Recently I came across a movie covering an event that I apparently missed in my history classes. The flick came out in 2012 and recounts a decisive battle that took place on September 11th of 1683. Like the infamous Sept. 11th, 2001 that so many of us remember, this battle was also begun by Muslims in the name of Allah. The Day of the Siege is the name of this historical drama that remembers the Muslim army of over 300,000 soldiers from the Ottoman Empire with the intent to conquer Vienna and ultimately Rome thereby turning the Vatican into a mosque. The main character in the piece was a humble Catholic Monk named Marco d’Aviano who lived from 1631 to 1699. It was Marco who encouraged and united the western forces which ultimately led to the defeat of the Ottoman army. As I looked further into the history I discovered the significance of the final battle on the 11th. In essence, the thwarting of the Ottoman agenda that day actually marked the end of the Muslim advance across Europe and ultimately led to the restoration of some regions that were previously conquered in the name of Islam. It was also noteworthy to see that while the Muslim army meant to kill everyone who would not convert to Islam or pay tribute, Marco purposefully advised the European leaders to show mercy to the Turks who surrendered in subsequent battles. Marco had no hate for the Muslims. He was actually a conduit of God’s love and peace. When it came to the actual unfolding of events that day, Marco did advise the leaders to protect their people and Catholic Christianity, but he had no hunger for war. This simple monk stood out like a candle in a dark room shining hope in a season of fear and chaos. I believe we can learn some things from Marco d’Aviano today. So as we remember two separate, but yet similar September 11ths, here are some quick thoughts to keep in mind.
1. Do not give way fear. When reading the Quran and studying history it can be easy for fear to grip us. Yes, there are portions of the Quran which clearly spell out violence against those who are not Muslim and history has displayed this practice. Do all Muslims truly believe in Mohamed and a strict interpretation of the Quran? I can’t speak to that but I’m sure there are some who do pursue truth and harbor no hatred toward others. On the other hand, Mohamed, the prophet of Islam, did teach conversion through force. We saw that from the birth of Islam. We saw that on September 11th, 1683. We experienced that on September 11th, 2001 and today we see it being played out in groups like ISIS and Islamic states. Today as we digest a constant media film role of Islamic terrorist illustrations, it can be easy to give into fear. But yet what we find in scriptures is that “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” The emotion of fear can be a reality but the question is how we will deal with it. Marco met the fear head on with calmness and a cool head which is what Paul exhorted the first Church to do in 2 Timothy 4:5. While the world anxiously rages on, we can rest in the assurance that God still sits on the throne and that one day He will once and for all set everything right. Through His son, Jesus Christ, we really can replace fear with peace.
2. Love and pray for Muslims. In direct confrontation to human nature, Jesus called his disciples to “Love their enemies and to pray for those who persecute them.” Taking this thought further, Jesus illustrated love as that of laying down our lives for others. In cities like mine people of Islamic faith are a present part of our culture. Throughout our daily lives we can engage these people who are created in God’s image like us by just being their neighbor and loving on them as Christ did. Even simple acts of kindness like taking a Muslim neighbor’s trash can back to the house from the curb conveys the love of Christ. We can and must pray for Muslims in our midst and around the world. Pray for their protection from Satan and an opening of their hearts and minds to understand the reality and message of Jesus Christ.
3. Keep our eye on the ball. Like any other issue of profound importance, the ultimate answer is still the same. The answer is not political or social, but spiritual. When Jesus made his final commission to his followers, which includes the Church today, he called them to go into the entire world and make disciples and he included everyone in that target audience. Yes, many if not most will reject the offer of Christ. None the less, the call is still there to reach out into the ends of the earth. Paul tells us that it is God’s desire that “no one should perish and that all would come to the knowledge of him.” That of course would include those who are presently captured by the false faith of Islam. I can personally testify of people who have come to Christ from Islam. Yes, Muslims can be reached just like the hardest atheist. Paul himself was at one time a persecutor of Christians. Sometimes the easiest way to share the love of Christ with a Muslim or anyone else is to simply build a friendship, pray for them, share your faith story, and then watch and wait for God to open up their hearts. Jesus really can touch people today no matter where they’re at.
So as we remember September 11th 2001 this year, why not stop, pray, and ask God how we might get involved in the mission of the Kingdom by loving those around us; even those who wear the name Muslim?
Where are you at today in your journey on this issue and what would you add?