• January 16, 2003
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    Missionaries urge restraint in comments about Islam
Missionaries urge restraint in comments about Islam WAKE FOREST, N.C. (ABP) -- A group of missionaries working through the International Mission Board in 10 predominantly Muslim countries are asking Baptists to exercise restraint in making negative comments about Islam and its founder, Muhammad.

George Braswell, professor of missions and world religions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, released the letter to the Biblical Recorder, newsjournal of North Carolina Baptists. Braswell recently returned from teaching a seminar on Islam at an undisclosed location in the Middle East.

More than two dozen Southern Baptist missionaries met with Braswell. Most of them have been on the field for almost two years and hope to continue as career missionaries. They currently serve in the Middle East, North Africa, East Africa and South Asia. Because of security concerns, the missionaries were not identified by name.

Negative statements about Islam by high-profile Southern Baptists Jerry Vines, Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham made headlines throughout the Muslim world last year. To express their concern, the missionaries jointly composed a letter and voted unanimously to affirm the letter and ask Braswell to help distribute it in Baptist circles.

The missionaries write that comments by Western Christians about Islam and Muhammad are highly publicized on local radio, television and print sources in their places of service. Such publicity increases enmity toward Christians and impacts both their work and their personal safety, the missionaries said.

?These types of comments have and can further the already heightened animosity toward Christians, more so toward evangelicals, and even more so toward Baptists,? the missionaries said. ?We are not sure if you are aware of the ramifications that comments that malign Islam and Muhammad have not only on the message of the gospel but also upon the lives of our families as we are living in the midst of already tense times.?

The missionaries said they have found it more beneficial to focus on sharing Christ in love and concentrating on the message of the gospel with their Muslim friends, rather than speaking in a degrading manner about their religion or prophet. They appeal to other Baptists to do the same.

?We prayerfully ask you, as brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ, to focus public comments about Muslims on their need for salvation that is found only by faith in Jesus Christ. We encourage you to make comments and to live your lives in a way that will contribute positively toward the preaching of the gospel in the lives of over a billion people who hold the religion of Islam and its prophet dearly.?

Calling upon the example of Christ, the missionaries conclude, ?We encourage you all to reach out to the people of Islam in love and in a fashion that is consistent with the life of our Lord Jesus Christ.?

The letter is signed ?A Group of Southern Baptists serving in the Muslim World.?

A statement by Avery Willis, senior vice president of overseas operations for the International Mission Board, did not criticize the missionaries? comments.

"These IMB workers wanted to emphasize a focus on bearing witness for Christ as a blessing to Muslims, rather than arguing Islam versus Christianity,? Willis, who oversees the missionaries, told Associated Baptist Press. ?I believe what they were trying to say is that their concern is communicating the gospel to lost persons without having to defend what someone in America said about Islam."