This post is from one of the pastors at http://www.calvarychapel.com
In March 2012 Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, the senior leader in the Saudi religious hierarchy, announced that under Islamic principles, there could only be one religion on the entire Arabian Peninsula. This area includes the nations of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Yemen. According to the public pronouncement of this influential Muslim leader, not only should no new churches be constructed in all these nations, but also the existing churches should be destroyed.
In one sense, this is not a new development. To openly practice Christianity has been outlawed in Saudi Arabia for a long time. It should also be pointed out that this was not an actual law passed in Saudi Arabia or in any other nation; but rather it was the statement of a leading Muslim figure. It has no legal force (at least not yet); but it certainly can and probably will lead to more persecution and murder against Christians in Muslim lands.
There is much to say about this, and searching the Internet will find it being said. People note the double standard: how the west is more tolerant and allows Muslims to freely practice their faith in western nations. This obviously isn’t the case in Muslim nations, and it is a hypocritical double standard. Comment has also been made on the lack of attention and outrage in response to this fatwa (ruling by a recognized Islamic authority). This shows that many people simply expect and accept that Muslims will be intolerant persecutors of Christians and others. Here are a few more points to consider concerning the matter:
1. It shows the staggering, fundamental weakness of Islam. Any religion that must use the threat of persecution and murder to weaken other religions and to keep its own followers in the faith is a weak religion, not a strong one. What would happen if throughout Islam people knew they could leave that faith and become Christians without persecution? Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, would leave Islam. They are only kept in their religion by fear and intimidation. This same principle showed the weakness of the Communist, totalitarian world more than 20 years ago; and it shows the weakness of the Islamic world today.
2. It shows the sad destiny of Islam. Many people are concerned because it seems that Islam is on the rise, and some fear that this rate of growth will cause it to overwhelm Christianity. After reading the fatwa of the Saudi cleric, I’m not so concerned – at least not in the long term. The reason I’m not so concerned because I know that if someone persecutes the followers of Jesus, He takes it personally. Jesus asked Saul of Tarsus, the great early persecutor of Christians, this question: “Why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4).
When Christians are persecuted and murdered, we should speak out against it and support our afflicted brothers and sisters as we have opportunity. Yet we should also pray for the persecutors, for they put themselves in a bad position by fighting against Jesus, who is the risen, ascended, and enthroned Lord of glory. Jesus promised that He would build His church, and that the gates of hell would never prevail against it – and that includes all who persecute His followers. In the short term they may seem to win, but never in the long term.
3. Muslims should know: Christians have no desire to persecute them. Perhaps they simply assume this is so. But what we want is an open public arena, where Muslims are free to live out their faith and we have liberty to live ours. We are confident enough in Jesus to believe that in the open arena, the followers of Jesus will be strong and growing.
Yet to Muslims I also make an appeal: don’t persecute others, including Christians. We are grateful that the vast majority of Muslims do not persecute, and simply wish to live in peace and practice their faith. To them I say, as you have opportunity – speak out and work against those in your religious family who do persecute others, just as every Christian should speak out and work against those who persecute in the name of Christianity.