'Have You Prayed for bin Laden Today?'
Brother Andrew, founder of the persecuted-church ministry Open Doors and author of the forthcoming book Secret Believers, has been traveling to the Middle East for more than 30 years. During that time, he has met with Israelis, Christians of all kinds, and Muslim leaders from Fatah, Hamas, and other radical or militant groups. Ever since his Cold War days taking Bibles behind the Iron Curtain (made famous in his 1967 autobiography, God's Smuggler), American Christians have often responded to Brother Andrew's reports with some degree of skepticism, but always with awe. Christianity Today senior writer Deann Alford recently interviewed Brother Andrew on the current Gaza crisis and Christian relations with fundamentalist Muslims.
What have you heard about the current situation inside Gaza?
The situation is quiet at the moment. [The conflict] will continue, and one party will have full control. Gaza will not only be a prison camp, but also will become a concentration camp. It will become much worse, not because of the Islamist influence, but because of the repression from outside. The boycott and all the feelings that come from outside. That includes you and me, our nations, our governments.
What will a Hamas-controlled Gaza mean for Christians and everybody else?
It looks confusing. And yet, it is not. I talked to the Hamas leaders years ago about what they wanted. This is exactly what I see happening today. They follow a plan, and there's nothing wrong with having a plan. We also have a plan. We read the Bible. We have sort of a mental concept of what it's going to be, and Hamas has that, too. They have a very strong belief, and they act upon it, that in the end times in which we now live, they believe that Islam is going to conquer and rule the world. And what they seein very concrete terms in Gaza and West Bank and the surrounding countries, across Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistanis a pan-Arabic republic. No borders. No Jews. They say that literally. That's not antagonism. That's their faith dictating them to say so.
So I said to them, "There's no room for Christians. You're going to persecute us." They said, "No, Andrew, there will always be a place for Christians like you." So far, my own contact, and that of the Baptist leaders and that of the Bible shop leaders in Gaza has been very positive with Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
Their worldview is in relation to end times. That's why they're willing to die. It's more than statehood. They're not interested in a Palestinian state. They're thinking so much bigger. That's why they have such amazing support among the grassroots level of the people, because of their reputation for not being corrupt, which is absolutely true.
Why have there been so many suicide bombers in recent years?
I challenge the Hamas leaders about the suicide bombers, which I'm terribly, terribly opposed to. I've preached against it. I contended in the strongest terms when speaking with the Hamas leaders, and they said, "Brother Andrew, we agree with you. The Qur'an forbids suicide." I said, "What is it that I see all around me?" They said, "But that is religious." I said, "Of course, you make it a million times worse because now you have a million volunteers."
There's no way we can cope with or challenge that level of dedication. They believe in something, and they're going to die for it. We fight [Islamic ideology] with bombs and armies. We're doomed to lose that battle. We have to go back to the root causes. We have to listen, we have to understand, we have to talk, and then I think we can still make progress.