Because my friend invited me

This blog was initially published on 31 March 2017, and subsequently edited with an update on 7 September 2017.

Because my friend invited me

I was visiting with a family of Syrian refugees who had come to the UK on the government’s Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme from refugee camps in the Middle East.

They were one of the first refugee families in our area, helping those who came after them to settle. In the process, they’ve become central figures in the resettled community.

Many local Mahabba members have helped them along the way with driving lessons, English lessons and furniture.

I’m trying to learn Arabic from them.

Last week, the husband and son were on their way out when the mum, my Arabic teacher, said I should practise my new vocabulary and ask them where they’re going.

The response was,

ila l-kanisa,

which means, 'to the church'.

To the church?

I asked surprised,

Why are you going to church?
Because my friend invited me,

was the simple response.

Dad picked up the keys and off they went, just like any other parent ferrying children to activities.

I was struck by the familiarity and simplicity of the scene – this Muslim boy is going to church because he had been invited.

So often we are hamstrung by questions about the proper way to introduce our Muslim friends to Christ:

What if I say the wrong thing? What if we serve the wrong food? What if…

Whoever this boy’s friend is, he gave me a valuable lesson that night.

Just do it!


And as it happens, a few month's later at the first Mahabba group meeting of the new academic year I heard an amazing development.

This boy had asked one of our other Christian friends, who knows the family, whether he can be a Muslim who follows Jesus.

So be encouraged - just do it and see what God does!


SINCE YOU'RE HERE...

... we have recently reached a total of 40 local Mahabba prayer groups in the UK - awesome news!

With your help, though, we would like to continue to sow, plant and support Mahabba groups.

Our work involves a small team of regional reps and central hub personnel investing in local coordinators and groups, as well as spreading the word.

To continue this vital mission to Muslims, we need to increase our regular monthly income.

Our initial target is to raise up 100 individual regular donors, giving an average of £10 to £15 per month.

Could you be one of the 100?

Barcelona, Turku, Greenbelt and a Giant Samosa!

3498761706_e254a5cc72_o.jpg

image credit: Ruben Whitehouse/flickr

This week's media has been dominated by the Barcelona attack where a van was driven into people in a popular street, Las Ramblas, in Barcelona. 13 people were killed and another killed in a separate attack at a seaside town. Incredibly an Australian who survived the attack was also present in terrorist attacks in London and Paris.  Although recieving a lower profile in the media Finland also experienced its first ever terrorist attack.  where two women were killed and six injured. A Moroccan man has admitted his role in the attack and three other Moroccan men have appeared in court.  The President of Finland has stated:

“The people’s security and feeling of safety has been shaken.”
— https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/22/world/europe/finland-stabbing-terrorism.html?mcubz=0

In the aftermath of the attack in Barcelona thousands of Muslims have joined marches against terrorism attended by the President, Mayor and members of the local council.  A statement expressing support for the victims was read by representatives of the Islamic community in Spanish, Catalan and Arabic. Banners were also displayed throughout the protest.

The crowd held placards reading “We are also victims,” “Terrorism has no religion,” and “We are all Barcelona, not terrorisms.”

At the front of the procession was a large green banner reading: “We are Muslims, not terrorists.”
— http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/barcelona-attack-muslims-march-terrrorism-protest-islamist-violence-las-ramblas-a7909611.html

The situation in Europe will be further inflamed by yesterday's publication of a cartoon in the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine. The cover shows a white van and bodies on the floor with the words, " Islam, the religion of Eternal Peace."  The editor has justified the publication on the grounds that it is a message that the French leadership were to afraid to share. Former French MPs have stated that the publication was "very dangerous" and urged restraint. On social media many people have criticised the magazine for spreading Islamophobia

In the week after the attacks Channel 4 has aired a four part drama about Islamic State.(Available to watch here) The programme viewed by 1.4 million people has been criticised as a recruiting tool. The daughter of David Haines who was killed by ISIS in 2014 urged that programme be postponed in the wake of the Barcelona attacks. However many expressed a more positive opinion.

