A prominent Christian school in Sandton has come under fire for being “Islamophobic” and anti-Islam, reports News24 in an account that is a snapshot of the culture shift in which Christians in South Africa find themselves living today.
The accusations of “Islamophobia” – and racism – against the King’s School in Linbro Park were raised by Crime Line head Yusuf Abramjee who reportedly complained to the school, the education MEC and the CRL Commission – and his 138 000 twitter followers – about an “offensive” newsletter which the school sent to parents urging them to pray for Muslims to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and to pray for missionaries.
Abramjee is quoted as saying – inter alia — that he is shocked, saddened and disgusted by comments about Muslims contained in the newsletter, that it promotes racial intolerance and “Islamaphobia”, has got the dates of Ramadan wrong, and describes the Muslim call to prayer incorrectly.
He states that the South Africa constitution guarantees freedom of religion and warns that unless the school unreservedly retracts its comments in the letter within 48 hours he will be forced to exercise other options.
The Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi – who is also active on Twitter – apparently shares Abramjee’s outrage, and according to iol news tweeted: “I am still shaking in disbelief”.
The Gauteng Education Department strongly condemned the school’s behaviour, reports News 24.
Asked for comment, the principal of the private Christian school, Maarten Geerling, reportedly told News 24 they will issue a statement on Monday, when they reopen after holidays, after discussing the matter with the school executive.
So what was actually said in the letter which iol news describes as “controversial”?
News 24 reports as follows on the contents of the newsletter sent to parents by the school’s head of student affairs on June 20: In his correspondence to parents, he outlines how a Muslim businessman had built a nearby mosque.
He also urged parents to “pray for Muslims to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ” and to encourage their children to do the same.
“[The mosque] was recently finished, and every day around 1:00 (sic) we hear the voice of the Imam calling all faithful Muslims to prayer with the mournful stains of his song broadcast via loudspeaker throughout our suburb.”
He went on to say that as he listened, he “can’t help but think of the vast difference between Muslim and Christian prayers”.
“Muslims pray in the hope that it might earn them salvation, while Christians can pray anywhere at any time in any words we may choose with the assurance that every word is heard because of our personal relationship with God.”
He concluded saying, “I could go on, but I think you get my point. I am actually grateful for this daily reminder to pray for Muslims to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and to intercede for Christian missionaries, some of whom I know personally, who are daily reaching out to Muslims – often at the risk of their lives.
“Especially with Ramadan happening 11 July through 9 August, I invite you to do the same. And why not encourage your children to also participate? Our prayers can and do make a difference!”
So, does the letter promote Islamaphobia?
Salvation in Christ
Our core belief as Christians is that God, through His great love for all people, sent His only son, Jesus to earth to atone for our sins and provide the only way for man to be saved. Desiring and praying for Muslims to be saved is not rooted in fear or hatred of Muslims but in love for them and obedience to the will of God.
Upholding religious freedom – which Abramjee references – requires that Christians enjoy the right to hold and live out their core beliefs.
Ironically, Islam is not associated with freedom of religion, and in all countries where Islam is the majority religion Christians and other minorities are actively persecuted – something that is seldom reported in any depth in our mainstream news media. And on Egyptian television within the past fortnight Sunni Islam’s topmost religious authority reportedly said that to convert away from Islam is “treason” and should carry the death penalty.
In countries where Muslims are a minority and there is a Christian heritage and influence, Muslims enjoy freedom of religion – yet increasingly complain of “Islamophobia”. There is reason to believe that such protesting is often orchestrated in the interest of creating awareness of Islam and increasing influence with the ultimate goal of becoming a Muslim majority country.
Nevertheless, the biblically correct Christian response to Islam is to demonstrate love and witness to Jesus, while respecting Muslim people’s freedom to believe what they do.
Was the newsletter wise?
Without answering that question, it is clear that in today’s culture, in which Christian beliefs are being increasingly challenged and attacked, anything that is said, written, posted or tweeted may quickly find its way into the public square.
As Christians we need to be loving even when our greatest messages of love are misrepresented as hate speech. And we need to think, think, and think again, before we speak or tweet. But we should not allow the shift in culture to reshape our message. On that point, it is worth remembering an inspiring and challenging passage of scripture in Acts 4 where Peter and John are arrested for preaching the gospel, told not to preach in the name of Jesus again, and then released. They respond by praying with their fellow believers for boldness to keep on preaching in that name!