|Jamek Masque, in Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia, built in 1907. [Photo from Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams (Earth), licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic, from Wikipedia.]|
"I went up the Menara tower overlooking the city and purchased an audio tour guide. As I got towards the end of the tour (station 12 in the tower) I realised afterwards that this had of course been carefully choreographed as I stood looking out over row upon row of golden topped mosques.
The commentary ran as follows: 'In the 14th century, Indian [Muslim] traders came to our land and showed us by their faith and lifestyle that we could be freed from the shackles of Buddhism. So we embraced their faith and their language and have done till this day.'"
Let those words sink in: "…[they] showed us by their faith and lifestye...” Traders? Sellers of widgets? Business people? “…so we embraced their faith…” Today, 61% of the population of Malaysia is Muslim.
Therein lies an important message for Christians. What's the message? I hardly need to say it. But on the other hand, maybe I do.
Let me start on a positive note, by sharing hope from Indonesia. I became aware of this two weeks ago, while speaking at a conference for Indonesians in America. The conference theme was "Business as Mission and Indonesian Economic Development."
One of the other speakers was Dr. Matheus Mangentang, Director of The Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology, a seminary established in East Jakarta in 1987. By 2007, this school had become the largest school of theology in Indonesia.
As I heard Dr. Mangentang describe his work, I realized this school is not your typical school of theology, and Matheus is not your typical school director. They do not advertise for students, and their goal is not to raise up theologians. They are raising up nation-builders.
A wholistic approach to Christianity has led them to plant scores of elementary and secondary schools throughout Indonesia, among populations "left behind." This is where their students come from, and this is where their students return. They come from undeveloped communities and return to them, engaging as Christians.
This has made Matheus a target among radical Muslim forces. Next week I'll share how he responded when the leader of one of these notorious groups informed Matheus he was going to kill him. I was dumbfounded.