My fellow elder and I left Canada for Kenya on February 12 on two different flights. We would link up again in Nairobi as Mike was flying over Zurich and I was coming via Frankfurt. What I saw during my stopover at Addis Ababa Airport convinced me that the Corona Virus is real, or at least the fear of it. Two thirds of the tourists and staff in the airport terminal wore masks. A young man – lining up for a cup of Ethiopian coffee behind me – wore no mask and told me he was heading for China for work! He was from South Africa. A week later, while still in Kenya, I learned that my South African nephew was also heading back to China, in the midst of all the reports and fears of a global pandemic. His students were begging him to come back. There’s something about these young guys from my old country I thought: no one can fault them for a lack of courage and commitment!
After a long journey we arrived at our final destiny in northwest Kenya, the name of which I will leave unnamed (for security reasons). We were booked in at a very modest hotel on the third floor. I was surprised how well Mike was adjusting to life in rural Africa, showing little signs of what must have felt like a culture shock to him. No doubt the overwhelming hospitality of our African “brethren” (that’s the Biblical term the ladies over there still use for both genders!) made all the difference. It is hard not to love these people. They are a constant reminder of how little we need to live with joy and peace in this world, when God’s loving countenance shines upon us in Jesus. That is why every visit to Africa is a new lesson in Christian contentment and gratitude to me.
Our hotel rooms were just fine, apart from the fact that I was visited by a few straying bees the first two nights, buzzing above my head on the other side of the mosquito net. I could hardly sleep, recalling my last few close calls with Ontario’s little honey-makers back home, only to be told that these African creatures were of a more potent class! Needless to say that I slept with my EpiPen close by, and with the Lord even closer. Thankfully our kind manager Isaac moved me up one floor after two nights, away from the hornets nest outside my window, and with a much nicer view of the town!
Dawa: the Muslim Strategy for World Domination
I was going to teach two seminars on Islam and another on the Biblical foundation for missions. My previous visit to Africa convinced me of the urgency to raise awareness about Islamic dawa and that we should equip God’s people for what may be a long battle for religious and political freedom in this world. Dawa is the Muslim strategy for world domination and basically means “invitation”. All Muslims are obligated – in following Mohammed’s example in the early seventh century – to invite their non-Muslim neighbours to the worship of Allah. Mohammed did that to neighbouring pagan, Jewish and Christian tribes. When these tribes (and subsequently neighbouring kingdoms) refused, religious war (jihad) was waged against them to bring them into submission.
In these wars, pagans refusing conversion were killed, while Jews and Christians were left with three options. One was to become Muslim, the second was to become second-class citizens and to pay the jizya (a poll tax for “the people of the book”), and the third option was to refuse both and to die. Islam basically divides the world into the Dar al-Islam (the house of Islam) and Dar al-Harb (the house of war). Wherever shariah has taken effect, there is the house of Islam. Wherever the worship of Allah and shariah are still being resisted, even in secular Muslim countries, there is the house of war. The goal is to bring the entire globe under shariah, since all people were created by Allah and are Muslims without knowing it. That’s is why dawa is the duty of every Muslim.
But why is dawa in vogue now again? We have not really heard of it for centuries. To answer that question we have to take a quick peek at history.
Muslim honour and shame
Islamic culture is a culture of honour and shame. Many Muslims today look back with nostalgia to their Golden Age (roughly 620 – 1250) as a time of great honour. That’s when Islam spread far and wide and when huge parts of the world were subjected to Islam by force. But then followed the shame. The “backward infidels of Europe” began to excel in every aspect of life, overtaking Islam in learning, culture, medicine, technology, art and warfare. What actually happened is that Islam by now had spent the huge cultural, spiritual and intellectual gains it had made through conquering the Byzantine and Persian empires, while simultaneously closing its own mind through adopting the hard-line Asharite theological position (which later became Sunni Islam).
The gains I am referring to was the huge number of former Byzantine Christian scholars, who either converted to Islam, or who served in the court of the local Muslim caliph or sheikh as a dhimmi, a second-class citizen. The Asharite position on the other hand no longer allowed any discussion about Islam’s origins and only required strict submission to Allah’s sovereign will and decree.
After the renaissance followed the protestant reformation and then the colonial period which brought Western domination to the desert lands of the Middle East and beyond. The colonial period came to an end after World War II. In its wake followed the Cold War which also kept Islam firmly in check for the rest of the twentieth century. All of this was experienced as a period of shame, as renowned Princeton scholar Bernard Lewis pointed out so well in his book What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response, published in 2002.
