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Living on the Seam of History: African Christianity Part 6
My Neighbour's Faith by John Azumah
Africa has an interreligious and interfaith environment that is unique in many ways. We have multi-faith families, clans, ethnic groups and nations. At each of these levels, African Muslims and Christians have a lot of things that bind them together, including kinship ties, shared languages and citizenship. If I may use my own case as an example, I come from a family where believers in Traditional African Religion, Muslims and Christians live and share basically everything. My Muslim uncle made significant contributions towards my theological training and about 95 per cent of the family members who attended my ordination service were Muslim. Similarly, when there is anything involving a family member, all members of the family, irrespective of their religious affiliation, are called upon to contribute. (1)
John Azumah writes as a man in the thick of the tenuous relationship between Muslims and Christians. With family, friends and community members who are Muslim (see African Christian Ethics for a reminder of how important and different the African sense of community is then a Western sense) he seeks evangelism; effective evangelism from one African to another.
As we have seen throughout this series living on the seam of history means more than just acknowledging the growth of the global Church, it means learning from the global Church as we move forward. In My Neighbour’s Faith John Azumah seeks to explain Islam to Christians in both the West and East, bringing his expertise and home-grown experience to the forefront of his writing and theology.
This concise treatment of the issue interacts with all major religious challenges that Christianity and Islam differ on. He presents a history of Islam and discusses both its ancient and contemporary contexts; while also discussing Scripture, tradition, movements and Islamic teaching on various subjects including Jesus.
In a previous post we discussed Azumah’s answer to the often asked question: “Do Muslim’s and Christians worship the same God?” From his chapter titled “A Christian Response to Islam” I offer these excerpts for us to discuss this week:
A Christian Response to Islam – for Christians in the non-Muslim World
“In my view the minimum that Christians in the non-Muslim world can do to help Christian minorities going through various forms of persecution is to stand in solidarity with them in prayer…But prayer alone is not enough! We must also act as advocates for the rights of all persecuted minorities, including Christian minorities in Islamic countries. Many Christians in the West and other parts of the non-Muslim world find very good excuses for why they cannot speak out against the persecution of Christians in Muslim Countries. But if we look to Christ as our model, we see that he was a man who always stood by the weak, excluded and oppressed. In fact that was the core of his whole mission, as he declared at the very beginning of his ministry:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18).
Despite all the protests and accusation that will follow an advocacy on behalf of minorities in Islamic countries, Muslim governments are very sensitive about the image of their regimes in the international community. To give more credibility to our advocacy, Christians should try to link up with local Muslims who are equally appalled at the conditions endured by religious minorities in their communities. They will be more than willing to be partners in any struggle against all forms of discrimination, exclusion and persecution committed in the name of Islam.” (122-123)
What do you think? Should we “link up with local Muslims” to fight oppression of minorities in Muslim countries?
A Christian Response to Islam – for Christians in the Muslim World
“Christian minorities within Muslim majorities must guard against the tendency to pay back in kind, speaking the language the other party is supposed to understand best. Unfortunately, this is becoming common among many Christians in Muslim majority areas in sub-Saharan Africa, especially Nigeria and Sudan. There are countless instances of Christians in these and other situations taking revenge by resorting to violence and murdering Muslims…
There is no denying that many of these Christians have suffered untold persecutions at the hands of their Muslim neighbours and overlords. One has to be careful, therefore, not to be perceived as standing in judgment on their reactions in such situations. At the same time, one cannot help but point to Christians’ fundamental calling, which is to be light and salt in a dark and tasteless world. To be light and salt is to make a difference…
I have always wondered about the helpfulness, even appropriateness, of the focus on post-Constantine Christianity in Protestant theological seminaries. When we talk about the history, mission and theology of the church, the first three centuries of Christianity are almost always glossed over. Students therefore leave seminaries with very little knowledge about this period. But if we are to equip the church for witness as a minority in difficult situations, the history, witness and theology of the early church need to be taught.” (124-125)
Do Western Protestant seminaries focus too much on post-Constantine Christianity? Should this change if we truly are living on the seam of history – i.e. moving towards a global Church? --Andrew
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