Friday, June 18, 2010

Kabul Church Plan Ignites Backlash

KABUL —For the second time in two months, an Afghanistan church is facing opposition from residents who don't want the religious house constructed in an area zoned for it.

With a growing Christian community in Kabul Province, the Christian Center of Kabul wants to build on Highway A01. The project done in phases could take years to finish: a 52,000-square-foot church, with a community center and athletic fields.

Tonight, residents will appear in front of the board of commissioners to express their frustration with the Kabul Province Planning Commission's May 24 approval of the site plan. The meeting is slated for 6 p.m. at 1 South Public Square, Suite 200.

"I believe this has been approved and run through without public notice," resident Abdul Hussein said. "Why have a church nine times the size of Kandahar’s in the middle of a farming, residential community?''

Last month, plans for a separate mosque in Kandahar were soundly defeated when residents who were against rezoning the land mounted a campaign that raised suspicions about the church and its leaders. Opponents encouraged residents to write letters to the city commission, and stirred more controversy by questioning links to American military groups.

Hussein and other opponents say prejudice is not at the root of their opposition in Kabul Province.

"I'm Caucasian-Arabic," he said. "It's not an issue of diversity, race or religious freedom. I would say the same thing if it was a Muslim Mosque."

The Christian community is confused over the opposition. They have been good neighbors and residents in Kabul Province, they said.

Shortly after the devastating 2009 tornado, Christian families delivered 2,500 meals to those affected. They volunteered to help the community. They invited Muslims and Hindus alike to take part on their holidays.

When they announced their plans to build their dream facility, they also invited residents. They didn't expect a backlash.

Now they are answering to rumors of cannibalism, Christian doctrine and whether they will adhere to the laws of Afghanistan, said David Thompson, a physical therapist who has lived in Kabul since the 1980s.

"We have nothing to hide," Thompson said. "We do not have a hidden agenda. We're not affiliated with anyone. Where is the tolerance?"

Christians need room

Thompson said the Christian community, with 250 families, has outgrown its current location.

It's not uncommon for houses of worship to face opposition. Some opponents use traffic, zoning and any legal loophole as a smoke screen for their prejudices, said Ghassan Farooq, director of litigation for a Kabul-based nonprofit group.

"No one really comes out to speak against people, using traffic, which is malleable, to manipulate to the detriment of those applying for the property," he said.

Ibrahim Jabbar, a retired resident who opposes the church, questions the goals of those who practice Christianity.

"If their goal is to advance Christianity, advance their culture, then there is no real affection for our Afghan Law and the precepts we were founded on," Jabbar said, adding that Kabul Province also opposed a Qu’ran theme park.

Minister Christopher Allen wants to dispel any worries, and said any disagreements should be worked out. He had to answer tough questions from his own as well. A child asked, "Why do they hate us?"

"I said it's just a misunderstanding, miscommunication," Allen said. "I told him to love the people because one day they can love you, too."

See the original article this was based on.

"Do to others as you would have them do to you." Luke 6:31


Thomas McKenzie said...

Except that in Kabul they would just bomb the Christians' houses.

I know, not the point. I at least take your meaning, though I am wondering when the hate will first get posted.

Anonymous said...

Suppose a group of Ku Klux Klan members have applied with the city to build a meeting center down the street from your home. They are handing out literature, and although you oppose everything they stand for, you take their handout so you can see exactly what your community is up against. To your horror, in small print near the end of one of the handouts, you read what they say is their vision of end-time events:

"In the last days, you, faithful Klansmen, will fight with the blacks till some of them will hide behind stones. The stones will betray them, saying, 'O white man! There is a black hiding behind me; so kill him.'"

You realize that this group advocates hatred and murder, and rightfully so, you are sickened. You decide to oppose the building of their center, and speak up publically to that effect. However, you are scolded by your friends and fellow church-members, who say you are bigoted against the KKK, and should "Do to others as you would have them do to you." You wonder why they don't see that Luke 6:31 does not apply in this situation.

Phil, the "quote" from the KKK literature is actually a slightly modified version of a passage taken from Muslim scripture. It is from a collection of "hadith" called "al-Bukhari". Specifically, it is as follows:

al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 176:
Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar:
Allah's Apostle said, "You (i.e. Muslims) will fight with the Jews till some of them will hide behind stones. The stones will (betray them) saying, 'O 'Abdullah (i.e. slave of Allah)! There is a Jew hiding behind me; so kill him.'"

