Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Persecution against Christians; Perseverance for co-existence

It is very scary for me to read the recent declaration made by the Sunni Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, on the necessity to destroy all churches in the Arabian peninsula.

The Grand Mufti, who is also the highest official of religious law and the head of the Supreme Council of Islamic Scholars in Saudi Arabia, invoked Prophet Muhammad’s last words, “There are not to be two religions in the Arabian Peninsula,” as an injunction.

I did not know where to turn or who to speak to. I do not know how would the Muslim communities in South East Asia, especially Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, see the Grand Mufti's command.

This hostility against Christians is the most recent one among all that have been happening. Raymond Ibrahim has collected a list of cases. Here are but three:
Indonesia: A sticker on the back of the car of a member of the beleaguered Yasmin church saying "We need a friendly Islam, not an angry Islam," distributed by the family of the late Muslim president, prompted another Islamic attack on the church: scores of Muslims "terrorized the congregation and attacked several church members." Since 2008, the congregation has been forced to hold Sunday services on the sidewalk outside the church and then later in the home of parishioners. Not satisfied, hundreds of Muslims later searched and found the private home where members were congregating and holding service and prevented them from worshiping there as well: "It crosses the line now. The protesters now come to the residential area, which is not a public place." A new report notes that anti-Christian attacks have nearly doubled in the last year.

Nigeria: Boko Haram Muslims set ablaze a Christian missionary home. Occupants of the home, mostly orphans and the less-privileged, were rendered homeless as a result. Meanwhile, a top officer allowed the mastermind behind the Christmas Day church bombings to escape, evincing how well entrenched Islamists are in government.

Syria: The Christian community in Syria has been hit by a series of kidnappings and brutal murders; 100 Christians were killed since the anti-government unrest began; "children were being especially targeted by the kidnappers, who, if they do not receive the ransom demanded, kill the victim, including some who are "cut into pieces and thrown in a river." These latest reports are reminiscent of the anti-Christian attacks that have become commonplace in Iraq for a decade.
A friend shared with me this event that happened in Indonesia, where a church service is being disrupted by the blast from loud speakers set up by those who claimed themselves as 'Muslims':

What happened to the sort of mutual respect exemplified by prominent Muslim leaders such as Caliph Umar?
Whenever a church was taken over for use as a mosque, furthermore, the building was not allowed to revert to its former religious use. One of the traditions concerning Umar tells of his first visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. As the hour for Muslim prayer approached, the Christian bishop invited the caliph to offer prayer inside the church. The caliph is said to have declined, and instead to have stepped outside to do so. Were he to offer prayer inside the church, he said, the zealous among his followers would have claimed the building as a mosque. By praying outside the church, Umar preserved it as a Christian house of worship.
(Dale T. Irvin and Scott W. Sunquist, History of the World Christian Movement [USA: Orbis, 2001], p.274)
To the Christians, the body of Christ consists of the churches formed by individual Christians. When one part suffers, the rest are affected:
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. [...]
But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
(1 Corinthians 12:12-27. Emphasis added.)
I want to believe that Muslims and Christians can co-exist at every parts of the world. I want to believe that we can respect each others' religious observance and practices. I want to believe that we can acknowledge one another as missional community, where we take it for granted that both Muslims and Christians are called in their own respective way to proclaim their religion in non-violent manner.

I think these three desires are essential in giving reason and hope to work through differences and establish interreligious trust among ourselves. Therefore these rampant religious persecutions are very stiffling. One's belief in co-existence is constantly tested; one's prejudice is instantly formed. May the Trinity sustains me to persevere on in refusing to abandon these beliefs, in resisting the formation of prejudice.

I want to believe.


Conrade Yap said...

Muslims see co-existence very differently than Christians. In some circles, there are people who believe that there is no peace until the whole world becomes Muslim. We need to pray that such views do not go viral.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Conrade,

If "co-existence" means no peace until the whole world becomes Muslim, then it is really a concern!

Praying. Good to have you who prays along. :)