In our post-September 11 world, one of the most important contributions Christians can make is respectful and courageous outreach to Muslims. We should seek them out both in the Islamic world and here at home, where, by conservative estimates, Muslims number about 2 million.

One hundred years after Samuel Zwemer, the renowned "apostle to Islam," began his work in Arabia, Christian outreach to Muslims has been dwarfed by the growth of Islam. During the 20th century, the global population of Muslims grew to 21 percent from 12.3 percent in 1900. Yet only 6 percent of all Christian foreign missionaries are working among Muslims.

According to Mission Handbook statistics, American Protestants do not expend a large amount of their ministry resources in Muslim-majority nations. Compare American Protestant outreach in two nations: Brazil with 170 million people and Pakistan with 150 million. In Christian-majority Brazil, more than 100 American Protestant missions agencies support 1,488 workers. In Muslim-majority Pakistan, there are 24 agencies with 111 American workers. There are many reasons why American agencies devote less time and energy in Muslim nations, including the reality that many Muslim nations are closed to missions organizations and do not embrace true freedom of religion.

The closed nature of most Islamic nations stands in stark contrast to the openness of Western ones. This openness is rooted in the gospel: God's love, Christ's sacrifice, the equal worth of individuals, the limited authority of political institutions, and the gradual but thorough liberation of women, slaves, and others. Where the gospel has flowered, it has been good for society.

Closed societies, on the other hand, deprive individuals of civil rights ...

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