 1000 Muslims are killed, of which almost 90% are killed by other Muslims. If his estimate is accurate, this means that every four days the number of Muslims killed by other Muslims is more than those who have died in the last 10 years of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.[vi] Yet the Muslim community remains muted and silent in Western countries. It’s only when Israel is involved that reaction is ramped up.

Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dewod of the Syrian Orthodox Church (UK) says, “They are killing our people in the name of Allah, telling people that anyone who kills a Christian will go straight to Paradise”.[vii]

If you are interested in reading more my books on this subject and more are available for purchase at https://drstuartrobinson.com/books/

[i]Jihadi Cleric Justifies IS Beheadings: Islam Is a Religion Of Beheading. MEMRI Special Despatch/5826/August 25 2014.

[ii] Ryan Mauro, www.clarionproject.org/print/analysis/uks-anjem-choudary-justifies-beheading-of-james-foley (viewed August 30 2014).

[iii] Khaled Abu Toameh, http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4646/hamas-war-crimes. August 25 2014.

[iv] MEMRI Daily, Special Dispatch No.5820, August 13 2014.

[v] Rachel Baxendale, Churches demand safe haven for Christians. The Australian, August 25 2014, 2.

[vi] Sam Westrop, http://www.clarionproject.org/print/analysis/uk-islamists-join-neo-nazis-marxists-anti-semitism (viewed August 28 2014).

[vii] Elizabeth Kendall, Religious Liberty Prayer Bulleting, 273. August 13 2014.

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The Middle East and Us – Part 1, Gaza and Israel

This is the first of four posts I will be doing entitle  THE MIDDLE EAST AND US. The following 3 posts will be uploaded over the coming three weeks.

THE MIDDLE EAST AND US—PART 1

On August 8, 2014, former head of the Australian Army Lieutenant General Peter Leahy reportedly said, “Australia is involved in the early stages of a war which is likely to last for the rest of the century.”

Michael Krause a retired Major General agreed. Aware of the army’s experience in Iraq and Afghanistan he said, “I have seen these people. I know how they think. I know how they fight. There is no compromise possible.”

The headline of The Australian newspaper the next day was, “We’ll fight Islam (for) 100 years.”[i] UK Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly made similar comments in the last week of August 2014. What is happening in the Middle East has global consequences.

When Western forces first entered Iraq and Afghanistan it was said at the time they will win some battles but will lose the war. In both those countries, no matter how our political leaders reframe the outcomes, it may now be said that the losers by most measures have been western nations. Little remains of their hoped for outcomes from their interventions costing trillions of dollars and thousands of lives.Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 1.09.02 pm

In Australia as in other Western countries, we are unable to plan beyond our election cycle of 3-4 years. Muslim leaders think in terms of centuries. Mohammed invited the Christian leaders of his time to submit to Islam. They declined. So Islamic forces determined to capture the Citadel of Christianity– Constantinople. Although their attacks were repeatedly repulsed, they finally succeeded after only 800 years.[ii]

Gaza and Israel

In the Middle East if a Jewish person is asked the basis of his claim to the land of Israel the reply may be, “We have been here for 3000 years.” To the same question persons today called Palestinians may reply, “We have been here for 6000 years.”

From the Biblical record we understand that God reserved for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants a sliver of land on the coast along the Eastern Mediterranean seaboard, which became known as Israel. The vast expanse of land to the east and south of Israel was reserved for the descendants of Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagar who was a servant of Abraham’s wife Sarah. (Genesis 12-27)

In 1003 BC King David was at last able to conquer Jerusalem. The area of the city at that that time was just 12 acres, or a little less than 5 ha. The rest of the Promised Land was conquered and possessed by King David except for the Philistine territory, which is today’s Gaza.

