International (MNN) –Google the phrase ‘anti-Muslim’ on a news website and you’ll get a page full of political stories from around the world, along with a smattering of terms like ‘Islamophobia’ and ‘hate speech’.
The rise of terrorism and extremism is hard to deny. It’s increasingly difficult to separate the issues of national security from religion. It’s a topic fraught with controversy and high emotion. Chris Ruge, Prayercast director and overseer of the project ‘Love Muslims’ says Islam is an ideology. Taken to the extreme, you see violence.
Ruge says there is a distinction between Muslims and terrorists but observes that much of the divisive dialogue and rhetoric seems fear-driven.
“We’re not dealing with people, necessarily, who desire our demise–although some do. There are people all over the world who would wish us ill, but that doesn’t mean that we need to be afraid because the reality is that God loves those people.”
Leaning hard on that truth, there’s a question that remains: “If we don’t love Muslims to Christ, who will?” Ruge reminds us that God transformed terrorists before. “This is Paul—he looked an awful lot like this amazing evangelist like Billy Graham and yet the reality is that before he was ever that, he was Saul, and he looked an awful lot more like Osama bin Laden. He was a persecutor of the Church and he had blood on his hands.”
With the advent of the Islamic State (ISIS) and its subsequent rampages throughout the Middle East and North Africa, its fighters gained a fearsome reputation. Then stories began trickling out of some of these fighters having dreams and visions of Jesus and finding themselves profoundly affected.
It’s because people were praying. Ruge shares one piece of advice given to him by a friend who counseled him on forgiveness and restoration of a broken relationship. He said,” ‘It’s almost impossible to dislike or hate someone who you are actively praying for.’”
Fanning The Flame
Ruge took that to heart and started thinking about ways to help other Christians actively, knowledgeably and passionately pray for Muslims, despite a growing anti-Muslim sentiment. Enter: ‘Love Muslims’.
“’Love Muslims’ is creating over 130 different videos, short videos to lead us in prayer. Every one of those videos is built on testimony or a prayer by a former Muslim who is now a follower of Jesus.”
‘Love Muslims’ is a counter-culture movement, since the vocabulary that comes with ‘Islamophobia’, ‘hate speech’ and ‘anti-Muslim’ usually includes words like ‘bigots’, ‘racists’ and ‘hypocrites’. Strong language deserves a strong response, but one in a context that reflects the hope of Christ.
Encouraging The Hope
‘Love Muslims’ launches at the beginning of Ramadan. It’s a symbolic way to say that Christians are praying for Muslims in time on the calendar when they are most receptive to hear from God, where they’re actively fasting and seeking after hearing from God. Ruge says, “More Muslims have turned to follow Jesus in the past 15 years than in the previous 1400 years combined.”
From May 5 through June 4, “We are going to be leading a 30-day prayer journey, through the month of Ramadan. When people sign up, we’ll send an email each day as a reminder. We’ll be releasing a brand new video, never seen before, every day during the month of Ramadan.” Click here to sign up.
Headline photo courtesy Venca24/Wikimedia CC