How Does Persecution of Christians in the Middle East Affect How We Relate to Muslims in North America?

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This issue came up recently in an email requesting a “no” vote on a school board question that would open up a place for Muslims to pray in a public school. With the loss of public prayer space for Christians in the last decade, many people now want to stop Muslims from praying in our public schools.

The fact is, we don’t want to mimic the actions of people in many Middle Eastern countries where the rights of religious minorities to practice their faith are limited. I do not believe that Jesus invites us to a "tit for tat" response such as “we lost our right to pray in a public space so we should deny it to them also,” or “Muslim countries limit the rights of Christians so we should limit the rights of Muslims in Canada and the United States.”

There are many Christian communities that are being persecuted in the world today and we do need to pray for them and let them know that we care about them. They are on the front line of courageous Christian witness and their prayer request is often not "save me from this" but rather, "Lord, give me the strength to be a clear witness." We also need to recognize that there are other faith groups being persecuted in the world today. The plight of the Bahai community in Iran is one example. To follow Christ is to speak out on behalf of all groups who are persecuted and oppressed.

The truth is, as Christians, we have an opportunity to stick up for our Muslim neighbors and show them that we appreciate people of faith and that we can work together on issues such as the right to pray publicly, opposition to abortion, dealing with increasing secularism, and other issues of common concern. The last thing we need is to foster an “us versus them” philosophy. Instead we need to set a Christ like example of love, as Jesus did with the Samaritan woman. Jesus had clear boundaries on where the truth is found (for salvation is from the Jews) but he did take time to love her and care about her, and a whole village of Samaritans came to faith in Christ as a result (John 4).

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