“One of the most thought provoking, brave and terrifying things I’ve ever seen.”
”extraordinary piece of work”.
”I thought #thestate was gripping and depressing...In no way did it glamourise ISIS if anything it should put people off.”
— http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-41035251

Following on from the drama one evening this week was a repeat of My Son the Jihadi. The award winning 2015 programme follows the story of how Thomas Evans, a 21 year old electrician, left High Wycombe to join al-Shabaab in Somalia. According to the Telegraph "it was a stunningly sad, detailed and dignified portrait of a devastated mother , and a masterful piece of television about British citizens being recruited to terrorist organisations abroad." After four years in Somalia his mum leaned that her son, a vulnerable convert to Islam, had been killed. 

Clothing is always in the media. One Muslim model has been celebrated for being the first contestant to appear in a Kaftan rather than a bikini. In another report a TV presenter has posted a picture of herself on holiday in a bikini and received death threats as a result. 

On a more upbeat note, Christians and Muslims are working together in Lebanon. Organised by a Carmalite nun based at a monastery two and a half miles away from the fighting with Islamic State, Working together up to 300 people work together to make lunches for 5000 soldiers who are battling against Islamic State.  Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross has stated, "...it is a beautiful expression of solidarity...All religions are unified with the purest love for our country, our wounded country,

In news closer to home, Greenbelt is  building bridges with the  Muslim Community as part of a commitment made after the 9/11 attacks.  However they stress that they are not promoting Islam rather to overcome the headlines and to share and to learn about one another.

And finally its official! The Guinness Book of Records has a new record. The biggest Samosa has been created by volunteers at Muslim Aid UK. They beat the previous 2012, 110.8 kg  record samosa that was held by Bradford College. The winning samosa took 12 volunteers 15 hours to make . It was created on a huge wire mesh, lowered into a massive vat of cooking oil and officially weighed in at an East London Mosque. The enormous samosa weighed in at a humungous  153.1 kg. It has been divided up into hundreds of portions to be distributed to homeless people in London by the Salvation Army.

 

Guidelines for Regional Facilitators

Guidelines for Regional Facilitators

 

Mahabba, as a movement, seeks to be a catalyst in networking together agency “specialists” with both Church Leaders and their congregations, to facilitate mobilising ordinary everyday Christians to love their Muslim neighbours.

This relational national network has a wealth of ideas, resources, skills and experience to help each embryo local Mahabba prayer group. Their role is about encouraging and supporting new prayer-based, locally initiated groups which support, train and equip these grass roots believers. Regional Facilitators all give their time on a consultancy rather than an employed basis; as such they are part of the Network Team, supported by the small Network Executive. This is a team which carries things together: they are not alone! The role has the following
characteristics, and expectations:

  1. This role is about facilitating: It is about coming alongside those who have a heart to serve as local Mahabba Coordinators, so that they catch the essential DNA of Mahabba, whilst at the same time having the freedom to create something unique in their setting, which will then be a blessing to every other Mahabba group. By facilitating, we will avoid creating a control/dependency relationship in the Region
     
  2. The role is designed to cover a manageable Region: Regions are not fixed, so that we can keep them organic and flexible (so far, we have North, South, East, West, London, and Scotland): as more and more cities join the Region, we are open to subdividing Regions, and even creating new Regions, so that the burden on the Facilitators is manageable, and they are able to easily relate to all their local groups
     
  3. The Core responsibility of the Facilitators: to help start, support and encourage local Mahabba Prayer groups through regular communication and visits, and through facilitating an annual Regional Gathering. The Regional Facilitator can give the groups appropriate advice, and communicate the Mahabba vision and the dynamics of a Mahabba group, as well as sharing the “First Steps”, and the “Toolkit” with group Coordinators who are just starting out. Sometimes, it may be best to help them, by joining in some of their prayer times, as well as praying with local church leaders
     
  4. Support from local Church Leaders: Mahabba believes in the vital importance of the local church, so it is essential that church leaders should be encouraged to be actively involved. There are many demands on a church leader’s time and not all church leaders will be active in reaching out to Muslims themselves, but some will be; so whether or not they are personally involved, it is crucial that a few church leaders champion the local Mahabba group together and support it prayerfully. Regional Facilitators can help by sharing how church leaders are involved in other cities, and in some cases they can facilitate a meeting to encourage the support of other leaders
     
  5. Helping them start a Prayer Movement: Once championed by Church Leaders, many more believers will be encouraged to get involved in the weekly or regular Mahabba prayer meetings. Everything is fuelled and directed from this core of persistent united prayer, which are the foundations, and the powerhouse of Mahabba. Some groups may need encouragement to persist in prayer before they see results!
     
