The Baptist World Alliance has responded to a Muslim letter that appeals for Christians and Muslims to cooperate in engendering peace and religious freedom. Well-Being Australia chairman Mark Tronson, cricket chaplain of 25 years and Baptist minister of 31 years, has identified the critical sentence in the Baptist response.
Entitled “A Common Word Between Us and You”, the original letter dated October 13, 2007 was written by 138 Muslim leaders and scholars, and was sent to 27 named world Christian leaders including Baptist World Alliance (BWA) President David Coffey.
In preparation of the formal response, BWA General Secretary Neville Callam sought comments from Baptist scholars and leaders, including those living in countries with a Muslim majority, regarding how the BWA might respond to the letter.
According to Michael Ireland, the chief correspondent for Assist News Service, a team of Baptist scholars and leaders crafted what eventually became the formal BWA response at a forum at the BWA Annual Gathering in Prague, Czech Republic, in July 2008.
Ireland reported that Coffey and Callam sent the BWA response to Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammad Bin Talal of Jordan, President of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, on December 19, 2008. This document can be read in full at the website: http://www.bwanet.org/default.aspx?pid=979
M V Tronson notes that the formal response is naturally detailed, clarifying and very carefully worded, however in his view, the critical aspect of the response comes near the end, in a section which reads:
“We recognize, therefore, that both Islam and Christianity are ‘missionary faiths’. We affirm that there is a legitimate kind of mission in which people can, in appropriate ways, share their beliefs with others, and in which people seeking God should have the freedom to explore the way that God is calling them into faith. We believe that as Christians and Muslims we are faced by an important challenge in this age of globalization: that each tradition should develop further its ethical approach to mission, and that we should do this together wherever possible. We would like to engage in discussion on this matter, looking at specific local examples where tension or conflict has arisen between our two communities, and placing these in the context of our Scriptures”.
Although polite, the message is clear, M V Tronson says, that Baptist voices from countries where there is a Muslim majority had been heard in this formal response, that persecution and a clear lack of religious freedom and evangelism opportunities must be part of any legitimate equation.
“So much nonsense gets aired by those who live in security and safety, who speak of issues such as ‘tolerance’ that bears no relationship with the reality that so many face who do not have the luxury of living in a society that features religious freedom as an essential ingredient as a human right,” said M V Tronson.
M V Tronson says that becoming friends with Muslim individuals is an imperative for every Christian and part of any friendship situation is being able to honestly share one’s personal testimony of Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. “Frighteningly so, there are places where my very life would be put in serious danger by engaging in such an open friendship.”