Reading today about the behavior of the fanatical Christian missionary zealots who showed up to provoke crowds for the fourth year in a row at an Arab Internationl Festival in Dearborn, Michigan got me thinking. What was their purpose? Why did they take such an uber-aggressive and hostile stance against festival-goers whom they perceive to be all Muslims, even though there are PLENTY of Arab Christians?
Perhaps they think they are taking up the tactic of the group of Medieval Christians who lived near Andalusia, and were so offended by the blasphemous way of life and faith of “infidel Saracens” that they would march into the city square of a Muslim governed town and loudly, for all to see: degrade Islam, Allah and the Prophet Muhammad. These medieval Christians sought to become martyrs, but more often than not were arrested and deported back to where they came from.
This explanation of the motivation of the fanatical missionaries who descended upon the Arab Festival in Michigan is too charitable. These aren’t “martyr-seekers,” they don’t even much care for converts I suspect; instead I believe they are motivated by a deep seated xenophobia and racism, just like their forebears used to angrily attack Blacks in the South, now they have set their sights on Muslims.
This should be a lesson that religion, or any ideology in the hands of fundamentalists/literalists can trend towards extremism. Followers of all faiths should be aware and take caution not to accuse others of following “the religion of violence, extremism, backwardness, hostility”, etc. Such sweeping generalizations lead to more disconnect between differing groups and deepens the gaping hole of non-understanding.
It also must be pointed out that such small subsets of fanatics and extremists must not be allowed to define a faith. These Christian missionaries are no more representative of their faith than those ultra-Orthodox Jews who attacked elderly Arabs are of Judaism, or the Mufti in Saudi Arabia who said Churches in the Arab peninsula should be destroyed is of Islam, or Buddhist Monks who led violent protests against the Dambulla Mosque are of Buddhism and I can go on and on and on.
Indeed, the practice of Jesus and his disciples as portrayed in the Gospels generally stands opposed to such conduct. I hope and pray that these fanatics reflect on what one distraught Christian commenter wrote after reading about their conduct,
A ‘Christian missionary’ by his or her very nature is to represent Christ in His mission of reconciling the world to God. We are ‘ambassadors of Christ’, entrusted with the word and ministry of reconciliation (2Cor. 5:9-20). Paul’s attitude is exemplary. While we most certainly share the gospel of Christ openly, we do so with an attitude of love and grace, “giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God” (2 Cor. 6:2-3). Paul said, “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some”. Paul endeavored to connect with people as much as possible in order to convey God’s word. Whoever these folks were, they were not representing Christ.–Bert Watson
Whatever may be your view of Mr. Watson’s beliefs, at least we can agree that his attitude is one which we can live with, and one which encourages dialogue and debate over aggression, violence and provocation. (h/t:BBoyBlue):
By Niraj Warikoo (Freep.com)
Tensions flared Friday evening at the annual Arab International Festival in Dearborn as members of some Christian missionary groups — including one called the Bible Believers — taunted Arab Americans with a pig’s head and signs that promoted hatred of Islam.
“You’re gonna burn in hell,” one missionary shouted at a group of young Arab-American boys listening to him speak on Warren Avenue, where the festival takes place.
The festival continues today in Dearborn, but the members of the Bible Believers won’t be there because they’ll be protesting a gay festival in Ohio, said Arab Festival organizers.
The three-day festival is the largest public gathering of Arab-Americans in the U.S.; it has drawn Christian missionaries for years, but in 2009, some become more aggressive, leading to arrests and legal feuds. Dearborn has the highest concentration of Arab-Americans in the U.S., many of them Muslim, making it a magnet for some Christian missionaries.
The Bible Believers also protested at last year’s Arab Festival, holding up both anti-Muslim and anti-Catholic signs and causing one Arab-American Muslim girl to cry.
About a dozen with the group stood facing the festival on Friday with signs that made bigoted remarks about Islam and its prophet, Mohammed. One of the missionaries had a pig’s head mounted on a pole that he displayed in front of his group. Muslims don’t eat pigs because their faith teaches that the animal is unclean.
Some of the signs the missionaries held read: “Islam is a religion of blood and murder” and “Muhammad (Islam’s prophet) is a … liar, false prophet, murderer, child molesting pervert.”
Wayne County sheriffs tried to keep the peace; a few times, three officers on horseback rode by, trying to keep the young Arab Americans at a distance from the Christian missionaries.
At one point, some kids started throwing water bottles and pop cans at the missionaries. Others chanted “Allah-U-Akbar” (God is the greatest). One of the Christians shouted in response “Jesus Akbar.”
At another point, three girls wearing Islamic headscarves yelled back at the missionaries: “Read the Quran,” referring to Islam’s holy book.
A Christian missionary with another group told a group of Arab-American Muslim boys that they are ”transgressing against God.” One boy then spilled some water on the missionary.
Most of the confrontations were between elderly missionaries and Arab-American kids.
Earlier in the day, a group of Christian missionaries targeted the biggest mosque in Michigan, the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, standing right outside the mosque lawn to hand out fliers during Friday prayers.
In his Friday sermon, the imam of the mosque, Hassan Al-Qazwini, warned parents that some missionaries at the Arab Festival could target their children for conversion: ”Be careful. … They could be taken (spiritually) from us.”
Other missionaries at the festival were less confrontational, handing out fliers telling Muslims to convert and handing out free Christian books.
One wore a T-shirt that read ”I (heart symbol) Muslims” while handing out fliers that urged Muslims to ”accept the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Contact Niraj Warikoo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-223-4792.