  6. Equipping them with Resources: The Regional Facilitator can then encourage the local Coordinator to facilitate as many people as possible to do the “Friendship First” Course, which will empower them with simple tools and understanding about how to befriend their Muslim neighbours, and how to unveil Jesus to them. The vast majority of Christians will only need this level of Training; however whatever their need, we have a pool of Resources to help them, which they can find on the website
     
  7. Connecting them with the Hub in Derby and the wider Network: The Regional Facilitator can help the local Mahabba group coordinators to connect with the Hub office in Derby, which handles all the Communications and Admin of the wider National Network. This will help group Coordinators to build strong relationships with other local groups across the Region, as well as across the Nation. In time the Regional Facilitator will be able to identify the key Mahabba group coordinators in their Region, who have the capacity to become part of a Regional team, which then spreads the vision in churches in other towns across the Region. The aim is to develop Networks which will support people as they engage with their Muslim neighbours
     
  8. Access to an Online Community: The Regional Facilitator will encourage all those within the new Mahabba Network to join The City, our online community platform which complements existing relationships. Here they can continue the conversations as well as link into an exciting learning community. (www.mahabba.onthecity.org)
     
  9. Encouraging Discipleship: As Muslim people come to believe in and follow Jesus, the Regional Facilitator will then be able to advise the local Church Leaders, and the local Mahabba group, about how to mentor these believers, with a view to them being able to multiply within their own communities. We strongly recommend the use of “Joining the Family”, and “Come Follow Me!” as courses which will help change their mind set about integrating these believers into local Churches
     
  10. Open to Church Planting: Many believers from a Muslim background will join local churches, but some may be more effective remaining within their own culture and context, provided they have a strong relational network to mentor and support them. We recommend this hybrid model of believers being connected to local churches, as well as having the freedom to remain within their world, to bring others to Christ. A Regional Facilitator may wish to recommend that these new believers use the Discovery Bible Studies in their home settings, to connect them with the life-style of “obedience-based discipleship”, as well as making use of material like the “Al Massira” DVD’s and the T4T evangelism. There is a wealth of Resources to recommend

MOTIVATING – MOBILISING – MENTORING - MULTIPLYING

A Case of Mistaken Identity, A Spectacular Mosque, Muslim Cycling Revolution and More

Image credit: Hijab Girl Peter MacLeod/ Flickr

Image credit: Hijab Girl Peter MacLeod/ Flickr

Happy holidays! Welcome to this week’s roundup. The purpose of this blog is to glimpse what is going on beyond our immediate location, to see a fraction of what the media is reporting about the quarter of the world’s population, to enable us to see the variety of people that are called Muslim.   This week there is the case of mistaken identity, a spectacular Mosque, cycling Muslims and more.

A Norwegian anti – immigrant group have been terrified and disgusted by what they saw recently. It was ‘really scary’ and they feared concealed bombs and weapons. Comments read: “Ghastly. This should never happen,” “Islam is and always will be a curse,” “Get them out of our country – frightening times we are living in,” 23 pages of outraged comments were also posted. What they think they saw was a group of women wearing burqas. The reality was a picture of six bus seats.  The group have been ridiculed for their comments and the story has gone viral.

The head of Norway’s Antiracist Centre, Rune Berglund Steen, told the site that people plainly “see what they want to see – and what these people want to see are dangerous Muslims”.
— https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/02/bus-seats-mistaken-burqas-anti-immigrant-group-norwegian

Something else that requires another look is a fantastically decorated mosque in the Turkish city of Kirsehir. The inside was designed by an Azerbaijani architect and includes trees painted on the walls, the ceiling is decorated as the sky and the floor is covered with a grass like carpet.  The inspiration for the design comes from a verse from the Quran which states

“(Allah) Who has made the earth a resting place for you, and the sky as a canopy, and sent down water (rain) from the sky and brought forth therewith fruits as a provision for you. Then do not set up rivals unto Allah (in worship) while you know (that He Alone has the right to be worshipped).”