Half a millennium later, in 586 BC most of the people of what remained of Israel were deported as captives of war to the vicinity of today’s Baghdad. Towards the end of that 6th century BC the deportees were permitted to start to return to their homeland. The Temple in Jerusalem was rebuilt in 536-516 BC. Almost a further 70 years later, about 453 BC, Nehemiah arrived to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

Arabs and other local tribal chiefs, who were on the scene by that time, resisted his work. They ridiculed, threatened, concocted false reports and sought to terrorize the returnees. Their activities are recorded in Nehemiah chapters 2, 4 and 6. What is happening today is not a new phenomenon. Jews remained in possession of their land till 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed the Jerusalem Temple and scattered the inhabitants.

Almost five and a half centuries later in 638 CE an Islamic Army captured Jerusalem for the first time. The city and its accompanying territory remained mostly under Muslim control thereafter. But the Jewish people did not vanish.

However by the late 1800s the brutality of the Muslim authorities was so severe that many Jews were forced to flee. Simultaneously the Muslim Ottoman government in Turkey began to repopulate the vacated land with Muslim refugees from other parts of their Empire in which there were disturbances.

In 1890 the Muslim population was only 432,000. By the time of Israel’s establishment by the UN in 1947, the Muslim population, through Turkish repatriation policy had almost tripled to 1,181,000.[iii]After 1918 with the defeat of the Turkish government in World War I the Jewish population started to return. Many of them were fleeing from European threats and conflagrations, especially the Holocaust of the 1940’s, which saw approx. 6 million Jews killed. Today the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael face off against one another.

Neither side in the current conflict is prepared to yield a centimeter of land. Article 7 in HAMAS’s charter based on Islamic texts specifically asserts they will destroy all Jews and Israel. Israel says, “If you attack we will retaliate.”

HAMAS spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri on August 17, 2014 on Al -Aqsa television declared, “Our true war is not aimed at opening border crossings. It is aimed at the liberation of Jerusalem. We refuse to accept the continued defiling of our land by the occupier. The army of Mohammed has begun its return.”[iv] HAMAS can never cannot accept the loss of territory once occupied by Muslim authorities. To them it remains a sacred trust, a Waqf, which must be regained.

The current off-again on-again war between Gaza and Israel has provided opportunity for mostly public pro-Palestinian reaction in many Western countries. In France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, USA, Australia and elsewhere, Muslims, formerly thought to be well-integrated, assimilated, moderate citizens who contributed to the rich mosaic of multiculturalism in those countries, have suddenly taken to the streets showing a different side of Islam, reportedly shouting:

“Heil Hitler. Hamas Hamas. Jews to the gas. We are all Hamas. We are Jihad”.[v] Many well-meaning non-Muslim people have joined these processions.

In Sydney as the crowd waved their black flags of jihad, the reported shout was:

Palestine is a Muslim land.

The solution is Jihad.

You can never stop Islam.

From Australia to Al Sham.

One Ummah (Muslim community) hand in hand

from Lakemba to Gaza.

One call –“Khalifa”.[vi]

The latest claimant for the role of Caliph, that is, a leader of international Islam, is Abu Bakr al Baghdadi also known as Caliph Ibrahim. He reportedly announced that, “The long slumber of neglect has ended. The sun of Jihad has risen. Triumph looms on the horizon. Infidels are terrified. As East and West submit Muslims will own the earth.”[vii] Those objectives are clear.

As for Israelis the Muslim objectives about them are equally clear. In his Friday sermon on August 22, 2014 in Khan Younis in Gaza, Sheikh Mohammed Abu Rajab is reported as saying, “We pledged before the commanders of the Jihad to die for the sake of Allah; we have gathered the Zionists from all corners of the globe so that it will be easier to slaughter and kill them”.[viii]

 

Part 2 will be posted within a week.

 

[i] Brendan Nicholson, We’ll fight Islam 100 years. The Weekend Australian, August 9-10 2014, 1.

[ii] https//www.raymondibrahim.com/islam/the-seige-of-constantinople(viewed August 16 2014)

[iii] Ezequiel Doiny, The Muslim Colonists: Forgotten Facts about the Arab-Israeli Conflict. http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4611/muslim-colonists. August 15 2014.

