Monday, September 03, 2007

Spread His love not convert

Work to make better humans in their own faith

The nineteen South Korean Christian volunteers held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan for six weeks were finally freed. It brought great relief not only to the hostages but to the whole international community. It is deeply distressing that two people lost their lives in the ordeal.

According to the Taliban, they were paid $20 million for the release of the hostages, a claim which the South Korean government denies vehemently.

Encouraged by the “reward”, the Taliban have wowed to continue their struggle with more such kidnappings ransom and possibly more killings as well. Meanwhile the Christian workers say that they went to the Muslim country to spread God's love and carry out his wishes and their Afghan ordeal had only strengthened their resolve to send more missionaries there. According to some of the hostages they had been tortured for refusing to embrace Islam.

We have a strange situation where the Christian workers went to Afghanistan to “convert” people there but in the process they were kidnapped and persuaded to embrace Islam instead. Where do all these going to lead – where one religious group is trying to convert another to its own faith, both acting in the name of God?

While both groups claim to be out to do the work of God, it is ironical that, in the final outcome, only money and not goodwill and prayer, could free both of them from their predicament.
As Christians we are asked to evangelise, which was traditionally trying to persuade people to become Christians. This was what the South Korean missionaries tried to do in Afghanistan.

Today many religions have attained a significant presence all over, even in countries once predominantly Christian. It would be morally wrong and a disaster if we continue to practice evangelization in the traditional way.

In a world plagued with so much hate and violence for fellow humans, we need religion to direct mankind to peace, compassion and love. It is sad that the very religions that were instituted to serve such a noble purpose are being misused for reasons contrary to its aims.

So what should evangelism mean to us today? Evangelism today should be more tailored to share Christ’s love to those in need around us, not convert them by the rituals of our faith. For the true followers of any religion, their faith is not in the rituals that they perform but rather it is God’s love deeply rooted in their hearts and lives. It can never be surrendered by persuasion or force unless they willingly give it up themselves.

As Christians we should first convert ourselves and align our lives in keeping with the teachings of Christ. Instead of trying to convert others to our own religion, it would be a great service to mankind if we can convert them, by our examples, to become better humans in their own faith, as finally all religions lead us to the same God, whom we call by different names.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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