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News for end of November 2002

Msema Kweli (the Christian newspaper) is not sold here, I was told. This is Kondoa. Once a thriving slave trading centre, now a powerful Muslim stronghold in Central Tanzania.

I was witnessing to one lady on the bus on the way to Kondoa. A burly fellow sitting in front of me, on hearing me speak of Islam asked me "so you are a supporter of Islam are you?" "Ee (indeed)" I replied (Islam means submission to God) "except that the Muslims seem not to have understood that Nabii Isa died" (Nabii Isa is the Muslim word for Jesus). The circle of men sitting in front of me suddenly went threateningly quiet listening to this debate. My colleague explained emphatically that God arranged for someone who resembled Jesus to appear and to be crucified in Jesus' place - as Muslims believe. His voice was aggressive and uncompromising.

"Those were only recent writings that explained it that way" I said "the old original Scriptures stated that Jesus died on the Cross". This was hard for my travel companion to understand.

The burley fellow went on to explain that Nabii Isa will come back to marry and have children, then the end of the world will come. Thus Muslims believe. "The mistake Muhammad made was not to understand Christianity before condemning it" I responded. Silent eyes glared back at me.

Subsequent discussion turned again to the Scriptures. My companion thought that I would not believe in both the Old and the New Testaments. I told him that I did, agreed that I had read both, and had also read the Koran. They had not yet read the Koran. Their task was becoming harder, and things went quiet.

The lady sitting next to me never spoke another word. If I as an outsider was frightened by the aggression behind the rhetoric of my Muslim travel companions, how much more would she be living under the rule of such men?

Shortly afterwards sitting with my pastor colleague, I commented that many Muslim wives may well be secret disciples of Christianity, but afraid to confess as much. "Not only the women" he said "but also the men are held to Islam through fear". "What a contrast" I thought "between that and the appeals made by Christians generation after generation for people to voluntarily consider and accept the claims of Christ."

Later, standing in Kondoa while my colleague was having a haircut I was thinking as to how sombre the Muslim women were looking (perhaps partly because it was Ramadan and some of them were fasting) compared to Christian women, when a man in his fifties approached me. When I shared with him about Christ, he scoffed saying that God is one and cannot be divided. Then he himself said that Jesus (Nabii Isa) was conceived by the Holy Spirit ... I asked him what would happen if someone were to leave the Muslim faith and become a Christian. "They would be soaked with oil and burnt (angechomwa na mafuta)" he relied. So I responded; "do people believe in Islam because it is true, or through fear?" I encouraged him to accept the love and grace of God. He went, I think, a worried man.