New Catholics; Former Muslims

In 12 Converts on 2013/08/30 at 12:00 AM


Pope Benedict baptizing former Muslim.  Six million adult Muslims from all over the world are converting yearly to Christianity; mainly to Catholicism.

Islamist (Cairo / Abuja) violence is rapidly increasing in Africa. Muslim terrorist groups increasingly operate in countries which were until recently calm and stable. Islamist wildfire spreads. The sociologist Massimo Introvigne, the 2011 representative of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) against persecution and discrimination of Christians, sees a targeted strategy behind the phenomenon of Islamic violence . “The Islamists are convinced that the decisive battle about whether the world is Muslim or Christian will take place in Africa.” Even more importantly, according to Introvigne, “Islam is going to lose this battle. So it responds with bombs. ”

It was the Libyan Islamic scholar and director of a training center for imams and preachers of the Koran, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Qataani, who, already a few years ago, in an interview with the Arab-Muslim television station Al-Jazeera, raised the alarm. He did it with a highly explosive statement, very little noticed in the West: “In Africa alone, every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity, 16,000 every day, six million a year.” Introvigne confirmed the figures, which are now the same as in 2006, when Al-Qataani raised the alarm. African Christianity has a great inner strength. The contact of Muslims to Christianity leads millions of Muslims to be baptized. One could say that they “fly” to leave Islam. Despite the associated dangers to life and limb.

The move to conversion from Islam to Christianity is taking place not only in Africa. The baptism of the former Egyptian Muslim Magdi Allam by Pope Benedict XVI. at the Easter Vigil in 2008 was the most spectacular and most visible element of this movement.  Allam shows how many Muslim converts in addition adopt a typical Christian name. He opted for Cristiano. This refers to the personal name Christian. In his case, however, for Allam there is a broader sense that will say: Magdi “the Christian”–no longer the Muslim–“Allam”.

Empirical studies are not available. Careful observers, as the sociologist Introvigne can have an idea about the numbers, based on various criteria of largely unnoticed and ongoing phenomena. According to the British Times about 15 percent of Muslim immigrants to Europe have abandoned Islam and become Christians. In the UK the number is now estimated at 200,000. In France, every year about 15,000 Muslims become Christians, some 10,000 of them Catholics, the rest Protestants of various denominations, especially of independent churches.

In Africa, as reported by Sheikh Al-Qataani to Al-Jazeera, “Islam has always been the main religion. There were times when 30 African languages were written in Arabic script. “Today’s size relationship between Islam and Christianity make clear how much Islam has declined in recent years. Al-Qataani made a comparison directly between Islam and the Catholic Church, “without counting the members of other Christian denominations”. To increase the Christians by the millions of Muslims who convert to Christianity, said Sheikh Al-Qataani: “These are huge numbers.”

Introvigne confirms the conversion movement against the initially expressed assumption of Al Qataani who could have intentionally over-estimated the numbers to arouse the Islamic world. “The global growth of Islam is almost exclusively from the high birth rate in Muslim countries where thanks to Western medicine, infant mortality has been substantially reduced,” said Introvigne. Outside the Islamic States of Islam there is a decrease. The growth of the Christians results, in contrast, mainly from adult baptisms. The evangelical Wolfgang Simpson wrote: “Over the past two decades, more Muslims came to Christ than in all previous centuries.”

Father Joseph Hergets evangelization of Muslims

Priests like the Austrian Lazarist Father Josef Herget, the founder of the Institute of St. Justin in Mariazell are among the silent but active missionaries who lead the Muslims from Islam to Christ. They live dangerously. Father Herget wrote back in 1975, when the issue of Islam in the West was being given little weight, his master’s thesis on the topic:Christian preaching in the Islamic world . Another, the Egyptian Coptic priest Zakaria Botros was named “enemy number one of Islam” by Islamic scholars of the Arab-Islamic newspaper Al-Insan al-Jadid.  Botros television broadcasts via satellite from the U.S., in which he deals with the problematic parts of the Koran (Jihad, status of women, stonings, etc.) from a Christian perspective, may lead to secret mass conversions among Muslims. His mastery of the Arabic language and his knowledge of Islamic sources allow him to directly contact an Arab-Muslim audience in the Middle East.