A group of eight Muslim cyclists from London are attempting to ride 2000 miles through 7 countries, with over 110,000 feet of elevation to Mecca.  The organisers of theride first met on a charity ride to Paris in 2015. Muhammed, one of the organisers, stated:

‘...honestly, I thought I was the only Muslim cyclist in London. I’d been cycling since the age of 9 or 10, and on a road bike since 2007, which I used to commute to university, work and to the mosque, where I currently work and am trying to get Muslims on bikes.
I think it’s working. There’s a cycling revolution happening in the Muslim community here.’
— http://www.cyclist.co.uk/news/2461/from-whitechapel-to-mecca-by-bicycle-2000-mile-pilgrimage-to-raise-funds-for-ambulances-in

They hope to raise a million pounds for ambulances in Syria. The progress of the cyclists- otherwise known as pedaller pilgrims can be followed on facebook.

This ride follows from the Ride 4 Your Mosque initiative. Now in its second year, this event aims to get people on their bikes as well as raising money for a Mosque in East London.

In other transport news, Transport for London has recently dropped a two million pound safety campaign after being accused of sexualising children. The campaign was ended after an investigation by a Times reporter, and a complaint by a Muslim mother. Sadiq Khan the mayor of London, who also chairs Transport for London, has apologised.

 

The portrayal of a pre-school female child wearing a hijab was most obviously offensive, because it is commonly accepted that Muslim women – if they choose to wear a hijab – do so in adolescence or after puberty because of the link to the growing sexuality of a woman’s body. But all the characters were lazy stereotypes. Political correctness gone awol, you might say.
— https://www.theguardian.com/global/commentisfree/2017/aug/15/hijab-not-children-drop-images-transport-for-london-road-safety-campaign

You will probably have seen a lot about India and Pakistan in the news over the last few weeks as they are celebrating seventy years of independence. So today's last link goes to three Muslim women speaking about the partition of India

Guidelines for posting on The City

Guidelines for posting on The City

The 10 Habits of Highly Reflective People

Welcome to The City, Mahabba’s online community area. Before you continue, please take some time to read the following posting guidelines. These are designed to enhance your community experience and should give you a flavour of life on The City.

  1. Consider the impact of what you write
     
  2. Be respectful - Mahabba is a thoughtful and prayerful community that encourages free expression and values civil debate. It is acceptable to disagree or have different perspectives. If you disagree with others, do so with civility. Be on guard against actions and discussions that could harm the interests of our community
     
  3. Be prayerful - as we live, and move and have our being in God we need to seek God’s wisdom as we compose and as we send our messages
     
  4. Promote topics that lead to reflection and conversation - be mindful to not close down conversations with our language and tone
     
  5. Promote family - it’s hard for people to connect with aliases or anonymous users. Please include your real name and brief personal details in the about section. Authenticity and transparency are driving forces behind social media
     
  6. Value difference – acknowledge that God is sovereign and we are all made in God’s image. The prophetic word can appear to offend but may also be the start of new insights into God’s word
     
  7. Confidentiality - remember: Is this story mine to share? If in doubt, don’t
     
  8. Be mindful of your own security - don’t overshare personal information. Never publish detailed personal information such as your address or telephone number, unless in a private message to someone you know and trust. A degree of anonymity in your profile is acceptable, given there are some involved with sensitive ministries
     
  9. Be smart - in some groups a post is visible to a wide audience, and can be shared by others in ways that you cannot control. Remember that what you write is public, and will remain public for a very long time (perhaps permanently)
     
  10. Stay within the legal framework - while sharing thoughts and reflections with friends or followers via social media can seem personal and private, it is not. By law, if one or more people can access it, content is classed as published, in the public domain and subject to legislation around libel, defamation, copyright and data protection If you wouldn’t say something in a public meeting or to someone’s face or write it in a newspaper or on headed paper – don’t say it online

Last updated March 2016

The art of Jihad, detained on honeymoon and Britain's first liberal Mosque

image: flickr Geoff Livingston

image: flickr Geoff Livingston

Welcome to this week's roundup of what's in the media.

