An interesting debate

Take a look at this, said someone in an email to me recently:

Take a second to cast your vote in the Evening Standard on-line poll to determine public opinion about whether a Mega mosque should be build for the Olympics. The vote so far is 61% in favour. It looks like the Muslim community is casting its vote in droves, and as usual the Hindus, Sikhs, Jain, Buddhist, Jews and Christians are burying their head in the sand. How can the government allow this, when there a mixture of faith at these Games. Instead of a Mega Mosque, there should be an Interfaith Centre, where any religion can go and pray.

Apart from the obvious misunderstanding that this proposal is not an official part of the Olympic buildings, this round robin email is typical of the reaction of many well meaning Christians who believe that Islamic growth in the UK can be stemmed by using planning law. It’s a tricky issue as the Telegraph reports:

Muslims will not come to faith in Christ by banning them – telling them they are wrong – denying them basic human rights like the right to worship. That’s what they perceive the Christian faith exemplified and led by George W [who many call the President of the Christians] is all about. Muslims come to faith when Christians live along side them, respect their faith, and demonstrate to them the love of Jesus.

Christians in some (but by no means all) Muslim countries are also denied the right to open church buildings. Often not through government policy but local hostile opinion. We would want to stand alongside them in their campaigning to have the right to open their church building which, usually, will not just be for worship but education, development, community and outreach. Sound familiar?

Baptists, Congregationalists, Catholics, Jews and Muslims spent much of the time up until the early 20th century being counted as second class citizens. In the early 1900’s in Minchinhampton, my predecessor as minister went to prison each year for refusing the church tithe (a local poll tax which then still levied by the Church of England on everyone in the Parish). Early Baptists in Gloucestershire literally worshipped in the woods to fear of being caught. In arguing for their own freedom to own buildings and worship without licence, they also defended the rights of others to do so. Try this link about Yorkshire baptists in the 19th century standing up for the rights of Jews:

But the most telling part of the Telegraph report is this sentence: The first mosque was opened in Britain more than 80 years ago and there are now well over 1,000 – many converted from Anglican churches. I think that says it all.

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