A WORD FROM OUR CONFERENCE ORGANIZERS
Today, Christians seem increasingly puzzled about the identity of Islam and Muslim societies, especially in view of violent conflicts involving Muslim communities in various parts of the world. The perplexity of Christians further increases when they hear about beheadings in the name of Islam or watch the flow of refugees fleeing the Middle East. A poll from Pew Research conducted among Protestant evangelicals at the 2010 Lausanne Congress in Cape Town revealed that “nearly seven in ten of the evangelical leaders (69 percent) name Islam as more prone to violence than other religions. Far more leaders say Islam and Christianity are ‘very different’ (69 percent) than say the two faiths have ‘a lot in common’ (25 percent). And a solid majority of the leaders who express an opinion (69 percent) feel that Muslims are generally unfriendly toward evangelicals in their country.”
A small part of this has to do with conflicting media reports, but the reality is that global Islam is a complex and heterogeneous phenomenon rather than a monolithic one. Unfortunately, what makes the headlines often dominates people’s perceptions, and this in turn shapes Christian mission strategies as they are overshadowed, if not controlled, by such reports. The challenge for understanding Islam is further complicated by the fact that an already very diverse Islam across the world stage is fluid and dynamic, with changes motivated as much by Islamic agency from within as by forces impinging “from without.”
After a season of significant church growth in the Muslim world, the latest conflicts involving Muslim and Christian populations may potentially lead to dramatic effects for witness. Given that a recent Pew Research study predicts that the number of Muslims may nearly equal the number of Christians around the world by the year 2050, it is crucial to help the Christian community become increasingly conversant with the current religious and social climate in Muslim majority contexts as they engage in witness among Muslims. To address these issues and enhance the effectiveness of Christian witness in Muslim contexts, the 2016 Fuller Missiology Lectures will explore how the dynamics of contemporary Muslim societies shape Christian engagement with Muslims. Our goal is twofold: to register as accurately and across as many registers as possible the dynamics of Islamic societies, and to formulate Christian theological and missiological assessments in response.
Evelyne A. Reisacher
Associate Professor of Islamic Studies and Intercultural Relations
Professor of Theology and Mission and Director of the Center for Missiological Research