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Muslims need to be evangelized rather than feared, students told
--By Victor Lee
    ATLANTA, June 15--Rather than fearing Islam, Christians need to take the message of salvation through Jesus Christ to those of the Islamic faith.
    That was the message to approximately 200 Southern Baptist seminary and college students during "The Cross and The Crescent -- Witnessing to Muslims in North America," a seminary workshop sponsored by the North American Mission Board's interfaith evangelism office June 10-12.
    "Islam is not a challenge to the gospel of Jesus Christ, to the authority of the Word or to the authority and supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ," said Phil Roberts, formerly NAMB's director of interfaith evangelism department and now vice president for strategic cities.
    "Islam is not going to win the world. Islam is not going to defeat the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is more of an opportunity than a challenge," Roberts said.
    Students from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, Criswell College and Florida Baptist Theological College heard from the interfaith evangelism staff, scholars on Islam and Islamic converts.
    Interfaith evangelism held a similar workshop last year that drew 150 participants to Salt Lake City to focus on witnessing to members of The Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). A workshop on the New Age movement is planned for next year in Orlando.
    The Islamic workshop included visits to local mosques and an emphasis on the differences between the Nation of Islam and orthodox Islam.
    Tal Davis, interfaith evangelism associate, said several things were accomplished through the workshop. "One, it did give the seminary students a new awareness of the growth of Islam in America and the challenge that it presents to Christianity. Secondly, it provided helpful and practical methodology for sharing Christ with Muslims who have moved to the U.S. and those who have converted. Third, I think it challenged many of the seminary students to see the opportunities that are available for missions work among Muslims, both on the international fields and here in North America. I would hope that some of the students will feel called to missions to go to some of the unreached Islamic nations."
    At least 1 billion people in the world claim the Muslim faith. There are at least 5 million Muslims in America. "They have enormous and growing political power in the U.S.," Roberts said.
    George Braswell, a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and the first Southern Baptist missionary to Iran in 1967, noted that Islam is often seen as a "we-versus-they" religion.
    Interfaith evangelism associate N.S.R.K. Ravi stressed that Christians must break down barriers by loving the Muslim people. "We are not at war with Muslims," Ravi said. "Love of Christ is the motivation for sharing our faith with them. When you communicate with a Muslim, appreciate what is good in them. Take time with them. It may take a lot of time. This is hard for Westerners because we are so time-conscious."
    Using the stories of Jesus and the Samaritan woman and Jesus and Nicodemus, Ravi stressed cultivating friendships with Muslims, creating an interest in the Christian faith, comprehending their situation and concentrating on what is essential to salvation.
    Samuel Shahid, a scholar on Isalm and faculty member at Southwestern Seminary, said, "There is not Muslim in the world who can tell you, 'When I die I know I will go to heaven.' They say that depends on God's mercy. You can say, 'Do you want to be sure?' That is a chance to share the way of salvation with them."
    David Sorley and David King, IMB missionaries to the Islamic people, suggested several guidelines for witnessing to Muslims:
    -- Be open to their worldview. Don't assume you know what they believe.
    -- Appreciate customs.
    --Let their questions spur you on to know God better.
    --Build friendships.
    --Be available in crises.
    --Respect boundaries between sexes.
    "God is much more anxious for those people to be won to God than we are -- we must get with it," King said.

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