Lessons from an African university.
For most of the thirteen hundred years since Islam first surged westward from the Arabian desert across Africa, Muslims have been extremely resistant to Christianity. But now more Muslims are beginning to follow Jesus. They call him by his Arabic name, Isa, and worship him in Messianic mosques in several African cities. Most of these new followers of Isa have come from the uneducated classes, but recently God has begun to do a new thing among African university students, as Spring Arbor College professor Charles White recently discovered. White taught for a year in an African university under the aegis of the International Institute for Christian Studies.
As the school year began, 16 of us in the religious-studies department met to decide what courses to offer. The outcome was surprising.
Our department offered three majors: Islam, Christianity, and African traditional religion (ATR). In the past, those studying Christianity and ATR had to take courses in all three traditions, but the Muslims took courses only in Islam. The Christians had griped about this for years, but because the department was evenly divided between Muslims and Christians, they could never muster the votes to change the requirements.
Knowing nothing of this situation, I inspected the proposed curriculum and noticed the discrepancy. In all innocence, I said, “Mr. Chairman, it seems to me that our Islamic majors are being shortchanged. We are careful to give those who major in Christianity and ATR a wide exposure to other religions, but we restrict our Islamic majors to courses in their own tradition. Wouldn’t it be better if we insured that they had the widest possible exposure?”
Perhaps it was because I was the new kid ...1
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