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27 August 2015

I will never forget Ahmed

I will never forget Ahmed. We met about twenty years ago and he is dead now. He jumped off a bridge just a few weeks after he told me his appalling, heart-wrenching story.

Ahmed was a Bosnian Muslim and we met when I was visiting the former Yugoslavia following the outbreak of war in the early 1990s. “I can’t believe it” he told me. “I woke up one morning and my non-Muslim neighbours, who had been lifelong friends, told me they hated me. And they then proceeded to kill every member of my family. How could they do this to me?”  

The Prime Minister’s speech in Birmingham recently on combatting the ‘poison’ of extremism made me think of Ahmed. Mr Cameron highlighted four major issues needing to be countered:  the warped extremist ideology, the process of radicalisation, the ’drowning out’" of moderate Muslim voices and addressing the identity crisis among some British-born Muslims. 

David Cameron is right, of course, to insist that the extremist forms of Islam we are faced with today are but one manifestation of Islam.

It is right that we build bridges of trust and friendship with British Muslims and it is encouraging to see the kind of links that Evangelical Alliance Wales has been building with the Muslim Council of Wales regarding an exciting religious freedom initiative between leaders of two respective faiths. (See idea magazine July/August).

Sadly, a mood of hatred and violencehas taken hold of some followers of Islam at this time. Through history the Muslim world has at times felt intimidated and disappointed by  Western attitudes and behaviours which have provided  fertile soil within which specific grievances (such as the West’s perceived uncritical support for Israel and ‘colonial’ interference in countries like Iraq) have been able to grow.

In addition to the historical, political and economic factors, Biblical Christians will want to go further to look at the causes by referring to what the New Testament calls “the powers” and “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”. As Michael Greene has suggested “Is it so incredible that forces of evil greater than ourselves are somehow involved in the chaos of this world?” This immediately reminds us of the urgent need to pray.

People will come up with all kinds of solutions to this problem but prayer is paramount.  Daniel began to pray for the restoration of his people. He wastold that God had heard his prayer but for some mysterious purpose only know to Him had allowed the Prince of the Persian kingdom to hinder the outcome for a limited period of time. 

The Scriptures do not tell us why this was allowed to happen but it surely is an accurate description of our experience of prayer. Put quite simply prayer is not just about people and God. It involves the power dimension too, and we have to come to terms with the very uncomfortable thought that for reasons only known to Him, God’s perfect will can be hindered and frustrated by what Walter Wink says are the “rebelliousness, resistance and self-interest of the powers exercising their freedom under God”.

But, as Wink rightly reminds us “God is not mocked. The sobering news that the powers can thwart God is more than matched by the knowledge that our intercessions will ultimately prevail. Whether we have to wait twenty one days or twenty one years or twenty one centuries changes nothing for faith”. His Kingdom will come and His will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven.

I wonder then, if there is any better time for His Church to say again “Lord teach us to pray” in the knowledge that until the Lord comes again both angels and human beings are involved in the same conflict. Indeed the Book of Daniel suggests that heavenly powers were so grateful for his prayers that they even sent a heavenly messenger to thank and to encourage him. I wonder if they feel the same about us as they look down on our sad and sick world. 

We may not be in elected office but we can certainly pray with a God given authority, And in the long run that that may prove far more decisive.

Rob James is a Baptist Pastor who is consultant for the EA Wales and has a degree in Middle Eastern history at the school of Oriental Studies in London.

This is an opinion piece by Rob James who asks why Muslims might be attracted to plot against the West. We know that the nuances of this topic stirs up strong differing opinions. What do you think? We'd love to hear your view or gracious comments below ...

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