So now at last, Islam’s moment of truth (and honour!) has dawned. The West has become spiritually weak and morally bankrupt, the world has broken up into multi-polar instability, and Islam is buoyed by the massive wealth of the petro-dollar. Moreover the final century of Islamic eschatology has dawned with the Iranian revolution of 1979. Informed Muslims worldwide live in anticipation of great things to come during this century, which they consider the last!
The following quote from Dr. Mona Abul-Fadl (1945 – 2008) of the International Institute of Islamic Thought spells the Muslim confidence out in simple terms:
The exultant optimism [in the Western world] which had marked the onset of the [20th] century had to all intents and purposes become extinguished. There was an impoverishment in philosophy, the cornerstone of the Western intellectual tradition; and theology, periodically resuscitated from recurrent bouts of exhaustion, could hardly shoulder the burdens of a new transitional epoch unfolding in the guise of a “post modernity”. Confusion and skepticism became pervasive.
And so ever since the 1970’s dawa was back on the agenda, even though typically Islamic scholars and institutions would prefer to hide it from our view, due to its chilling message to the non-Muslim mind. It was placed back on the agenda by organizations like the OIC[i] and MWL[ii]. And with dawa back on the table, Europe and Africa were first within its scope. While most of us are somewhat aware of how things are going in Europe in this regard, the mainline news makes sure we get precious little coverage of the much more critical situation in sub-Saharan Africa.
Dawa and Africa
Here in Africa an aggressive media campaign (mainly through television), millions of petrodollars and regular jihadi attacks (that are spreading ever deeper into the south), are being used on quite a scale to change the face of the continent by winning Africa for Allah. Though Christians are still by far the majority, they are caught sleeping and are wholly unprepared for the onslaught. Moreover, they are very poor, their own national governments are weak and the West is looking the other way. One of my students was even asking: “Why do the West do so little to help us?”. I have never been in favour of “useless wars” in the Middle East, where “we” invade Muslim countries for whatever reason. This situation is different though. These are Pro-Western and predominantly Christian countries, which are in desperate need of our help.
How we got it so wrong in the “War on Terror”
Unfortunately the West got things wrong in its “War on Terror” since 9/11. Western leaders of the caliber of George Bush, Barack Obama, Tony Blair and others sought to convince us that our issue is with “a perversion of Islam” by the radicals, since Islam proper is “a peaceful religion”. Western counter- terrorism efforts made no connection between jihad and the Muslim creed, since that would have been taboo for Westerners believing in the separation of church and state. All of this was done to appease the Dar al-Islam, hoping that the problem of militant Islam would eventually fade away.
Meanwhile though, this same policy distanced itself from those who really needed our help, moderate Muslim nations, leaders and communities, and above all our Christian brothers and sisters under siege in troubled countries.
Thankfully things slowly began to change over the last half a decade, as we slowly realized how we have been hoodwinked by liberal politicians, intellectuals and the media. And yet, the West treated Africa almost like the dark side of the moon. Except for a lone President Emmanuel Macron, few Western leaders really raised the alarm. What is more, huge Christian denominations have (through their liberal decline) abandoned their spiritual offspring on the continent. Prominent theologians from South Africa, the US and Europe, whose denominations once did amazing missionary work in Africa, now claimed that Christians and Muslims worship the same god and that we must lay our ‘quarrels’ aside!
That is why the well-known conservative cardinal from West Africa, Robert Sarah, calls the African church an orphaned church. Her mother has forsaken her. That is also why I am so thankful when I run into some or other mission group here in Africa, from the US, Canada, Holland, or elsewhere, joyfully serving the church of Jesus. Thank God for every one of these folks, for as much as they have done it to the least of these “brethren”, they have done it to Christ.
During our Kenyan stay, news reports of atrocious jihadi attacks came from Burkino Faso, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and also Kenya. Meanwhile, Isis activity is now being reported as far south as Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province. A vibrant Reformed Baptist Church in South Africa had to evacuate its missionary from that region. Though these incidents (except for in the Sahel) are still very isolated, we all know what will happen if it goes unchecked for too long.