[iv] MEMRI TV, Hamas Spokesman: Our War Is For Liberation of Jerusalem Not For Lifting Of Blockade. Viewed August 26 2014.

[v] Denis MacEoin, The New Romantics ‘Being Fair’ to Terrorist Groups. http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4602/new-romantics. August 14 2014.

[vi] Andrew Bolt, Wake up Labor, smell the threat. HeraldSun, August 4 2014, 13.

[vii] Daniel Pipes, Caliph Ibrahim’s Brutal Moment. The Washington Times. http://www.danielpipes.org/14691/caliph-ibrahim August 5 2014.

[viii] www.memri.org/clip/en/4442.htm, August 22 2014, viewed August 29 2014.

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GENERATION NEXT

Last month I was in South Asia—again. I was a guest speaker at a conference to which people had travelled, some for days. I came away feeling I had received much more than I had given. Why so?

Having been involved in ministry for more than half a century I was aware that in South Asia, although independence from colonialism had been achieved in the 1940’s the church was still dependent on foreign resourcing till the 1960’s or 1970’s. Later in the 1970’s and early 1980’s new movements were birthed conceived and staffed by national leaders. They have achieved good results far exceeding those of the missionary era. But they were still significantly dependent upon foreign finance to underwrite the implementation of their otherwise worthy visions.

By the late 1990’s and early 2000’s a third generation of movements was being birthed. These are quite independent from organized foreign resourcing for finance and staff. It was one of these, which invited my anticipation in their annual conference

The first pleasant shock came before I arrived. An email requested me to forward the invoice for my airfare so they could reimburse me. In all of my decades of travelling to work in developing countries, this offer was quite unprecedented. I  explained I mostly raise all my own expenses through honorariums received whenever I speak in the developed world. I thanked them for their offer but politely declined.

Shortly after a second email made the same request. I deflected it.

Upon arrival I was greeted by a small reception party, given a beautiful bouquet of local flowers and driven to my accommodation. They had earlier enquired what sort of accommodation I would prefer. Aware of the many demands some foreign speakers make, I had replied, as an experienced traveller in the region, I could be quite comfortable under a conveniently located tree, provided plastic sheeting was available. It was the monsoon season and I had been so accommodated on other occasions.

Remarkably I was delivered to a more than suitable local hotel, which had a lift and air-conditioning whenever the electricity was on.

Introductory formalities included provision of a driver and car, a “gofer” to fulfill any request at any time and a security person who would accompany me everywhere as needed. All of this was for my exclusive convenience. The hotel had been booked a day earlier than the conference and retained an extra day after conference, all expenses paid, so that I would be rested.

The conference itself ran like a well-oiled clock. Everything had been tightly organized and impeccably timed. The precision was amazing for this part of the world.

Each day started with an hour of quite anointed worship led by very gifted people. One often senses in larger gatherings in the West that everything is organized by committees. It functions well. It’s organizationally efficient. It’s technologically superior—but somewhat lacking in any manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s presence.

The gatherings in this conference were characterized by zeal, enthusiasm and spontaneity. Teaching sessions in the mornings were 1¼ hours each, separated by a 10 minute tea break. In the evenings we commenced with an hour of worship followed by two hours of teaching and ministry. Concentration never wavered.

Most of the people were under 40 years of age and many were professionals. This is a new generation in every sense of the word.

The health of any group of people is somewhat determined by the health of  its leadership. If leaders are sick or impaired, inevitably those whom they lead will exhibit similar characteristics. The reverse is also true.

In the case of this movement, the founding leader and his closest companion in leadership are both only 40. One had qualified as a medical doctor and the other as a dental surgeon, when they felt God’s call to ministry—specifically cross cultural missions. They never hesitated. If Jesus is Lord at all, He has to be Lord of all. They resigned from their professions and moved far away to start work among different people groups. This was a huge leap of faith given the impoverishment of their domestic scene. Still today the former medical doctor  accepts no salary from any of the organizations he leads—preferring to live on whatever God supplies.

