Originally from Auckland (Windsor Park Baptist Church), Colin and Christine spent 17 years based at LAMB hospital in Bangladesh before relocating to the UK. Colin currently leads Interserve’s cross-cultural team in England and Wales helping groups and churches reach out to their Muslim neighbours. He will be touring New Zealand next year to speak on relating to Muslims with grace and truth.
After 12 years, she finally heard words that matched what she felt inside. I was speaking on Christian/Muslim relations at Spring Harvest, a large evangelical conference in the UK. During a break, Famida came and asked permission to share something. It was so difficult for her to speak in public that she wrote her words down and a friend read it for her.
I paraphrase what she wrote:
“I come from a Muslim background but met Jesus 12 years ago and ended up going to my local church. They were stunned and surprised that a Muslim could come to faith in Jesus and were overjoyed to have me attending their church. But very quickly it became obvious that they didn’t know what to do with me. I was a trophy, a testimony – not a sister. I have a heritage that is deep and rich but it seemed to count for nothing and so I became a trophy to be pointed at and admired.
“My friends, our Muslim brothers and sisters are not trophies to be won; we are people to be loved.”
I’d been speaking on relating to our Muslim neighbours with grace and truth. In my words Famida had recognised something of her journey. Too often in the UK Christians treat Muslims as enemies to be avoided or scorned rather than neighbours who Jesus challenges us to love.
During the 17 years we spent working in Bangladesh we’d seen God building a church using people with a Muslim background. None of them could be regarded as a trophy because everyone had the same story of meeting Christ and receiving his grace and leaving Islam behind.
Now in the UK we recognise two major blockages to similar growth. First, there is the fear that sits inside of us when we regard another person or people group as an enemy. Second, flowing from the first, is the lack of confidence many Christians have in the ability of Jesus to call Muslims to himself.
Do we have a sense of God’s sovereignty working within today’s changing world? Do we have a sense that Muslim people are looking for God’s Kingdom and that the answer to that search is Jesus?
The challenge is to reach out in love and be confident in Christ’s ability to bring people from a Muslim background into his family. And the reason we reach out is so that our Muslim neighbours can become our brothers and sisters, not trophies. Oh Lord, increase our faith.