Christians are organising a conference in London about Islam. I was sent an e-mail about it by the organisers, the Lawyers Christian Fellowship and the Barnabus Fund.
The topics to be covered are:
* The Islamisation of London
* The development of parallel societies
* The practice of Islamic Law and its effects
* The dangers of religious fundamentalism
* The persecution and marginalisation of converts to Christianity and other Christians
* Responding to Islamic dawa [mission]
* Equipping and supporting congregations to help converts from Islam to Christianity
* Preparing congregations for work in the communities
* Facing the spiritual realities
My own thoughts are this. Surely the way to build bridges between human beings of different beliefs and avoid ‘the development of parallel societies’ is to go and meet and talk with people who hold different beliefs, not hold conferences about them. The ‘siege mentality’, seeing London as in danger of ‘Islamisation’, only builds walls of division when surely we need to do everything we can to unbuild them.
A few weeks ago my wife and I had the opportunity to visit one of our local mosques. It was an ‘open day’ where visitors were allowed to sit at the back whilst prayers were in progress before a number of the participants told us a bit about their faith and answered questions. It was very interesting to see what happens there and to listen to the people there describe what they believe. One thing is for sure, the impression we left with was a long way from that portrayed by the ‘Islam in London’ conference blurb.
I’m very aware that there are places in the world where Christians are persecuted and I respect the raising awareness part of the work of the Barnabus fund, co-organisers of this conference. But to my mind this sort of conference about Islam in London is unhelpful. The organisers and participants would do better to arrange a visit to their local mosque and find out what Muslims in the UK actually believe.