The conversions were suspended, as many viewers of Botros transmitter Alfady after initial outrage was clear that the ulema are not able to convincingly answer to the broadcasts Botros. Botros and Hergets deal with Islam in a different way from the usual Western criticism that focuses on political and social issues and often betrays a condescending racist undertone. This form of criticism is also a caused by the fact that many in the West ignore the Christians of the Middle East and North Africa. Such criticism is seen as prejudiced, external interference, to the vast majority of Muslims. They usually respond downright irritated in the ranks of the Islamists, militias and terrorist groups because too many politically charged issues come into play, in which the West is not perceived as the morally superior side, but mutated into the enemy. Botros and Herget, to stay with the two representatives of the evangelization of Muslims, on the other hand, bring salvation. This is the crucial difference which opens the hearts of many Muslims, and at the same time offers a way out of a spiral of violence with harsh confrontations.

Raymond Ibrahim wrote in the National Review : “Many Western critics do not understand that it is necessary to defuse the radical Islamism and in its place suggest something Theo centric and spiritually satisfying, not secularism, democracy, consumerism, materialism, or feminism. The ‘truths’ of a religion can be challenged only by the truth of another religion. Father Zakaria Botros fights fire with fire “.

People seem to no longer tolerate the direct or indirect violence. Roman Silantjew, secretary of the Interreligious Council of Russia, said that in the successor states of the former Soviet Union, two million Muslims have converted to Christianity. One of the main reasons for this is the desire for peace, which they find in Christianity.

In Algeria, there were approximately 80,000 Muslims who were baptized, which prompted the country’s government to enact laws against Christian proselytism. In these years, Moroccan media continued to report the baptism of tens of thousands of citizens. People see war and crisis zones in Islam and they decide for Christ, as the representative of an evangelical community in Sudan said.

In Malaysia, according to the Mufti of Perak, 250,000 Muslims have submitted officially to the authorities the application for change a of religion to Christianity. Such a change is only allowed for members of ethnic minorities. On the number of Malays who were baptized in secret, there is no information.

Protestant and Pentecostal communities move quite differently, sometimes very irresponsibly, to the chagrin of the indigenous Christian churches in Islamic countries who are victims of Islamist reprisals. The Catholic Church is more reserved. The Egyptian Jesuit Samir Khalil Samir, a leading expert in the Islamic world and the Pope’s adviser, reported that the Catholic clergy “sometimes even discourages conversions in Islamic states for fear or misunderstanding, ecumenism’. It is otherwise is in European countries. Khalil admits that the situation is not easy. Independent Church communities “come and go, but the Church was 2000 years ago, it is today and it will be tomorrow. “Independent Church groups, because of their small structures being barely palpable, or because they are not officially registered in most countries, are not as vulnerable to attack. The situation is quite different for the Catholic Church and the Eastern Churches. They are officially registered. The authorities know all the Christian places and know what families belong to the church. They are vulnerable to attack because of its visibility and not only in a particular country, but also in other countries.

The indigenous churches were accustomed coexistence with Muslims for centuries and in a certain form. A form tolerating conversion to Islam, but not vice versa to Christianity. Time and the Islamic sword have made these Christians resign themselves to defend their own area and not to reach out. It is a form of self-defense, which has been firmly entrenched in the mentality of the Eastern Christians, and could only be overcome slowly. Overcoming that worries Christians very much, given the often life-threatening situations.

Missionaries from the outside, however, often lack the necessary familiarity with the cultural sensitivities, which could lead to dangerous confusion among the Muslim population. Between these extremes, it was necessary to find ways of evangelization. Working in this area there are several Catholic initiatives, such as those of the Austrian Father Josef Herget and his Catechetical Instructions.

This article written by Giuseppe Nardi originally appeared in Katholisches



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