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01 September 2011

Editorial: 9/11 edition

Editorial: 9/11 edition

As I'm writing, the world is still reeling from the horrors of the massacre at Utoya in Norway, committed by a man described as an 'anti-Muslim', 'fundamentalist Christian'. Referred to in the press as 'Norway's 9/11', hatred and violence in the name of religion is a phenomenon we are increasingly having to deal with.

Although it is 10 years since the 9/11 attacks which have become engraved in our collective memory, we are still dealing with the repercussions - some of which play out in the area of Christian-Muslim relations. We all remember where we were on that fateful day. All of us glued to the incomprehensible images that seemed like they belonged in a disaster movie. Or a nightmare. The Twin Towers. The billowing smoke. The men and women plummeting to their deaths.

Globally, the attacks put religion back into the headlines. Many portrayed the ensuing conflicts and further terrorist attacks - including 7/7 here in Britain - as a war between Islam and the West, provoking tensions between Islam and Christianity. As Richard Sudworth writes in his excellent book Distinctly Welcoming: "We live at a juncture in history fraught with tension...The events of 9/11 and 7/7 have brought to the fore our deepest fears and we could be excused for being paralysed by inaction." Questions have been asked time and time again in the past decade about what the relationship between our faith and that of Islam should be. Can there be fruitful dialogue between Muslims and Christians without diluting our faith? Is Islam the biggest threat to UK Christianity? How should we support our brothers and sisters facing persecution in Muslim countries? How do we reach Muslims with the gospel? How do we welcome new believers from Muslim backgrounds and be sensitive to the sacrifices they make once they convert? What would Jesus do?

This edition of idea explores some of these questions. We feel the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is the right time to do so. So we have dedicated a whole magazine to it, portraying a range of views from across the evangelical spectrum. We hope
that the following interviews, news stories and features will be a reminder to us all to love our neighbour without prejudice, and without compromise; to pray for the persecuted, and to not just rejoice when Muslim people turn to Christ, but to share life with them wholly and sensitively.

We are thankful to all who have contributed to this edition, including Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali (p13), the Tony Blair Faith Foundation (p16), Geoff Tunnicliffe of the World Evangelical Alliance and Imam Feisal of the Cordoba Initiative in New York (p28). We hope that you will be challenged and inspired by it. Also check out our video interview with Steve Bell, author of Friendship First and Grace for Muslims on our website. As always, we welcome your feedback.

• In July we said farewell to Rev Dr John Stott - one of the 20th century's leading evangelical thinkers - who died at the age of 90. Rev Dr Stott had a long association with the Alliance and it is his phrase "double listening" which informs the ethos of this magazine. We pay tribute to him on page 9.

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