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Opinions of Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Journaliste: Kwabena Ofori-Panin

Are Christians ready to welcome their Muslim brothers? (2)

Obviously any competition/rivalry/sport could degenerate into chaos if rules and regulations are not adhered to. Though it may not sound right to label it as competition, we cannot run away from the fact that the quest to win converts is anything less than competition; therefore the rules of engagement should naturally and in fairness be invoked before religions turn unattractive for new converts and everybody.

By the way it would help to know from those religions that use intimidation in their crusade for converts, if they do not have faith in their respective religions; since one needs not use intimidation to sell a quality product that has won the confidence of the seller. Given some time, even advertising such a product becomes unnecessary because public commendation replaces adverts; "Adepa na eton ne ho" is the Akan proverb which interprets as 'A quality product sells itself''.

Apart from Islam which is noted for this, some Christian parents also would not permit their children to join another church because parents know better and have both their say and their way in the home. The Bible says, it is good to test before accepting; after all, if one is to be judged according to their choices, how can they be forced in choosing then: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1).

Restricting this discussion to Islam as one entity and Christianity as another, let us begin on the note the obvious that the two religions recognise and serve the same Supreme Being even as His name is called differently (God/Allah). If we are worshipping Him in different ways, it is obvious that our very cultural backgrounds and lifestyles have fashioned most of these, but can we reject any one's method if we can accommodate global diversified choices in language, food, clothing, vehicle, etc?

The Christian religion has been divided into a lot of denominations like Catholics, Pentecostals, Charismatics etc; though not as many, Islam is not without such divisions as Suunite, xxxxx, Ahmaddya, Khadijite, etc. If there is only One God, how then can we be this diverse and divided and still please Him?

I recall my interview with the General Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana, in the mid nineties when doing a research on "Religions and the Truth", where he compared the Christian denominations and their choices to the fable of the "Blindmen and the Elephant". Though not implying so directly, he inadvertently alluded that the Christian denominations were 'blind'; or did he not, and are they ? Well, if not, why do we 'see' God differently? Or is it so because given the 'size' of God/Allah, no one entity can see His total being alone? Whether blind or not the differences has been with us for a long time now and maybe continue for longer time still.

Does it not make sense therefore that God told us through Jesus Christ that “....the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24).

Let us consider this in relation to your beloved school that trained you to obtain your career certificate? Did you not eventually leave it as a matter of course, even though you loved it? Why so, ingratitude? No, the school prepared you for a bigger role in life in the world, and if you did not leave school, you could not have performed that role. That is why your attachment to or association with a religion will not be your licence for salvation if you do not personally please God/Allah outside the your religious sect.

Now, if one's connection with a religious denomination is not the crucial step for one's salvation, should one die for such a religion or denomination/school while the ultimate test is beyond it.

Faith Without Works Is Dead, is what James 2:14-17 tells us: "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

From the above is it not reasonable to appreciate that destruction of life and property in the name of any religious denomination needs a second look so that it does not become either a wasted or even a punishable effort as says the Bible at Matthew 7:21-23, "On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, (Allah, Allah,) did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works (killing) in your name?' And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness. ’ "

Our Muslim brethren may as well consider destruction of what they did not create. If Jihad is the label they want to give it then we better compare those like Hohammed Bouazizi of Tunisia that set off the 'Arab Spring', in many Islamic countries; the selfless honourable act is in no way similar to what groups like Boko Haram, All Shabab, Al-Qaeda, etc are doing.

Meanwhile in the next post, let us look at why persecution of Christians by Muslims is as misguided a policy as Paul's (formerly Saul) persecution of the Christians till he was checked by Jesus Christ(Acts 9:4-7).

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