God favoured them in their endeavours and then called the Doctor back to home base to start new things there. This also has been blessed. Not only have various churches and training centres been established, they have also commissioned their first cross cultural workers to another country in their region.

On my second day the conference leader gently asked directly for my airfare invoice. I handed it over. I was advised that they intended not only to pay for my air travel and accommodation. They were also intending to give me a significant honorarium.

However, on the last morning an announcement was made that to clear all conference expenses a special offering would be taken. I immediately asked the leader to allow me to bear all my own expenses, as this would clear most of the debt. He replied, “Our people must learn the blessing of sacrificial giving. Your part in this is just to receive.” sacrafice

Sure enough, on the last evening the offering was taken, but no container came anywhere near me. Not to be outdone, as it passed behind me I managed to put some notes in it. Later that night as I was sorting out my papers and repacking ready to depart the next night, I suddenly had an experience similar to that of Joseph’s brothers. After they had left him in Egypt, during the journey back to

Jacob in drought stricken Canaan, when one of the opened his sacks of grain, there was the silver returned with which they had paid for the grain [Genesis 42:27-28].

In my case, firstly there fell out an envelope with foreign currency representing a huge sacrificially given honorarium for this part of the world. A little later in another envelope there were all the notes I had put into the special offering!!

As I flew back to Australia I couldn’t help thanking God that I had lived and worked long enough to see this emergence of His “third generation” post independence church, in all of its youthful enthusiasm following Jesus with youthful abandonment.

What we often have in our well-organized affluent church in the West, is but a pale imitation of the reality of life in the Spirit and exuberant faith, which is in the church of the developing world. It’s little wonder that in the post Christian West, the church is mostly plateaued or dying, while elsewhere it is surging ahead in spite of poverty and persecution.

May the richness of their poverty rescue us from our impoverishment of our riches before it’s too late to reverse our national trends.

 

 

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ISLAMIC AUSTRALIA?

 

In 2009 Siv Jensen, leader of the Progress party in Norway, used a term which translates into English as “stealth Islamisation”. Her context was that there were areas in Malmo, Sweden where ambulance crews, firefighters and police officers no longer went, because of the concentration and hostility of Muslims who live there. She also noted the trend in her country to accommodate requests for uniquely Islamic dress for women in public spaces, and the introduction of halal food in prisons.

For daring to specify her nation’s “elephant in the room”, she was attacked by media and political opponents. In September 2013 when members of her party were elected to form a coalition government, they were demonized as bigoted, racist and Islamophobic.

Elephant in the Room

Could the same  “elephant” – the possible Islamisation of Australia, be present in our nation?

It is generally accepted that Islam’s earliest contact with continental Australia was through seasonal trade between visiting Indonesian fishermen and aboriginal tribal people in the 18th century. (In the 2001 national census 641 indigenous people identified as Muslim. That number increased by 58% in the next five years.)

The 19th century saw the arrival of “Afghan” Cameleers and their animals. The 20th and 21st centuries have seen far more spectacular changes in Australia’s religious and cultural mosaic.

Outmoded Christianity

According to the 2011 Australian census figures, while the percentage of those claiming to be Christian continued its downward spiral to 69.1%, the number of people self identifying as Muslim continued trending upwards to 2.2% of the population. Sydney had the highest concentration with 4.7%, followed by Melbourne with 3.6% of the populations in each of those cities.

Prof Gary Bouma of Monash University attributed this growth of Islam to migration and high birth rates. These figures are reflective of a worldwide trend that forecasts the world’s Muslim population to grow at twice the rate of the non-Muslim population. It is estimated that by 2030, 2.2 billion Muslims will represent 26.4% of the world’s population.[i] It was estimated to be 11% at the beginning of the last century. 60% of the world’s Muslims are projected to live in the Asia-Pacific region by 2030.

Australia was once a Christian nation. 90% claimed allegiance to that faith at the beginning of the 20th century. Sunshine (Victoria) mosque president Mustapha Ramadan declared in 2011 that the view of Australia being a Christian nation was “outmoded”.[ii] What isn’t “outmoded” is Islam’s understanding of its own mission in the world.