A book The Art and Social Practices of Militant Extremists has recently been published. The book describes daily life for Jihadis. It describes their poetry, music, emotional sensitivity as well as guidance gained through dreams.  The author of the book, Hegghammer, started being interested in this subject in 2001, soon after the 9/11 attack was carried out in New York and this research has been his passion ever since. The book gives an insight into "more than bombs and doctrines. It is also about rituals, customs and dress codes. It is about music, films and storytelling. It is about sports, jokes, and food.”  

Jihadists did a lot of things seemingly at odds with their brutal image: weeping, writing and reciting poetry, singing, recalling and interpreting dreams, perfecting their manners and taking an inordinate interest in their appearance.
— https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/23/the-culture-that-makes-a-jihadi-thomas-hegghammer-interview-poetry-militancy

As well as dealing with what Jahadis do in their down time there is also a discussion about their religious knowledge and motivation.

“They’re not real Muslims” is now a set response to any atrocity committed in Islam’s name. It’s an understandable, perhaps even commendable impulse, but it suffers from the great disadvantage of being factually wrong.
— https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/23/the-culture-that-makes-a-jihadi-thomas-hegghammer-interview-poetry-militancy

A couple have been detained on honeymoon "because the groom is Muslim". After paying £7000 for a dream trip to LA, Las Vegas and Hawaii, the couple were detained on arrival in America. After being held for questioning - a process they believed would take ten minutes but took 26 hours, their luggage and phones were confiscated. They were then handcuffed and put on a plane to return to the UK.  They can only conjecture that they were refused entry because the groom originates from Turkey but is in reality a British citizen. The US embassy has so far denied that people are barred from entry on grounds of faith.

‘We believe that since Trump was elected, they took one look at his name, thought he was Muslim and didn’t let him in.’
— http://metro.co.uk/2017/07/25/couple-detained-on-honeymoon-because-the-groom-is-muslim-6803939/

54 year old feminist Seyran Ates, accompanied by close protection officers, visited London this week. Seyran, who has had police protection since 2006, founded a liberal Mosque in Berlin and would like open the first liberal Mosque in Britain. Despite receiving death threats she would like to open a Mosque where men and women, people of any race, as well as LGBT Muslims, and Muslims from all strands of Islam are able to pray together. She also takes a tough stance on headscarves and when the Mosque in Berlin first opened women wearing headscarves were not admitted.  Egypt's Islamic body has declared such an approach incompatible with Islam, the Turkish religious authority has called it an experiment to ruin religion, whereas Labour peers in the UK support her concept of an inclusive Mosque.

“I’m not alone with this idea. It is a movement, it’s a revolution,” she told the Guardian. “I may be the face of the liberal mosque, but I alone am not the mosque. We have millions of supporters all over the world.”
— https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/26/seyran-ates-muslim-feminist-liberal-mosque-london-britain

For more about differences between Muslims check out Nabeel Qureshi's vlog. I'll leave the last word to him. 

You have many differences among Muslims. If you just see Muslims as a monolithic set of people, chances are you haven’t spent any time with real Muslims- because you’ll realize they are all different.
— Nabeel Qureshi

Sample Mahabba group coordinator role description

Sample Mahabba group coordinator role description

Overall role

  • Lead the Mahabba group, coordinating its different functions, relating with local church leaders and seeking God for vision and direction

Responsibilities

  • Pray for God’s work though the prayer group and seek his guidance
  • Ensure that the following functions are maintained and developed by the different task groups: Prayer
    • Flow of information
    • Financial record-keeping
    • Training programmes
    • Outreach/learning groups
  • Relationships with local churches and agencies, wider links in Britain, particularly with other Mahabba groups in the region and the Mahabba Network
  • Relate to the Advisory Group regularly through its chair, meeting as a group twice or three times a year
  • Manage, guide and encourage volunteer members within the prayer group, particularly the Core Team

