By Darrell Todd Maurina
When a missionary to the Islamic world told Pastor Rob Hollis of First Baptist Church of Texico that he’d be available to speak, the church jumped at the chance to offer a presentation on Islam to the community.
On Sunday, David Witt of the Voice of the Martyrs organization, a ministry that a number of church members have supported for years, will lead seminars at 9 and 10:15 a.m. at the church.
“Because we don’t know enough about the Muslim religion and the movement and the focus of Islam, and he is a keynote speaker in the United States in this area and has contributed to a lot of enlightenment among Christian people, I did contact him,” Hollis said. “Christians all over the world are being persecuted by Muslims.”
While attacks on Christians by Muslims in nations such as Sudan and Indonesia have received the most media attention, Hollis said the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks caused many in his church to believe Islamic terrorism wasn’t limited to foreign Christians but also could be a threat to America.
“I think it heightened the awareness of all Christians — I hope it did,” Hollis said. “If it didn’t, then this would be part of the reason for bringing David in. For those who don’t understand really the backing, the focus, and the intent of 9-11, of course it will shed some light on that.”
Glenn Keim, an elder at the church, said that attack was what caused him to start studying Islam.
“It’s very interesting when this 9-11 happened, the primary motivating factor for these men who flew the planes into the Twin Towers was they would have 70 virgins at their disposal and their pleasure eternally,” Keim said. “It struck me as very odd that their God would entice them to commit acts of violence and murder, warfare, with a promise of immoral reward. The disparity of that between what we are promised as Christians, being in the presence of God himself, it couldn’t be more different.”
Keim said several members of First Baptist Church have served in a predominantly Islamic nation as missionaries, and one of his relatives has served in an Islamic nation.
“It is perceived by many Christians who don’t understand what Islam is about that it is a religion of peace,” Hollis said. “Quite the contrary. (My relative) found that to be not only verbally communicated to him but physically. He watched the degradation of humanity at the hands of the Muslims because of a difference in religious preference — physical beatings of Christians and anyone who would reject the Muslim faith.”
Hollis said even when physical persecution isn’t present, economic discrimination against non-Muslims exists.
“You are treated as a second-class citizen or worse,” Hollis said.
“We have a really very tolerant society, and when (our members) learn about the religious persecution that takes place, sometimes it’s one thing to hear about it on the news or read about it in the paper, but it’s entirely different if you experience it yourself or have someone you know personally relate it to you,” Keim said. “I think we in America, in most instances, see life through rose-colored glasses and don’t understand the harshness and the realities of what the cultures of Islamic countries can impose on other individuals they do not recognize.”
Keim said the number one challenge for American Christians in reaching the Muslim world is ignorance.
“We just don’t know, and we need to become educated,” Keim said.
“There’s still a persecuted church out there that are our brothers and sisters in Christ because we are true followers of Jesus Christ,” Hollis said. “For us to say that this does not affect me is an oxymoron because it does affect my family.”
Hollis said his church has been supporting Iraqi Christians through the Voice of the Martyrs ministry and wants to do what it can to present the gospel to Muslims.
“We don’t hate, we don’t want to cause strife, we don’t want to go to blows, and we don’t want to sit and just have rhetoric for no purpose, but there is a truth, and unless that truth is received by faith in the person of Jesus Christ there is ultimate condemnation,” Hollis said.
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Who: David Witt — Voice of the Martyrs
Time: 9 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.
Place: First Baptist Church of Texico