Several brothers, both in Kenya and South Africa, have also told us how Muslims offer huge sums of money to poor nominal Christians to lure them to Islam, or three to four times the amount of an asking price in cash, for a property on sale. Another brother even told us how the doors of his local bank were literally closed to handle the pile of cash brought in by a Muslim merchant. Everyone waiting outside knew that this fellow could not have made that kind of money from his little enterprise.
If Christians in the West want to know how to pray,
- let us pray that a substitute for fossil fuels may soon be found,
- and that America and its allies will stop selling arms to Muslim states actively pushing dawa,
- let us also pray that God will open our hearts to help our brothers and sisters in Africa, in whatever way we can.
- And lastly, let us pray that those holding power in the West will be made aware of how critical the situation is.
We are involved in a war of ideas
So many “Christians” converted to Islam during its Golden Age, and still do so today, simply because they did not personally know Christ in a saving way, and had no clue what they believed. Becoming a Muslim is as simple as reciting the shahada (there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet). No heart-conversion is required. Islam is not about the heart, it’s about submitting to the rule of Allah. Yet once one has said the shahada, there is no turning back. The penalty under shariah for doing so… is death.
That’s why I briefly ran over a long list of topics where the teachings of the Bible, emphasizing foundational ones such as the formation of the New Testament canon; Biblical Christology; the beauty of the Trinity; our need for redemption through the blood of Jesus. moving on to contrasting views of the origin of sin, good and evil, salvation and finally of eschatology. There was no time to discuss any of these themes at length.
It is clear, we are engaged in a war of our lives and it is first and foremost a war of ideas. That’s why we have to know the ideas we are at war with, and even more importantly, our own. Robert R. Reilly, senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, wrote: “From my experiences in the Cold War and since 9/11, I have formulated a few brief principles for the conduct of the war of ideas:
- Do not go into a war of ideas unless you understand the ideas you are at war with.
- Do not go into a war of ideas, unless you have an idea.
- Wars of ideas are conducted by people who think; people who do not think are influenced by those who do. Try to reach the people who think”.
In other words, there are a few ways by which we as Christians can pave our way to defeat:
- By being ashamed of the Gospel and not seeking to win our neighbours for Christ,
- By not walking as Christians, bringing glory to God and loving our neighbour,
And as the free world…
- By cowering to the subtle pressures of political correctness,
- By always being burdened with post-colonial guilt,
- By getting entangled in senseless wars we can’t disengage from,
- By pursuing misguided efforts to gain the approval of the Muslim world,
- By shunning Muslim moderates and partnering with radicals,
- By yielding to a list of never-ending Muslim demands in our own countries,
- By hoping for a quick fix, not realizing we are in the battle of our lives
We can also be sure to hand victory to Islam during this century if we continue to waste countless of hours on sports, entertainment and other idle pursuits, or our precious energy on petty quarrels and conflicts between us as Christians. The time to wake from our slumber is short.
Being more than conquerors through Him who loved us
So let us endeavour to repair the breaches in the wall (our divisions) under the banner of the apostolic faith once delivered to the saints, speaking the truth in love. And let us also lovingly call every lukewarm Christian and church to repentance, so that it can take its stand with us in the battle array of Christ’s armies. Let us genuinely love our Muslim neihgbours, and seek to win them for Christ. Let us also put watchmen on our ecclesiastical walls continuously surveying the landscape, issuing the clarion call whenever our communities are at risk. And let us remember that we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us… Half of the Psalms and the New Testament was written by and/or for believers suffering for righteousness sake. Let us pastors also pick up those persecution themes in the Bible and preach them unashamedly with joy.
Let us also remember how Jesus warned us that though we may have tribulation in this world, we may be of good cheer, because He has overcome the world. So when the day comes that some think they are doing a favour to God by killing us, let us not be surprised. Jesus warned us it will happen. And let us also remember how often He said that no servant is above his master. If they hated Him without a reason, why should we expect it to be any different with us, His disciples?
Let us therefore be resolved to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and to follow Jesus, for we shall overcome the “fiery red dragon” by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of our testimony and by not loving our lives unto death (Rev. 12:11). For to those who “overcome” our victorious Messiah promised pure white robes, the right to sit with him on his glorious throne, and a crown of life (see Rev. 2 and 3)!
Our friends in Kenya could only respond with loud amens when I quoted Romans 8’s wonderful promises to them: Yes, nothing in heaven or on earth, nothing in this world or the next, not even tribulation, persecution, famine or sword, can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord.
[i] Organization for Islamic Cooperation
ii] Muslim World League