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CANADA: Evangelicals ignoring rise of Islam, says Campolo

CANADA: Evangelicals ignoring rise of Islam, says Campolo

By Joel Coppieters
Quebec Correspondent

MONTREAL, QC-Most evangelical churches and missions seem to be ignoring their fundamental challenge of the future-a world where Islam is on the rise, says leading Christian sociologist Tony Campolo.

Several days after the American mid-term elections, Campolo spoke to pastors at the Montreal Mission Fest, offering several reflections on the political situation in his home country, but was quick to point out the ramifications on Christian ministries in the Middle East.

Persecution in Iraq

"While Saddam's Hussein's regime never persecuted Christians, the new constitution set up with American support in fact installed a legislative system based on Shiite values that outlaws both Christianity and proselytism. The resulting persecutions have included the torture of individual Christians and the widespread burning and destruction of churches. Of the more than one million Christians who were in Iraq when the war began, it is estimated that over 20,000 a month are now fleeing the country to escape persecution," says Campolo.

The Radio Ville Marie Catholic news network confirmed the statistic in a report issued on November 9, with some of its sources even speaking of ethnic cleansing of Christian populations. In response to the exodus, the American Association of Bishops approached Condoleeza Rice with a request for Amercian protection for the beleagured Christians. However, Louis Sako, the archbiship of Kirkouk in Iraq, objected to any such attempt. "We do not want to be associated in any way with the forces of the American coalition; We may be Christians, but we are citizens of Iraq."

Military actions by British and American forces are described by Al-Jazeera news as religiously motivated, and the foreign soldiers on Muslim soil are regularly referred to as "crusaders,"-a heavily loaded term for Muslims.

Even in those countries where the war has not increased direct persecutions, missions organizations are facing other challenges. In Pakistan for instance, missionaries coming home on furlough are finding it almost impossible to get permission to return to the field.

"Of more than 400 missionaries in Pakistan eight years ago, now only 40 remain," Campolo noted.

In Palestine 25 years ago, 15 per cent of the population was Christian. That figure has now dropped to just below four per cent, says Campolo.

"Many of the Christian refugees from Palestine, Iraq and other neighbouring countries have made their way into Jordan where the Christian church has been growing by thousands every month. This would be a strategic time for Canadian missions to invest in partnership with the Jordanian church to help it teach and train these expatriates and prepare them for the day when they can return to their homelands to have an impact there."

According to Campolo, Christian outreach to Muslims at home and abroad has been hindered by the war and believers' ignorance of the Islamic faith. He called for more training for Christians so that they can use the Qur'an to have intelligent and informed debates. Studies by Islamic scholars such as Bernard Lewis should find their way onto Christian leader's bookshelves.


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