For Westerners, the Muslim radical's cry for jihad-holy war-means suicide bombings and 9/11. But Brother Andrew, the Dutch evangelist famous for sneaking Bibles into communist Europe, has a milder sense of the word. When the apostle Paul says he has "fought the good fight" in 2 Timothy, an Arabic-language Bible translates it as "the good jihad." It's time, Brother Andrew says in his new book, for Western Christians to help much-oppressed Muslims who convert to Christianity to fight well.
Fifty years have passed since the spry 79-year-old man known as "God's smuggler" drove his first load of Bibles behind the Iron Curtain. Now, through his organization Open Doors, he has turned to Islam. But he remembers the "good old days" of communism. Islam "is a far more cruel system," he told WORLD on a visit to Washington. "Communists would take you prisoner. The Muslims kill you."
This year Brother Andrew co-authored with colleague Al Janssen Secret Believers (Revell Books), a narrative following several Muslim-background believers. By necessity, the book itself is secretive. Though based on real people, all the names are fictional, the two countries where they live go unnamed, and at least two characters are composites. The converts, considered apostates, often have to hide from former friends and family determined to kill or injure them.
"Muslims are coming to faith in Christ, and the church is not ready to receive them," Brother Andrew said. "Over half of the Muslims I interviewed . . . became a believer through a dream or vision.
"On average it takes at least two years for Muslims to make that decision. It's not made quickly. It's not made easily. There's a huge cost to count."
It is a cost Brother Andrew and Janssen chronicle with heart-rending precision. There's Mustafa, the firebrand Muslim Brotherhood radical who opens the Bible to refute it, but ends up believing-and fleeing his old comrades. There's Salima, a girl from a wealthy family who watches a Christian channel on satellite TV, then suffers her family's beatings.
Deepening the narrative is how the Middle East's historic Christians interact with new evangelicals and surrounding Muslims. We hear of Father Alexander, priest of an old Mideast church cowed into timidity by centuries of persecution. He turns a Muslim seeker away at his church door, a shocking act at first glance. The sympathetic portrayal, however, shows his reasons: He wants to protect Christian girls against fake converts who join, marry them, then covert back to Islam, trapping their new wives. Over time, he grows bolder.
If the stories are lively, they come from Brother Andrew's inside looks at Islam. When WORLD met the two authors over breakfast in Washington, the evangelist was carrying an invitation from a Dutch Muslim group to attend a Muslim feast and had just returned from northern Iraq.
Brother Andrew has given food to Muslim men consigned to a Lebanese camp, only to watch them later radicalize and become leaders in Hamas. That didn't stop him from giving a university lecture in Gaza before Hamas leaders, tying his aid for them to Christ. Some Hamas members were so angry at the reference, they left before he finished. Another locked the door.
Ultimately, the two authors want Western Christians to overcome their fear of Islam. They write, "We cannot win the war on terror with guns and bombs because everyone we kill is replaced by dozens more who seek revenge." Or, as Brother Andrew would say, the best way to stop a terrorist from shooting you is to go up and hug him.
Janssen said such statements are meant to remind Christians of their calling to deal with the heart. "We believe that if millions of Christians would respond to Muslims with the love of Christ, that would do far more to remove the threat of terror than our military activities."
Brother Andrew keeps a 2,000-volume collection of books on Islam in his library. But he sighs when he thinks of the religion's tangled branches. Islam sometimes is hard to define, and it has a frightening eschatology that communism lacked. Witnessing to Muslims may be the good jihad, but for Western Christians and new converts alike, it is a tough, bloody battle.
Kenneth MacHarg has been a decades-long missionary and journalist who knows Latin America inside out. Trips home to the United States, however, bring some not-so-savvy comments. "So, you're going to Panama? That's nice. I visited Pensacola last spring and drove over there for a day."
MacHarg grew frustrated on trips back to the states that so little U.S. attention is focused on its nearest neighbor. He also senses a growing resentment of new Latino immigrants. So he decided to write From Rio to the Rio Grande (Global Village Press, 2007), a quick primer on the current geography, politics, faith, and economics of the region. He answered a few questions about his book.
WORLD: Why do you think Americans know little about Latin America?
MacHARG: American media has focused more in recent years on the Middle East [and] Iraq. That has drawn attention away from other areas and just as vital issues. Also, while there are many crucial issues in Latin America, our nearest neighbors, they are perceived to be of less importance than Iraq and Afghanistan where we have troops in action. However, a large percentage of our oil comes from Venezuela, one of the most troubled and volatile nations in the region.
WORLD: Why should Americans-and particularly Christians-care about the political, social, and economic problems of the region?
MacHARG: First, because as Christians we should be concerned about our brothers and sisters in all parts of the world, including Latin America. Christians have been very concerned about Darfur and other regions, but we seem to be blinded concerning the plight of those who live in poverty in Latin America. Second, because our country is experiencing the result of economic, social, and spiritual problems in Latin America. There is a definite tie between poverty and immigration into the United States, between poverty and gangs, between gangs and drug trafficking, between drug trafficking and people trafficking, between gangs and drug trafficking and violence. If we could work with Latin American countries to deal with the poverty that forces people into less-desirable ways of life and forces them into migrating to obtain a decent income, we could help address some of the larger problems.
WORLD: What should American Christians do to engage Latin America?
MacHARG: First, we should pray for our brothers and sisters there. The evangelical church is mushrooming in Latin America. Pray for fidelity to the gospel and for continuing enthusiasm in evangelism. Second, pray for the growing missionary movement in Latin America that is raising up hundreds if not thousands of missionaries who are going to all parts of the globe, particularly to the 10-40 window. Second, be much more aware than we are about the issues and politics in Latin America. Read online news sources about the region, especially topics concerning poverty, the environment, politics, gangs, immigration, and changing morality. Third, engage our political leaders to be more proactive about developing positive, healthy relationships with governments, agencies, and people in the region.