How should Christians who have a passion for evangelization relate to Islam? For North Americans, the question took on new urgency in the wake of September 11. But Christians in Muslim-majority societies have dealt with the question far longer. Growing up Christian in Syria gave Chawkat Moucarry many opportunities to interact with Muslims and learn about Islam. In this installment of the Global Conversation, World Vision International's director of interfaith relations describes his commitment to both dialogue and mission.

I have never understood why some people look at dialogue and mission in either-or terms. In my experience, these words belong so much to each other that they should never be divorced. Evangelical Christians (whose theology I share) have shown an unwarranted suspicion of dialogue, simply because some have used it as a substitute for mission. Not only are the two words compatible, but they must shape each other.

I have always believed in God and Jesus Christ. Growing up in a Muslim-majority society, I knew as a child that I was different, and I gradually realized that this difference implied that I had something precious to share with my Muslim friends.

I was born into a Catholic home and was an altar boy in my early teens. I attended a missionary primary school, which gave me my first opportunity to discuss religion with my Muslim peers. However, my significant conversations about Christianity and Islam started after I moved to a government secondary school, where the majority of pupils were from working-class families. I was surprised to realize that many Muslim schoolmates were very interested to know more about Christianity and Christians. And I wanted to better understand Islam. A unique opportunity presented itself when the teacher of Islamic religious education granted me permission to attend his class. I was the only Christian there. He regularly asked me to give my views as a Christian on certain topics. These discussions extended outside the classroom.

In Paris, after I graduated in Christian theology, I felt as an Arab Christian a compelling need to relate my faith to Islam. That required me to study it. The need was reinforced after I started working for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students among Arab and Muslim students. Sometimes they would ask me challenging questions that I had not seriously considered as a theological student. Hence, it wasn't difficult for me to find research topics for my Islamic Studies dissertations at the Sorbonne.

For my first degree, I looked into the Islamic charge against the reliability of the Bible, and in my Ph.D. dissertation, I examined Islamic and Christian teachings on forgiveness. Needless to say, studying Islam unavoidably meant re-examining my major Christian beliefs, which I had often taken for granted. My work with students included setting up book tables at university campuses and leading Bible study groups, as well as speaking in public debates in France and abroad on Christianity and Islam.

For 12 years I worked for All Nations Christian College, a mission-oriented Bible college in Ware, England. I was in charge of its Islamic course, to which I invited a Muslim lecturer to contribute each year. His or her ...

Read MoreRead Chawkat Moucarry's complete article
The Conversation Begins
Selected writers respond to Chawkat Moucarry from around the globe.

Commending Jesus Christ is my yearning in the many opportunities for dialogue that I experience. "A Lifelong Journey with Islam" is just that kind of winsome defense for a dialogical engagement with Muslims ...

Read MoreRead More

I met Chawkat Moucarry 30 years ago in Paris, when we attended the same church. At that time, his article would have triggered a different response from me. I was strongly opposed to Christian-Muslim ...

Read MoreRead More

Of late, dialogue between Muslims and Western Christian academicians has moved from defensive polemics to more constructive discourse that seeks to achieve mutual understanding. Every effort is made to ...

Read MoreRead More

I am from northern Nigeria. My home state is in the region that has been characterized by incessant religious violence between Muslims and Christians. Today, the city of Kaduna, which used to be the symbol ...

Read MoreRead More


The Conversation Continues: Readers' Comments

Displaying 1–3 of 46 comments

DK

June 20, 2012  3:10pm

This is a response to Johnny Low's post from February 26, 2010. He states that the Gospel is missing from this article. I don't think the article intends to exclude the Gospel from a Christian-Muslim dialogue. In fact, I think the Gospel, although explicitly unstated, is central in the author's mind. Each of his steps is meant to open doors for the Gospel to take root. Respect gives Christians the ability to be heard. Fairness is just that--fair. Neither side is treated unjustly. Friendship establishes personal connections that show the living of the Gospel, not only the words of the Gospel. All this leads to his stated goal of conversion.

Report Abuse

Daniel Keng

June 20, 2012  2:58pm

This article addressed some of the major concerns that Christians have in evangelizing with Muslims, although the general principles are applicable to witnessing with people of all other faiths. The Christian's verbal and life testimonies are linked, and their integrity can make a huge impact in an unbeliever's openness to the Gospel. This isn't to say that the Holy Spirit can't work in whatever way He chooses, but it's the Christian's responsibility to testify through speech and life in such a way that supports the Gospel--and that way is love. Apologetics and debate have a place in the Christian-Muslim dialogue, but no matter how reasonable and cogent our arguments are, if we do not express them in a loving manner, all they will elicit is a frustrated and defensive posture. We can win minds without winning hearts if not done in a loving manner. As others have said, you can't argue Muslims (or anyone else) into the kingdom, but you can love them into the kingdom.

Report Abuse

DARYL MCKILLIAN

June 19, 2012  5:04pm

Christians must come to grips with the reality that there is a palpable tension Christianity & Islam dating back to the Crusades. Not all Christians or Muslims are aware of the tension, but some are. Therefore, it behooves us as Christians to tread lightly as we engage Muslims. Treading lightly not in the sense of fear, but in the sense of respecting their beliefs & one of the tried and true ways of showing respect in almost any culture is to take the posture of a learner. Personally, I’m finding out how much I just don’t know about the Islamic faith. In reaching out to Muslims we need to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves (Matt. 10:16). Wise not only in delineating what they believe versus what Christians believe, more than that, Christians must understand how what they believe impacts their lives, worldview and perspective God.May the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob and the Father of our Lord Jesus bless our Christian interaction with Islamic peoples until He comes again!

Report Abuse
The Lausanne Movement

For More Conversation

Understanding and Ministry Among Muslims

Lausanne Occasional Paper from the 2004 Forum.

The Glen Eyrie Report: Muslim Evangelization

Exploring the responsibilities of North American Christians toward the Muslim World.

From Muslim to Christian: Finding Life in Kenya

By David Munyere

Respecting Muslims While Sharing Christ

By Keith Swartley