History Indicates a Future

In the eighth century Abu Hanifah al-Nu’man ibn Thabit ibn Zuta, a jurist and founder of the Hanafi School of Law, which today claims the largest following among Muslims, defined the world as existing in two spheres. One is  dar al-Islam, the abode of Islam. The other is dar al-Harb, the abode of war. In the latter Islam and Sharia Law are yet to prevail.

Jihad, holy war or struggle, must be prosecuted until the whole world submits to Islam or until the end of the world. Australia, along with all other non-majority Muslim countries, is a part of dar al-Harb.

In October 2009 an article entitled “The Return of the Islamic Emirate” was published in the online monthly magazine, Al-Sumud. It stated that the “white settler diaspora” in Australia would have to choose between returning to Europe or being assimilated into Asia . It further stated that failure of Australians to choose would result in an extended conflict that they would lose.[iii]

Australian Sheik  Ishmael al-Wahwah represents a rapidly expanding fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. In January 2013 he reportedly outlined the future Australia governed by an Islamic regime. He is reported as saying that alcohol would be banned; strict Islamic dress code would be enforced; the teaching of all foreign languages except Arabic would be prohibited; interest charged on monies being loaned would be banned and courts would be forced to implement Sharia Law.[iv]

These provisions in various forms, apart from foreign language learning, are common within Islamic contexts. If Sheikh Ishmael’s vision is representative of Australia’s future, what is the state of progress toward it?

Cultural Change

The registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages reveals that in NSW in 2010 – 2013 “Mohammad” officially became one of the most popular names for baby boys.[v]

Australia’s largest mosque at Lakemba in Sydney published a religious ruling – a fatwa – decreeing it was a sin to wish people a Merry Christmas. Sheikh Yahya Safi reportedly told his congregation they should have nothing to do with Christmas. “Disbelievers [i.e. infidels] are trying to draw Muslims away from the straight path”[vi]

When the media discovered it, it was claimed that the text was “taken out of context”. The Grand Mufti, Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, tried to save the day by claiming that the foundations of Islam were peace, cooperation, respect and holding others in esteem. This statement has elements of truth provided the “others” are Muslim coreligionists belonging to the same sect or group. And if not…?

Conflict

Jamal Daoud identified dozens of Sydney suburban shops whose owners had been intimidated, forcing them to close, because they allegedly belonged to the wrong Muslim group dominant in that area. This was a reflection of the violent fractures within society in Syria.[vii] Where Islam rules, its 14 centuries of Shia /Sunni conflict follows, whether that’s in Iraq, Pakistan or Australia.

Commenting on the recent surge in Australian Muslims’ participation in the Shia/Sunni conflict in Syria, Australian Attorney General George Brandis concluded, “There must have already been pre-existing, sophisticated facilitation networks to enable and recruit that many people”.[viii] One might well ask what else may be in existence of which the population in general is unaware?

Education

In the education sector in NSW, the number of Islamic schools has tripled in the past 15 years to 22. They accommodate a 400% increase of students since 1998. Only 15 – 20% of Muslims students are able to attend these specially oriented religious schools.[ix]

The Bukhari Bookshop sells books for its Muslim community. Reportedly, one of its titles, “Bringing Up Children in Islam”, advocates amputating thieves’ hands, 100 lashes for fornication and death by stoning for adultery.[x] While these penalties are at variance with Australian law, they are practiced as a part of Sharia Law.

Madrassas (religious schools) in Australia, many of which reportedly receive government funding of up to  $30,000 per year, are free to teach whatever radical doctrines they choose.[xi]In such an educational environment, it’s not surprising that eight year old Ruqaya publicly declared her love for Jihad and encouraged other children to join the Syrian uprising.[xii]

Monash University in Melbourne published a handbook for Muslim students, “Salam Monash”. It lists, “Islamic banking and financial institutions, Muslim publications, women’s groups and schools… Muslim medical and dental practitioners, a halal food guide and a list of halal grocers and butchers. There was no similar handbook available for other religious groups”. In 2008, 1000 Muslims students protested against sharing prayer facilities with Christians and Jews at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology [RMIT].[xiii]  Latrobe University in Melbourne opened a prayer room in 2010 for Muslim students. It cost $927,000 .