Criteria for this role

Essential qualities

(Evident in your life, while not perfected)

  • Godly, teachable and accountable in personal life and ministry
  • Having an evangelical faith, but willing to work with churches of different denominations and styles
  • Able to inspire and encourage people who give their time as volunteers
  • Warm in personal relationships
  • Efficient and conscientious in administration and communication
  • Longing for Muslims to come to Christ and be built up in him
  • Love for the local church and commitment to working in and through local congregations
  • Having the credibility of several years’ experience of ministry with Muslim people
  • Some experience in leading a team, and in implementing vision and strategy

Desirable qualities

Would include:

  • Familiarity with local area
  • The ability to teach on Islam (but if not, facilitate an alternative)

Time Commitment

  • One and a half to two days a week

Appointment

  • Would be by the Advisory Group of the local Mahabba prayer group, after interview
  • It would be for a minimum of one year, ideally for at least two

Funding

  • Depending on the local group, this might be in a volunteer spirit or a stipend, depending on need because the coordinator has to give more time than others
  • Generally, a Mahabba prayer groups does not have the structure to employ anyone
 

Download this as a PDF

Mahabba Network Common Commitment

Mahabba Network Common Commitment

Mahabba is a network built on prayer and relationships, which is growing in different ways, and in different locations.

Mahabba is a very flexible, but if a local prayer group wishes to regard itself as part of the overall Mahabba Network, or use the Mahabba name, it must, enthusiastically and with integrity, share the vision and values that make up the basic DNA of the Mahabba Network.

Vision of Mahabba

Mahabba’s vision is to:

To see everyday Christians engaged with everyday Muslims under the leadership and initiative of local churches
— Our vision

This is the vision that every Mahabba initiative adopts and towards which it is proactively working.

Values of Mahabba

Championed by church leaders in unity

We believe that church leaders are the best people to motivate their congregations to reach Muslims; they don’t need to be experts on Islam themselves.

Every Mahabba group involves church leaders as much as possible in the leadership, promotion and accountability of a local Mahabba group.

Persistent prayer

Mahabba was birthed in prayer, so we see passionate prayer as the fuel for the continued development of this vision.

Every Mahabba group meets regularly for prayer.

Love for Muslim people

The word ‘Mahabba’ means ‘love’ in Arabic and we advocate living out a life of love and graciousness towards Muslims. Our greatest gift of love is Jesus himself.

Every Mahabba group adopts the ‘Ethical Guidelines for Christian & Muslim Witness in Britain’ as one of the ways to demonstrate love, respect & graciousness towards Muslims.

Mobilising everyday Christians

We dream of multitudes of Christians in Britain having the confidence and skill to reach out to Muslim people, not just leaving it to the ‘specialists’.

Every Mahabba group equips ordinary Christians, with specialists and agency personnel taking a back seat as mobilisers, trainers and facilitators.

Growing believers

We aim to mentor new believers from all backgrounds, discipling them to become catalysts who share their faith and multiply within dynamic local fellowships.

Mahabba groups take mentoring new believers very seriously, as they seek to disciple them and build growing local fellowships.

Commitments of Mahabba

Being in the Mahabba Network involves:

  • Keeping in touch, cooperating with & providing information as appropriate to Mahabba nationally
  • Being proactive in taking opportunities to share with, learn from, encourage and meet face to face those involved in other Mahabba groups
  • Support, as opportunity arises, the financial needs of the Mahabba Network overall

Download the Ethical Guideslines for Witness

Download the Common Commitment as a PDF

Lebanon, Miss World,Fashion and Mind blowing Halal Sex

image credit: flickr bellmon 1

image credit: flickr bellmon 1

Welcome to this week's edition of the roundup.

One of the Mahabba facilitators has been in Lebanon recently and has met an inspirational couple who are running a school for refugee children. They explain how they started the school and state:-

“This is a special time. You can look at the refugee issue and see it as either a problem or an opportunity. They are coming to us now, so we can ask, do we have something to give? And of course we have a lot to give...
The Syrians are coming to us. Instead of hating them, we should preach the gospel. Where others see horror, I see children of God; I see future pastors and apostles among them.”
— https://www.churchmissionsociety.org/our-stories/lot-learn-lebanon

There is also an account of a Muslim lady who started to attend church in Lebanon and came to faith.