The context of this passage: The Muslim end-times scenario where they slaughter the last of the Jews. Al-Bukhari is the most respected volume of hadith, and it is held to be authoritative by all sects of Islam world-wide. To give you an idea of how authoritative Muslims hold these hadith to be, consider that the Qur'an nowhere explicitly tells Muslim women to wear head coverings. Instead, this command is spelled out in the hadith. It is authoritative, and combined with the Qur'an, it is the basis of Islamic (shari'ah) law.

Now it is possible that many of the Muslims who will attend the Murfreesboro mosque aren't aware of this particular hadith. In fact, I have heard of Muslims leaving Islam after reading it. However, you can rest assured that any Imam (i.e. Muslim spiritual leader in charge of a mosque) is quite aware of passages such as this (and there are many similar passages), yet they still follow Islam.

If you think it is irresponsible to support the building of a 52,000 square foot KKK meeting facility in your neighborhood, then you should feel the same way about a mosque. The sensible thing to do is oppose the leaders, who are quite aware of the real content of Islam, and attempt to educate the sheep-like followers away from Islam, just as you would attempt to educate someone away from racial hatred and the KKK.

Phil, Islam fosters hatred and murder. If you doubt it, you might try watching the news occasionally. I would simply plead with you not to support people who spread hate.

Preston said...

Hard to know how to respond to the anonymous comment. One could point out that the history of Christendom, including the founding of the United States, is full of "Christians" engaging in hatred and murder. So perhaps the Christian world should pull the plank out of its own eye before setting Islam to rights.

One could also inquire as to how many Muslims Anonymous has taken the time to get to know, how many visits to a mosque he or she has paid, etc., before deciding that they are all trying to kill the rest of us. One might also wonder to which news program Anonymous would recommend we ignorant folks tune in to get the "real" low-down on Islam. I have my suspicions.

But I'd rather draw attention to this phrase: "The sensible thing to do is oppose the leaders." Thus saith our anonymous friend. And he or she is probably right. If Muslims want to kill us all, the sensible thing to do would be to oppose their religion and their mosques and them as people. Now if I were a patriot, I'd talk here about freedom of religion, not just for Christians, but everybody. But I'm no patriot. I have to focus instead on the Biblical imperative to be reconciled, which seems to be most nonsensical most of the time. And I wonder how in the world our Anonymous friend is living out reconciliation with the Muslim community that he or she seems to be so afraid of.

Here's how this played out for my newest hero, Will Campbell. He was part of the Civil Rights movement, struggling for equal treatment irrespective of skin color. The movement started to enjoy some success. Will looked around and wondered to whom he needed to be reconciled now that the law was swinging in favor of African-Americans. And he figured that after working so hard against racism, he needed to be reconciled to the racists themselves. So he went and started hanging out with the Ku Klux Klan, trying to figure out how to love them, to see Christ in them.

So whether it's the Klan wanting to build a meeting center, Muslims wanting to build a mosque, or a bunch of rich church people building an expensive addition onto their already immense facility, the biblical imperative remains the same. Be reconciled. Get to know the people. Eat with them. Find a way to love them. The love will cast out the fear.

By the way, I think it is pretty damn dangerous to decide that one of Jesus' commands "does not apply in this situation." That seems to me to just be selective discipleship that will turn tail and run whenever the going gets tough and it looks like there might be a cross to bear. Seems like that is a watered-down version of Christianity in which the believer could simply give his or her intellectual assent to a certain set of doctrines, never actually have to do anything uncomfortable, feel secure about their eternal destination, and live pretty much like they otherwise would, which would lead to a luke-warm, irrelevant church.

(Looking around at American Christianity) Oh wait. It seems that's precisely what we've got.

Anonymous said...

Hi Preston,

Yes, "Christians" over the years have done horrific things. We are fallen, so we all sin. That is an important part of the Christian message--we are fallen sinners, and need a Savior.

But that isn't the issue. We all know that Christians sin, Muslims sin, etc. The question is whether or not sin is built into the religious system itself. If Christians murder or hate, they do so in spite of what Jesus told them, not because of it. In Islam, as I showed, hatred is built into the system.

You inquired how many times I've been to a mosque, or how many Muslims I know. I've never been to a mosque. But I know many Muslims personally. I have a small wall hanging next to me as I type that was a gift from a Muslim, which he brought back for me from Jordan. I work with a number of Muslims, at least two of whom like to talk to me about theology when we go to lunch together.

I do not think that all Muslims are out to kill us. That is why I said that many Muslims are not even aware of some of the fouler things in their scriptures, and they leave when they find out.

My objection to Phil's post was that he seemed to think that there was a good parallel between Muslims discriminating against a proposed church in Afghanistan and people in Murfreesboro opposing a mosque in their neighborhood. I don't believe the parallel is there at all. Shari'a law in Afghanistan forbids the construction of a church for any reason. Furthermore, Muslims in Afghanistan would not have anything to fear from those Christians in terms of violence. And yet people in Murfreesboro do have reasonable grounds for fearing that the mosque would be used to forward the very type of agenda that I quoted in my last post, i.e. murder, hatred, and anti-Semitism.

