Christianity and Islam, the world's top two faiths in numbers of adherents, have clashed off and on for centuries, and there still is plenty of suspicion on both sides. Islam's power is growing throughout the world as both a spiritual and political force. Some Muslim extremists take direct aim at the decadence of the West through well-placed bombs and threats of terrorism. Meanwhile, many Muslims believe they are under threat from the militarily superior West.
In the face of such tensions, about 75 leaders of parachurch, missionary, and church mission groups gathered in January to chart not confrontation, but evangelism. Missionaries to Muslims called for dialogue, not demonizing.
"We need an attitude that's constructive and Christlike," said Bryant Myers of World Vision, a co-organizer of the International Briefing on Islam and Christian Mission in Colorado Springs. "We need to have a crucified mind instead of a crusade mind."
Today, rather than weapons, the tactics of persuasion are high-tech, and sometimes even subversive. For example, evangelical parachurch groups working in Islamic countries often find themselves shadowed by representatives of "paramosque" groups, which receive funding from oil-rich Arab countries, mimic Christian groups' successful humanitarian efforts, and seek to force evangelicals out of their countries.
Co-organizer Patrick Sookhdeo, director of the London-based Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, spoke against "a crusade mentality whereby we see Muslims as enemies." A Muslim convert to Christianity, Sookhdeo expressed sadness over the legacy of the crusades, which began 900 years ago and concluded nearly 200 bloody years later.
"Of the past we can only repent," he said. "In the present ...1