Social & Domestic Issues

Can Christians and Muslims Reconcile?

It is time for those interested in peace between Muslims and Christians to face some cold, hard facts.  This is not the first Jihad.  This is not the first Holy War.  And any road to peace and mutual understanding must first travel back in time to acknowledge the historical truths about how conflicts between radical Islam and the rest of the world have been resolved.  In the meantime, hollow platitudes about “mutual understanding” and “conversation” must end. 

In the early 8th Century, radical Islamists had been waging war for decades, imposing their faith on Christians throughout Europe.  They had conquered Spain and parts of modern-day France and Germany.  But, in 732, a one-day battle changed the course of history. 

In the Battle of Tours, Charles Martel led a Christian army of Franks and Burgundians to a bloody and decisive victory against the invading jihadists — a victory that stemmed the tide of Islamic expansionism in Europe.

Martel prevailed at Tours because he recognized exactly what was at stake.  He understood that his army could determine whether Christian civilization would continue or Islamic theocracy prevail throughout Europe.  Thus Martel took decisive action, which, in the words of historian Edward Gibbon, “rescued our ancestors of Britain, and our neighbors of Gaul [France], from the civil and religious yoke of the Koran." 

Western civilization again faces a defining moment in the struggle to defend itself against an enemy that seeks its demise.  Sadly, however, many in the West today, including many Christians, fail to understand what’s at stake:  the continuation of our way of life and even our very lives.  This is not merely an “election” between two political parties with a common interest in the peace and prosperity of the world.  This is an existential conflict in which one side says, “convert or die.”

Recently, over 300 evangelical, mainline Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders sponsored a letter seeking “reconciliation” and “common ground” with Islam.  The letter, “Loving God and Neighbor Together,” was issued as a response to a similar letter written to Christians by 138 Muslim leaders last fall.  The Christian letter expressed regrets for the Crusades and for excesses of the “war on terror,” acknowledged Allah as the God of the Bible and insisted that, “without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world.”

But while inter-faith dialogue can be useful, the letter failed to appreciate that a real conversation can take place only when both sides negotiate in good faith, in a spirit of mutual respect and with a willingness to address the truth of the disagreements at hand.  One truth Christians must come to terms with is that Muslims are not looking to be one of many respected faiths active in the world.  To the jihadists and their sympathizers, Islam’s place in the world is a zero-sum affair — they will impose Islam on the world or die trying — and pretending otherwise does no good in achieving understanding. 

Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, explained why he signed “Loving God and Neighbor Together,” by stating that “not signing could be damaging to these Christian brothers and sisters who live among Muslims.”  Which is precisely the problem.  If by not signing a letter that acknowledges, and asks forgiveness for, Christian crimes but that remains silent on those of Muslims Anderson feels he may provoke a backlash against Christians in Muslim nations, then clearly reconciliation is illusory. 

Christians living in Muslim countries often face discrimination, and those who practice openly can be thrown in jail and even killed.  Last July, 23 Christian Koreans were taken hostage, and a number were killed, by the Taliban in Afghanistan.  But these Christian missionaries weren’t even trying to spread their faith, only providing aid and medical care to poor Afghans. 

Have the signers of  “Loving God and Neighbor Together” forgotten what happened the last time a Christian leader tried to start a frank inter-faith discussion between Muslims and Christians?  When Pope Benedict XVI attempted to engage Muslims in thoughtful dialogue, his remarks provoked a ridiculous and irrational response that led to violent public demonstrations, the calling for the pope’s head and the murder of a Catholic nun in Africa. 

Christians need to come to grips with the deep culture of violence that pervades many Muslim societies.  A 2005 study found that Muslim nations are two-and-a-half times more likely than non-Muslim nations to be considered “at the greatest risk of neglecting or mismanaging emerging societal crises such that these conflicts escalate to serious violence and/or government instability.”

What’s more, while it’s fashionable to refer to Islam as the “religion of peace,” the truth is that Islamic terrorists invariably cite faith as the motivation behind their deplorable acts.  And when some Muslim leaders insist non-Muslims must “convert or die,” it’s clear that Muslims are not ready to negotiate in good faith.  Even dedicated Muslim leaders like Benazir Bhutto pay with their lives when they are willing to talk candidly with Westerners about reaching a peaceful co-existence. 

I caution against the false hope of letters like “Loving God and Neighbor Together.”
At the end of the day, an enemy committed to the total destruction of western civilization must be defeated.  It is essential that Christians recognize that any attempts at finding “common ground” or “mutual understanding” with Muslims will be fruitless unless and until Muslims stand up to confront their co-religionists’ use of faith to justify violence and the annihilation of the west. 

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