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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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The Conversation Continues: Readers' Comments

Displaying 1–2 of 2 comments

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!

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DARYL MCKILLIAN

June 12, 2012  7:34pm

This article highlighted the great challenges and tension between Christians & Muslims. Thoughtful, respectful dialogue is a great starting point, but by no means the end game. Sure it is reasonable to expect to convert Muslins as we converse with them, but we must go beyond dialogue. A professor on Islam said in class today that if we really want to convert Muslims then we need to engage them at every level. We need to hire them as employees, befriend them, live next door to them and allow them to see through our lifestyle and love that Christianity is superior to Islam & not through our rhetoric. Sure we need to coherently communicate the Gospel and not fudge on our doctrinal distinctives one bit. We will never argue Muslims into the Kingdom but we can love them into the Kingdom.

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