Halal

The word “halal” means “admissible”. Its opposite “haram” means “forbidden”. These words define of what Muslims may or may not partake. Halal is commonly associated with food. It also encompasses chemicals, health, healthcare, medicines, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, finance and even leather products. Recent reports from Malaysia indicate that the principle is now being applied to shopping trolleys and even car parking spaces. It represents a US$3 trillion industry. In the West everyone from giant food to pharmaceutical companies and banks are keen to grab a slice of the pie. It’s the same in Australia.

But to participate, suppliers of goods and services first have to obtain halal certification. In Queensland a big meat processor was reportedly quoted a fee of  A$27,000 per month to obtain certification. The Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI) reportedly banned a Brisbane certification business for not charging abattoir operators enough.[xiv] Funds thus harvested are presumably used to advance the Islamic cause.

Law

In legal matters Sharia Law already operates as a shadow legal system within Australia. Amendments to the Family Law Act in 2008 mean that polygamous religious marriages receive recognition as defacto marriages. Second and third wives of the one husband and their respective children qualify for welfare benefits.

Sheik Moussab Legha from the Islamic Welfare Centre in Lakemba reported that Imams already oversee hundreds of Sharia divorces.[xv] Similarly various reports appeared in the media in February 2014 regarding multiple underage marriages being facilitated.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2010 that Sharia Law is incompatible with democracy. That did not dissuade the peak body of Australian Muslims, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC), from lodging a submission to the Federal Government in 2011 urging the introduction of Sharia Law into the Australian legal system under the umbrella of support for multiculturalism. Islamic preacher, Ibrahim Siddiq-Conlon was reported as saying, “One day Australia will live under Sharia; it’s inevitable”.[xvi]

Into whatever country one looks, the push is on for the acceptance of Muslim political, cultural, economic, social and religious norms. Australia is no exception. While over time, individual Muslims may change from nominal to fully observant, one thing will never change – Islam. Welcome to a different world.


[i] –, Herald Sun, September 17, 2012, pp.20-21.

ii  Benjamin Millar, Study pinpoints fear of Islam, March 29, 2011.

iii Barnabas Prayer, March/April, 2010, p.14

[iv] Paul Maley, The Australian, January 10 2013.

[v] m.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/mohammads-a-sign-of-the-times-varying-spellings-of-it-are-some-of-nsw-82175-most-popular-baby-names-story-fnic, viewed September 11, 2013.

[vi]  Natalie O’Brien, Christmas greetings a sin rules mosque, The Sunday Age, December 23, 2012, p.5.

[vii]  Rachel Olding, Home front opens in a foreign war, Monash Weekly, June 30, 2013.

[viii] Paul Maley, Aussie fighters leading Syrian terror groups, The Australian, February 18, 2014.

[ix]  Amy McNeilage, Islamic student numbers soar, http://www.smh.com.au/action/printArticle? Id=4626944, viewed August 5, 2013.

[x]  Au.news.yahoo.com/nsw/latest/a-/newshome/7890729/7news-exclusive-sydney-store-sells-extreme-sharia-guidebooks/,  viewed July 21, 2011.

[xi]  Adam Shand, Madrassa lessons worry Somalis, The Australian, September 24, 2013, p.2.

[xii]  Jared Owens, Girl, 8, calls on Islamic youth to back jihad, The Australian, September 17, 2012.

[xiii]  –, Muslim handbook is divisive, Herald Sun, November 24, 2011, p.15.

[xiv]  www. couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/religious-levy-costs-queensland-abattoirs-thousands-each-month/story-fnihsr/2-1226743106235, viewed October 20, 2013.

[xvi] Sally Neighbour, PM go and ‘let Muslims take over’, The Australian, January 20, 2011.

