The Unexpected Answer to Islam: Evangelize!
You’ve probably heard the horror stories. Muslims are crowding into Europe. They’re going to conquer the continent by stealth. London has a Muslim mayor. Muslims are calling for sharia law. There are so many Muslims in England you might as well call the capital “Londonistan.”
Muslims are swamping France, Italy and Germany. Their birth rate is soaring while Europeans’ is plummeting. The Palestinian strongman Yasser Arafat claimed the womb of the Palestinian woman as his “biological weapon.” Libyan dictator Muamar Gaddafi agreed:
We have 50 million Muslims in Europe. There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe—without swords, without guns, without conquest—we will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades.
In his book The Cube and the Cathedral George Weigel voices the fears. He envisions a minaret over St Peter’s in Rome. And the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris becoming a mosque, “Hagia Sophia on the Seine.”
The Culture of Death Hits Muslims Too
Do the statistics hold up? In his 2010 book, The Future Church, journalist John Allen reports the numbers. The Muslim population in Europe rose from 5 million in 1985 to 15 million in 2005. Fifteen years ago France had the highest Muslim population in Europe, at 8.3% of their population. Germany came second with 4.3% and the UK with 2.7%. The numbers for 2016? Muslims make up just 4.9% of the population of Europe. Projections saying by 2025 the Muslim population of Europe will level off at 15% now seem overheated.
Radical Islam screams from headlines, but the numbers don’t warrant the panic.
Also, there are a couple of other factors which should make us pause. The fertility rate among Muslims is dropping. It is easy to get alarmed by crowds of bearded Muslims protesting in the streets. But most Muslims are not violent radicals anymore than Christians are all IRA terrorists or bombers of abortion clinics.
Furthermore, when they migrate to Europe, many Muslims become complacent in their faith and lapse into Western ways.
This doesn’t mean we should be complacent. There is still a violent clash between Islam and Christianity. The tensions are high in Europe, but they are even higher in Islamic countries across the globe. Open Doors reminds us that persecution of Christians in predominantly Muslim countries remains acute. The list is long: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Nigeria, Eritrea, Yemen, Iran and Philippines and more.
What is the answer? Some propose increased interfaith dialogue. They say moderate Muslims and Christians should come together. They should listen and learn from one another. Theologians and scholars from both sides should put their heads together and find ways forward. Pope Benedict XVI recognized however, that there are few points of connection between Muslim and Christian beliefs. He called instead for cooperation between the two faiths in cultural matters. He thought Muslims and Christians might fight the rising tide of immorality and secular atheism together.
Go Teach All the Nations
There may be another answer that few people have stopped to consider. Conversion. As Muslims move from their own culture and come into contact with Christianity they experience the reality of Christian life for the first time. Reports come from Europe that Islamic refugees get disenchanted with their religion and attracted to Christianity. Are they converting to Christianity simply to improve their chances of gaining asylum? This study by psychologists contradicts the claim.
Meanwhile, it is not just refugees in Europe who are converting from Islam. This report claims the Christian church in Iran is the fastest growing in the world. Iranians who are fed up with the fundamentalist Islamic regime are discovering the freedom of the Christian faith. Bryce Young explains:
The Iranian revolution of 1979 established a hard-line Islamic regime. Over the next two decades, Christians faced increasing opposition and persecution: All missionaries were kicked out, evangelism was outlawed, Bibles in Persian were banned and soon became scarce, and several pastors were killed. The church came under tremendous pressure. Many feared the small Iranian church would soon wither away and die.
Instead, the reverse happened. Iranians are now the most open to Christianity of any Muslim population. Bryce contends this is because they are disillusioned with hardline Islam. Meanwhile the Christians in Islam have continued to evangelize courageously. Furthermore, because of the similarities in their language, Iranian Christians have also been spreading the gospel in Afghanistan. As a result, the small Christian presence there is also growing.
Students of church history will know that the world has been transformed before. That came through an outpouring of the Holy Spirit combined with courageous missionary activity. Great swathes of territory once held under the darkness of paganism opened up to the good news of Jesus Christ. Whole populations converted. Thousands turned to Christ.
Time for Steadfast Witness
Conversion to Christianity is the unexpected answer to Islam. This conversion will not come about through military might or political coercion. It demands the steady and constant witness of Christians in Muslim lands.
Predominantly Muslim countries are unlikely to be converted to Christianity by Western missionaries. The culture clash and mutual suspicion prove too great. Instead Muslims will be reached by courageous Christians from their own cultures. It must be Africans to Africans, Iranians to Iranians, Pakistanis and Indian Christians evangelizing their neighbors.
Currently, the situation in many Muslim countries is similar to the oppression of Christianity under communism. The stranglehold on the faith seemed unbreakable. The persecution of the church seemed complete. Then, almost overnight, the whole regime collapsed. The Berlin Wall fell. In the wake of the implosion of communism, a revival of Christianity swept through the atheistic lands of Russian and Eastern Europe.
The revival of religion in former communist lands was only possible by the faithfulness of underground Christians through the dark years. Those Christians received backup in the prayers and quiet fellowship and support of Christians in the West.
Likewise, the same thing could happen with Islam. The Islamic regimes may tumble. The oppression may end. With that new freedom, the liberating message of Christianity may surge forward winning back the lands which were among the very first to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
Follow Dwight Longenecker’s blog, listen to his podcasts, browse his books and be in touch at dwightlongenecker.com