“... She saw the love of Jesus and got baptised and then her husband did the same after a month. They are now in another country, sharing about the Lord with Muslim people there.”

“I thought I was coming to help refugees,” he continued. “But I see now they are helping me, praying for me. All the relief work this church does is now done by Syrian people. It’s like living in the book of Acts. I’ve learned not to put God in a box; I knew he was big; now I’m seeing this with my own eyes.”
— https://www.churchmissionsociety.org/our-stories/lot-learn-lebanon

I think that is a challenge to us, wherever we live!

A Muslim woman who spent time in a Bosnian refugee camp has been crowned Miss World Australia. Twenty five year old Esma Voloder moved to Australia at five months old. She has a degree in psychology and currently works as a criminal profiler. She has been reported to be using her new found fame to challenge Islamophobia.  She will go on to compete at the finals in China at the end of the year.  She has stated:-

“The Islam that I know, that is in the Quran, I don’t associate that with any acts that are occurring around the world,”
— https://tribune.com.pk/story/1461489/muslim-woman-just-crowned-miss-world-australia-2017/

Women's clothing is also once again in the news. The burkini which was often in the news last summer in France has now reached the the headlines in the Czech Republic. Apparently complaints about wearing the garment aren't  abased on religious intolerance rather concerns regarding hygiene. Water parks vary in their response to the burkini- with some banning them, others 'tolerating' them and other locations inspecting swim wear on arrival. 

A denim hijab, modelled by a Somali refugee, has also made the headlines. Staying on the hijab theme, a new hijab emoji has been created by a Saudi teenager after being unable to find an emoji that represented her. The design was accepted by Apple on Monday- and now headscarf wearing women around the world will have an emoji to represent them.

And finally a Muslim sex guide for women has been published- entitled The Muslimah Sex Manual: A Halal Guide for Mind Blowing Sex. Written anonymously, the author has received "disgusting messages" as well as praise.  

Muslim women’s organisations have praised her, saying the book will empower Muslim women and protect them from entering into sexually abusive relationships
— https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jul/16/muslimah-sex-manual--halal-sex-guide-muslim-women-seeking-fulfilling-love-lives

The range of articles referred to today comes from Lebanon, Australia, America, The Czech Republic, and the UK. They are about people in different situations dealing with different issues.  I am sure there are other views. But I suggest that this week's media snap shot illustrates some of the diversity of the Muslim world. So how should we respond?  I'll leave you with one suggestion:-

“Relax. Enjoy your friends. Enjoy their company along with the company of Jesus. Point Him out, freely, without fear or intimidation. You’re not responsible to sell Him to them. You’re simply saying what you’ve seen. You’re not the judge. You’re the witness. We’ll go further and further into this way of thinking until you’re free to speak of Jesus often and always. And you’ll see—people will listen. Not because we’re so good, but because He is compelling!”
― Carl Medearis, Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism
— https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/772230.Carl_Medearis

Updates from the Network

Gordon continues to have good conversation about fundraising as we look into how Mahabba can grow beyond the UK. For the moment, he is taking some well earned rest with his wife, Rachel!

On the national, UK, stage, we are now up to about 45 groups with lots of new enquiries recently. A handful of them have resulted in groups being set up across the country, with a particular flurry in London.

The Network Team of Regional Facilitators is also gearing up for a team day in August, which will be helpful for planning as we enter the busy Autumn period.

The Hub has been busy with lots of things, as usual, but has been distributing leaflets for the new Friends of Mahabba initiative to all the coordinators of local Mahabba prayer groups. If you received one, do consider becoming a Friend of Mahabba!

We've been encouraged by an enquiry in Carlisle recently, which is an area devoid of any groups at the moment. Elsewhere in the North West, there have been lots of encouraging stories of conversations with imams, Friendship First courses scheduled and even a BBQ for groups in the Manchester area!

Equally, in the East, God has been working in the local Pakistani community. One local Muslim has been seeking Jesus in a big way and come to church. We're really praying and having faith for an overdue breakthrough among Pakistanis.

