Thursday, September 25, 2008

Looking for Home

[Christianity Today] 25 Sep 2008--Sheltered in a Chicago-area Starbucks one afternoon, Tahir* is dreading the commute home. "My home situation is like a time bomb," he sighs, describing the tense stand-off between his Christian faith and the Palestinian Muslim family that considers him a traitor.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, anti-Arab sentiments initially angered Tahir and made him a more devout Muslim. But they also inspired an intense search of the New Testament, which slowly began to convince him of its truths. As Tahir's new faith took shape, his family became ashamed. Things exploded during a dinner-table debate at which Tahir's brother-in-law told Tahir's wife, "If he's no longer Muslim, your life with him is a sin!"

Today, as Tahir tries to quietly model Christ to his children, his wife warns that she will enroll them in a mosque or flee to Palestine: "Just because you sold your soul to the Devil doesn't mean you're taking the kids with you." Tahir's father has disowned him—"You are no longer my son"—and has threatened to recruit Fatah strongmen to beat him.

Like Tahir, many Christians from Muslim backgrounds are at once cultural and spiritual refugees, even as they settle into American addresses. They are struggling to reorient themselves in a new land and a new Christian identity while bearing the weight of their Islamic heritage.

Some seek an adoptive home in American evangelical churches, where they hear leaders preach about the missional "10/40 window" in North Africa and the Middle East. But not many evangelicals see the Muslim enclaves and seekers in their own backyards. Feeling alienated and misunderstood, these new converts sometimes leave American congregations.

Increasingly, though, these new Christians are finding community in a movement of "Muslim-background believers"—mostly in reclusive urban groups of 10 to 20 believers. Last fall, their leaders convened at conferences and summits in Toronto, Detroit, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Dallas, and Washington, D.C.

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