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Reflection – Iraq, ISIS, Islam and Saint Francis

September 27, 2014 3 comments

Spirituality writer, Richard Rohr’s books are always eagerly awaited. In this new hardback, Rohr, himself a Franciscan friar, looks closely at ‘the alternative way’ of St Francis of Assisi, one of the Christian church’s most popular saints. All in all, this is an attractive package with a stunning cover.

10 to Watch - Eager to Love

Hodder Faith recently sent a reading copy of Richard Rohr’s latest book, Eager to Love. In fact, I selected it as one of my ’10 to Watch’ titles in the September/October issue of Together magazine.

Eager to Love is not a difficult book, but it’s far from an easy read. Words tend to pop up and shout, and phrases seem to have specific resonance for a given situation.

I read this during the massacres and genocide of Christian and other religious minorities across the Middle East and was stopped in my tracks by one very short 4-page chapter, ‘Entering the world of another’, a timely cameo of St Francis of Assisi and his two-week visit to the Muslim Saladin in Egypt.

The record of this extraordinary encounter in 1219 between the apparently powerless Christian monk and the all-powerful Islamic ruler sends a clear echo down through the centuries of just how costly it is to ‘love your enemies’.

Parallels between the nine Crusades and now in our own day, ISIS, are plain.

Reading Rohr’s words, it seems a case of ‘plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose’. He writes of how Saint Francis spoke at great personal cost against the Crusades, telling the Christian soldiers that ‘this was not of God’. Rohr comments on how the Sultan honoured Francis for his courage, sending him away with his protection and a gift of a prayer horn, which to this day is kept in Assisi.

St Francis’s view of how the Christian Church, in supporting the Crusades, actually caused the greater sin of damage to the wider principles of the Kingdom of God is one for us to ponder again for ourselves.

Today, in returning violence with violence, do we once again negate the values of the Kingdom? Good writing has the ability to challenge our assumptions and make us more thoughtful people.

Hodder and Stoughton – 9781473604018  – Published 14-Aug-2014 

Review – The Challenge of Islam to the Church and its Mission

In this book, Dr Sookhdeo clearly believes that the Western Church is sleep-walking into danger in its appeasement of Islam and is deeply concerned about the likely impact on those Christians living in often hostile Muslim countries.

Sookhdeo has written this strong polemic against the rapprochement of inter-faith dialogue with Islam so beloved of certain Christian groups. It’s clear that he feels more at home with the Vatican on this issue than with some evangelicals! A number of well-known Christian leaders come in for criticism here.

Patrick Sookhdeo knows his subject well. Born a Muslim in South America, he converted to Christianity and is a recognised authority on Islam.  I learnt a great deal from this book, not least that I actually know so little about Islam myself. Much of what he writes I found disturbing and we would do well to heed the warning. His brief summaries of the current issues faced by the presence of Islam in the West are simply excellent.

The book is not that clear on what needs to be done and questions whether our western secular, liberal democracies are already being changed irrevocably by the gradual rise of Islamic thought and practice.

Sadly, I’m not sure that the book will get the circulation that it undoubtedly deserves as I’d never heard of this American publisher.  Oh … and this is a revision of a 2006 UK published edition.

The Challenge of Islam to the Church and its Mission

Patrick Sookhdeo

2008     192pp

Isaac Publishing USA

ISBN 978-0-9787141-5-4

Note – This book was provided FOC by Clem Jackson, Editor of Christian Marketplace magazine for the purpose of writing this review. Further details can be found at http://www.christianmarketplace.org.uk. You can download a free copy of the digital version of the magazine from the website.

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