- by Ian Sleeper
"If there is one thing, I am determined to do, it is to reach Muslims for Christ."
Two years ago, I took the decision to stand outside our local Islamic prayer centre handing out Christmas cards in a bid to reach out to our local Muslim population in Ashford. For the first year, I didn’t know what I was doing nor what to expect and rather nervously stood outside holding a box of Christmas cards, gingerly handing them out, to worshippers as they arrived and left the Friday afternoon prayer.
On the Saturday after and not to be deterred I returned with my intrepid daughter and my perseverance was rewarded by being warmly invited inside to meet the Imam. With my usual boldness, I invited my daughter, to join us men inside to take a picture of a few of the men with me in the middle of the gender divided prayer room.
The reaction overall from the attending Muslims was part surprise but mainly pleasure at this strange tall white Englishman giving out Christmas Cards with enthusiasm, displaying Christmas cheer. Only a few were reluctant to take one and passed by with a nonchalant shrug or a brief rejecting raised hand to say “no thank-you” but nothing threatening.
To wish a Muslim “happy Christmas” is to me a perfectly acceptable and a normal thing to do and is after all usually said on a daily occurrence during the festive season, albeit in a casual manner, as you pass people by or say goodbye to the person behind the supermarket checkout. So, why not say it to Muslims? You’re spreading the gospel, being friendly and they usually say “Merry Christmas” in reply which shows that they appear to be happy in joining with the festive greetings and, making a connection.
Some Muslims will reply in the same casual style as most of us do in Sainsbury’s, but some are genuinely glad to see an effort being made for the sake of community and enthusiastically shake my hand with a friendly warm broad grin.
I do it in a bid to break down the unnecessary barriers between our brothers and sisters and with hope that it will allow me an opportunity to share the Gospel of Christ.
Most Muslims are just the same as us but are born into a different faith, something over which they have had no control. Some of those who choose to leave Islam for Christianity end up losing their friends and families or worse face death because hardliners believe the penalty for apostasy in Islam is fatal.
As Jesus explained in the parable of the lost sheep (Matthew 18:12, Luke 15:4), he leaves the 99 sheep to find the one that is lost. So shouldn’t we 2.1 billion Christians witness to the lost 1.5 billion Muslims as well as the rest of the world’s nonbelieving population?
Despite our reservations about the beliefs of others and any fears we retain, we are all called to be good stewards of our faith and to love our neighbours as we would love ourselves.
Moreover extending a hand of friendship to people of other faiths should be the duty of all Christians.