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News for middle of February 2003

Dear friends,

Coming to Birmingham university has not been a withdrawal from the front line of mission work! One of the sessions that I have been attending is at the Centre for the Study of Islamic Christian relations (CSIC). For two weeks I sat in silence during the discourse going on between Muslims and Christians coming from around the world. Perhaps because of my silence, in the third week I was asked to lead the discussion! My concern was, that on the basis of my experience I had very few good things to say about Islam.

Our tutor encouraged me to be honest, and so I was and shared how my view of Islam based on what I have seen of it in East Africa has gone down and down.

I do believe in the value of acquiring mutual understanding. Entering into discourse is a good way of achieving this. All too often I suspect that Christians and Muslims talk past one another. The Islamic critique of Christianity is often based on the assumption that the West and all the immorality that is to be found in it is due to Christianity. What I perceive more and more about our Islamic brothers and sisters, is that they are trapped into a system that they cannot escape. The penalty for leaving Islam is technically death. Peoples' whole families are within this 'religion'. How can they speak freely?

Christianity is in many places in the world these days seen as a 'voluntary' religion. People in 'Christian lands' need to get their act together. Taking advantage of something 'voluntary' by simply opting out, is an absconding from responsibility and abuse of freedom. The voluntary element is to encourage people to enter into faith willingly and knowlingly, and not to be faithless! There is much immorality in the Western world, and only true believers can really begin to tackle it. The current level of apathy to God's claim on our lives is going to result in problems.

I value prayer particularly for a lecture that I am due to give at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies on 4th March, which will be on how to learn about different cultures. Pray also for my supervisor here at the
university, Allan Anderson, who was suddenly taken ill while on an overseas trip. Pray for my sharing with the churches in Norwich and then York on the weekends of 22nd February and then 8th March respectivelly.

We should be encouraged in our walk with the Lord.


Stop press - I have just had a letter from Kenya telling me that thieves went to my home on 4th February at 1.00am. They apparently locked all the doors of my two houses from the outside thus locking everybody in, and then went on to attempt to rob 'grandmother's' house that is 50 yards distant
while those in my house made a big din. I am not aware as to what they managed to steal from grandma. I gather no-one was hurt, but the children were badly shaken.