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Reflections of a Grumpy

I’ve been silent for quite a while. In part this is because I have been involved in so much travel and other work. But also I suffer slightly from the constant barrage of social media and other forms of electronic communication. What is it about human beings that make us think that everyone in the world will be interested in the minutiae of our individual lives. There seems to be an uncontrollable competition for self-disclosure if not self-promotion. May be my problem is that I’m part of a dying generation and have therefore been promoted to the status of Grumpy Old Man. This accolade is not the result of any election to office. It’s the inevitability of life which the younger generation usually fails to see is hurtling toward them as well. grumpy_old_men

In the western society in which I am embedded in Australia, once one reaches the grand old age of 40, he or she is often cast off as some sort of irrelevant has-been with nothing further to offer those who are younger, whose appetites demand constant titillation for the ever fleeting, impossibly sustainable new happening. Fortunately for my sense of self worth, I spend much of my time beyond the shallow trivialities of Western culture in the developing world in which ones value in society appreciates with age.

Today, in my very small hotel room in the middle of Tirana, the capital city of Albania it’s Saturday morning. All is quiet. The sun streams through the window and I do not have another engagement for 90 minutes. Such seclusion and  anonymity is bliss for the soul.

I have just read an article in German and English about a novelist. He is Paulo Coelho. He is a best selling Brazilian author. I only get time to read one novel a year and this  when I am on a snippet of annual leave. Image

http://paulocoelho.com/images/avatar_500.png

Coelho has sold 150 million books. He has 11.5 million Facebook friends and more than 8 million followers on Twitter. He has lived a rich and fulfilling life that flows into his stories.

In his youth he indulged in many of the past-times common to that era of our lives. In his twenties he spent two years hitch-hiking through South America, Africa and Europe. He classified himself as a real hippy. He did drugs, magic rituals, joined a sect and indulged in a whole bunch of what he calls “crazy things”.

These days he doesn’t have to worry about money. For relaxation he fronts up at the counter at his nearest airport with his wife and asks the destination of the next available flight on which there are available seats. Wherever that flight is going he joins it even if it is to Timbuktu. He sees the biggest advantage of being wealthy as not having to do anything he doesn’t want to do. But money does not dominate. He wears a cheap plastic watch, although obviously he could afford a much more elaborate customized timepiece like many of the glitterati wear to impress others.

He avoids cocktail parties because he considers them boring, always inhabited by the same people mouthing the same conversations through the same forced smiles. He considers it is much better to take photos of nature and go for walks with his wife.

His novels are created in his head and flow out when the time is right. He writes one in a matter of weeks. Occasionally he produces something that he considers not up to standard ,in which case he hits the delete button.

To achieve what he has become, one needs to dig a little below the surface. As a boy he attended a Jesuit school in Rio de Janeiro where he learned the role of discipline. He came to realize that discipline and freedom are not mutually exclusive. Earlier in his life his family considered him a rebel because he wanted to be an artist rather than an engineer like his father. He sees the gateway to reason as being supported by two pillars, discipline and passion. The balance between these two enables him to write for eight hours a day. For exercise he practices archery.

Since his 1988 novel, The Alchemist, which became his first international best seller, he has become one of the world’s most successful novelists. The question is, apart from discipline how is such creativity maintained?

The secret is probably this. Sometime ago he spent two years travelling around the world revisiting people whom he considered he had hurt or offended. To each he offered an apology.

These days he says, “I always apologize to people within three days. I think it is important to ask people for forgiveness (even if that means) you don’t forget everything that has happened.”

Long ago Jesus had something to say on this subject. He said it was very important to forgive [Matthew 5:23-24: 6:14-15; Mark 11:25-26; John 20:26]. If we don’t forgive the result will be a root of bitterness in our lives [Hebrews 12: 14-15; Ephesians 4:31-32}. And if that is not extracted the result is hatred and murder {1john 3:15].

Archer Coelho has hit a bull’s-eye. I like this guy[and Jesus]. I can learn from him even if he was born only in 1947.

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