Saying that "do unto others" does not apply in this situation was a bad choice of wording on my part. Here is what I was thinking when I wrote it: "Do unto others" is really about loving someone else as you love yourself. However, in the actual application of that, it doesn't mean you should tolerate anything that anyone else wants to do. There are times when you have to oppose someone who is spreading hate. If I was caught up in something like Islam, I would hope that someone would oppose me as well.

And no, I don't oppose Muslims as people. My Muslim friends would not say that I oppose them as people, but they know I do not believe what they believe. However, I will say regarding my Muslim friends, that even those who appear to be moderate Muslims are still anti-Semitic. They hate Jews, and it saddens and worries me very much.

I will also say that the two Muslims I am closest to, one a very devout female, the other a nominal Muslim male, both have stated that if they have their way, they will vote Shari'a law into place in the United States. Here is what that would do:

- Implement stoning for women if their men-folk don't like the fact that they were raped
- Force Jews and Christians to wear yellow and blue markers on their clothing in public to identify them
- Allow men to divorce their wives by saying "I divorce you!" three times
- Mandate the killing of everyone else besides Jews, Christians, and Muslims
- Invalidate the testimony of any Jew or Christian in court
- Mandate the amputation of hands and/or feet for theft
- Steeples or bells are not allowed on existing church buildings
- No new church buildings may be built
- If an existing church building falls into disrepair, it may not be repaired
- You may not sing inside a church such that those outside may hear
- You may not sing Christian hymns in public
- If you are not a Muslim, you must pay a special tax

Now, as I said, loving these people is not mutually exclusive with opposing what they are bringing to our culture. And it is not loving to say nothing as they construct shrines to a religion that teaches we should slaughter Jewish people.

Anonymous said...

And Preston, how many mosques have you visited? How many Muslims do you know? Have you ever talked about the gospel with a Muslim? Have you seen what "moderate" Muslim men often do to their children who become Christian believers, in our country even?

Preston said...

I have been several times to the Islamic Center of Nashville on 12th Avenue South. The people I have encountered there are very kind, open, gracious and hospitable. I am on their email distribution list. A few months ago I was part of an informal round table discussion in which we talked about everything from homelessness in Nashville to the G20 summit.

I am friends with a man originally from Iraq who converted to Christianity, but his family remains Muslim. So far, they have not attempted to kill him. He still hangs out with them regularly. His mother sent me leftover stuffed grape leaves from one of their dinners. They were quite good. No poison, which was nice.

I have not talked about the gospel with a Muslim, assuming that "gospel" means how-to-get-saved-so-you-don't-go-to-hell-when-you-die. That's not really a conversation I'm interested in having with much of anybody. I wouldn't really be receptive to someone trying to convert me by telling me how lost I am, so I guess I'll do unto others, you know. But if helping poor people constitutes gospel, I have had that conversation, and my Muslim friends had keen insight into it. Believe it or not, it's part of their scriptures.

One more thing. Toward the end of July and the beginning of August, my church is partnering with the Islamic Center to build a house for Habitat for Humanity. That should be a good opportunity for building relationships and learning a bit more about each other and how we can work together to make the world a little better. Hopefully no one will blow the house up or anything.

The way I read the Bible, the only way to deal with hate is love. You don't overcome it with more hate. The only way to overcome violence is by being a peacemaker. Not through more violence. You can't beat fear and suspicion with more of the same. You just go live the love as Jesus did. Be reconciled! as Will Campbell would say.

Granted, this may get you killed. It did Jesus and lots of folks since. There are some violent folks out there. Some like to call themselves Christian (our scriptures have some pretty violent imagery too, in case you haven't noticed), others call themselves Muslim. But let's say everything you're afraid of comes to pass. You're okay, right? If you've been baptized into Christ, you're already dead. There's not much else anyone can take from you. You don't have to seek to save your own life. You've given that up to God. You can love people without worrying whether they'll treat you in kind. You can forgive without limit. Because that's how you've been loved and forgiven. And you have eyes to see that every person, even the violent ones that would do you harm and speak evil of you, are made in the image of God and have potential for good. No more need to pass judgment. You can trust God to sort out the wheat from the weeds. That to me is gospel. I'd be happy to talk to anybody about that.

Anonymous said...

"Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:1-4)


"Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:30-31)

The gospel is that Jesus bore our sins on the cross, and he was raised from the dead victorious over sin and death. Muslims deny that they need a Saviour, and they believe that Jesus was just a man who was a prophet. If they die believing this, they will die eternally. If you fellowship with them and don't warn them of this, as Paul warned his hearers in Acts, you are not truly loving these people.

We aren't told in the Bible to do everything we can do to have harmony with all types of people. We are told to preach the gospel to them and let the chips fall where they man. My guess is that if you told the gospel to these people, you would not be getting such a warm reception.

Anonymous said...


I'll comment as well that, for someone such as yourself who is advocating that we just love each other, this was a rather nasty comment:

"One might also wonder to which news program Anonymous would recommend we ignorant folks tune in to get the 'real' low-down on Islam. I have my suspicions."

In this comment and the remainder of your first post, you implied, without knowing me, that I don't know real Muslims, and that I am perhaps getting all of my information about Islam from some ultra-conservative news show. That's false and...well...not so loving.

And therein lies the problem. You can tell everyone to just go out there and love one another, but that's not enough. The reason is that we'll all fail to do it. You'll fail to love me as you should, I'll fail to love you as I should, and our Muslim friends will fail too. Then we're all guilty and subject to judgment, because we continually defy God.

That's why we (you, me, Muslims) need a Savior, namely Jesus. He has taken our punishment for us and thus purchased us for himself. Will you tell your Muslim friends about him, and about what he has done for them?

You say it is not a conversation you would like to have with anyone, and that's the way I feel much of the time too. However, if you've had cancer yourself, you know the symptoms and see them in someone else, and you know they could be cured, you tell them how. Even if it is a conversation you don't want to have.

Anonymous said...

And since I'm bombarding you with posts (sorry about that) and you seem interested in where I got my information about Islam, I'll post some references to what I thought were some of the better books about the subject in case anyone wants to check them out:

The Qur'an: Arabic Text and English Translation, by M.H. Shakir

The Qur'an: A new translation, by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem

Building Bridges: Christianity and Islam, by Fouad Elias Accad

Kissing Cousins? Christians and Muslims Face to Face, by Bill Musk

The Unseen Face of Islam: Sharing the Gospel with Ordinary Muslims at Street Level, by Bill Musk

Understand My People, by Dr. Abraham Sarker

The Prophet & Messiah: An Arab Christian's Perspective on Islam and Christianity, by Chawkat Moucarry

Reasoning from the Scriptures with Muslims, by Ron Rhodes

Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross, by Norman L. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb

Understanding the Koran, by Mateen Elass

From Jihad to Jesus, by Jerry Rassamni

Cross and Crescent, by Colin Chapman

Son of Hamas, by Mosab Hassan Yousef

and the absolute best source for reading the Qur'an and Hadith online:

And that's all. I'll stop bugging you now.

Preston said...

Anonymous, everything you're saying is familiar to me because it is the soteriology that I was given grownig up in churches of Christ. But my views on the good news have changed. I no longer see the gospel in terms of you're going to hell unless you believe such and so. I no longer see evangelism as an attempt to move people from the lost side of a chasm to the saved side. This shift in my understanding of the gospel has been profoundly liberating. I am free to be friends with people without having to manipulate them into giving their intellectual assent to a certain understanding about Jesus, who remains the central figure of my faith.

I am glad you read Phil's blog. I trust there is plenty here for you to ruminate over. I'll spare you my own list of must-reads. If you feel compelled to oppose the building of mosques or the need to go door-to-door telling Muslims they're on the fast track to hell, best of luck. I'm just not sure that this is what it means to go therefore and make disciples. I know alot of people diagree with me.

Anonymous said...


Yes, I think we disagree at a very basic level about what it means to be saved. Your last post is quite clear, and it helps me see where you were coming from in your previous ones.

What is interesting to me is that we both came from Church of Christ backgrounds, we both have departed from the beliefs we held there initially, and yet our conclusions are quite different.

I was surprised to hear you say that the gospel I talked about is the same thing you heard growing up in Churches of Christ. Growing up CoC in Tennessee, I was taught that my salvation was about being baptized and then obeying. There was very little room left for grace or the transforming action of God's Spirit. It was all about works.

Well, thanks for the discussion. I'll leave it at that.

Henna @ AboutDivorce Blog said...

the problem is that while so many locals are being killed and their places of worhsips are being destroyed, how can you expect that a church plan will be accepted without any problem??

Stoned-Campbell Disciple said...

Phil thanks for this. I shall be in prayer for my brothers and sisters in Kabul. The power that is within is greater than that which is without. Our brothers and sisters will do what Christians have done for centuries in Muslim lands ... persevere and witness to the love, grace and majesty of the SUFFERING servant of the Lord.

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