Two weeks ago my brother Tim—a pastor in Vancouver, BC—wrote to tell me about an exciting opportunity he recently had at Kwantlen University. In commemoration of the birthday of Bibi Fatima—daughter of Mohammed—Tim had been asked to speak on the topic, “Why Christians Respect Bibi Fatima.” Out of ten speakers he was the only Christian; the others were all Muslims. Below are three excerpts from his speech:
I confess as a Christian that we Christians have failed to follow the way of Jesus. We Christians have taken up the sword. We have killed our fellow human beings in the name of Jesus. We have taken up the sword even against our Muslim brothers. I hang my head when I remember these terrible stories in our Christian history. I confess this with great sorrow. On behalf of my Christian brothers and sisters, I repent and ask your forgiveness. This is not the way of Jesus. We have sinned against Jesus. We have sinned against our fellow brother and sister. Jesus taught us that we must be ever willing to die for our faith, but never willing to kill for our faith. How we have grieved the heart of our Lord and our Master.”
Today you honor a noble woman whose griefs and burdens you share. Just recently we Christians commemorated Good Friday: the death of the one who bore our griefs and our sorrows. We see in these tears the heart of our compassionate and gracious God. The ways of this world are different: they want us to be always happy. They want us to celebrate the victorious and the powerful. Fatima was a woman who did not have a lot of worldly power. Yet she has inspired Muslims for many centuries with an other-worldly kind of power. We Christians honor this power in weakness. For we follow a Messiah who became weak in order to give us true strength.
We Muslims and Christians are of different faiths. We both believe in one God, and only one God. Yet our understanding of this one God is very different. We do share much in common, and yet there is so much also that separates us. Yet what a privilege it is to join together on a day such as this, to humbly reflect together on those areas of commonality, as well as to accept those areas where we differ.
Tim told me how the response was so positive. He also told me about the keynote speaker whose message of peace and non-violence towards people of other faiths was simply amazing and very powerful. How it completely breaks so many of the stereotypes Christians have of the Muslim people.
Afterwards, in the parking lot as Tim and his wife were getting into a car, two Muslim men approached him and asked, “Why are you doing this? What motivates you to come to our Muslim gatherings and to share as a Christian with us? What is it deep inside you that motivates you?”
Tim was then able to share the Gospel with them. He shared how God’s love had been poured out in his heart because of the death of Jesus on the cross for his sin. They were so eager to listen. They wanted to know what it was in his heart that caused him to love the Muslim people! They were so willing to listen to the whole story of Jesus dying for our sins, of His prayer, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”
I close with some words from Shane Bennett who once wrote an article for the Missions Catalyst on the ‘Top Ten Myths about Missions”. His #3 myth was entitled: “Non-Christians (Especially Muslims) Are Hairy, Scary Meanies”.
Yes, many people are suffering at the hands of Muslims. Yes, some Muslims have done mean things on a massive and deadly level. Yes, some verses of the Qur’an suggest that Muslims should kill all who don’t believe like them. That said, personally I know more mean Christians than mean Muslims. Don’t you? I know more Christians than Muslims, so I’m not trying to establish a ratio in absolute terms. I’m just saying maybe we need to challenge this myth about Muslims. If you get a chance to travel to Asia you’ll be invited in and served food by Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists alike. I’ve personally had some of these “mean, hairy and scary Muslims” direct their Jesus-like behavior toward me. According to Dr. Todd Johnson, eight or nine out of every ten Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists do not personally know a Christian. A lot of “us” have never met any of “them,” either. A cup of tea and a chat might begin to dispel this “mean” myth.