Further south, there has been new growth in the Basingstoke-Newbury area, and one enquiry commented: ‘I saw on a recent shopping visit that there seem to be more Muslims in Newbury than in Basingstoke.’ Good then that a group is getting started!

Also of note is a follow up event to the Mahabba training day that happened in Croydon. This is planned for November in Woking with the possibility of involvement from the diocese.

Finally, we wrap up in the west region, where there is now a second Mahabba group in the Bristol area.

So many encouragements - God is on the move!

Is giving Bibles to Muslim refugees a good way to evangelise?

Is giving Bibles to Muslim refugees a good way to evangelise?

Alice asked us about the merits of distributing Bibles to Muslim refugees:

I have heard that giving bibles to Muslim refugees is a good way to evangelise. Do you think so?
 

OUR RESPONSE

Thanks to the help of some specialists on The City (have you joined yet?), we can relay the following advice.


Be appropriate

I would never give a whole Bible to a Muslim I didn’t know. I might give a New Testament in an appropriate language, but I would certainly give a gospel – probably Luke, because it starts with the birth narrative. Everyone loves a story. The gospels are brilliant stories, so different from the Qur’an. If you give a gospel to a Muslim he will probably read it cover to cover in one sitting, then there is so much to discuss.

The Gospel of Luke alone is the most powerful tool to use for a Muslim mind to digest.

Muslims are led to believe that Bible has been corrupted. So, if you give Bibles to Muslim refugees the first time you meet them, they may take it from you but chances are they are not going to read it. I think it’s very important to make friends first, get them thirsty, and then offer the Bible.

It’s all about putting time and effort into developing close friendships. The question is, do believers have the passion to do this, or do they just simply give a Bible and hope for the best?

 

Be specific

God can speak through his word! But even better would be someone engaging with them and the bible.

At least give a suggested list of bits to read (Creation to Christ perhaps) and questions to think about when reading.

Best of all, a recommendation of somewhere to go with questions.

 

Be discrete

Giving out Bibles to all like sweets is probably not a good idea.

It is certainly helpful to have them available and visible so that they can be picked up should someone be curious or interested.

We have a range of Bibles out on a shelf in our community cafe and sometimes one or two disappear. We pray they are being read. 

When someone asks for a Bible an offer to read it with them may be seen as awelcome invitation.

 

Be relevant

Ensure that the Bible is in the appropriate languages. If not, then they need to be - it is a must, if someone is to be able to read the word and understand it.

 

Related FAQs

What does Mahabba do to meet, engage and ultimately convert Muslims to Christianity?

What does Mahabba do to meet, engage and ultimately convert Muslims to Christianity?

Phil asked us about our work and approaches to seeing Muslims come to know Jesus:

I believe most Muslims have heritage in places where there is not freedom to consider Christianity, and we have the opportunity to fulfill that need now that they are in a free country
 

OUR RESPONSE

Thanks to the help of some specialists on The City, we an relay the following advice.


1. What do you do to meet, engage, and ultimately convert Muslims to Christianity?

We help sow and establish local prayer groups, as we believe that for the Gospel to breakthrough among Muslims, there needs to be a strong foundation of prayer.

We believe that people do not convert Muslims, rather God will cause people to turn to him via Jesus Christ.

As such, persistent prayer is vital, so we invest heavily in fostering this activity in the Network.

As groups get establish, we support them with resources, materials and advice for the plans and visions they have to do practical outreach.

We do this in various forms and according to local needs, such as facilitating Friendship First courses or Meetings for Better Understanding.

2. Do you have any Mahabba groups outside the UK?

We are currently focussed on work in the UK, but there is much interest internationally.

We are looking to set up Mahabba officially on the international stage, at which point we will be able to respond more intentionally to requests.

3. How do you use donations to further your mission. What do you buy and how do you deliver it?

The majority of funds received is directed locally, as we seek to support and equip local expressions of outreach to Muslims.

We have a group of regional reps that we fund in order to help, advise and counsel local prayer groups as they outwork their heart to see Muslims come to know Jesus.

 

Inspiring stories of our impact

Elliot's Roundup: The hate preacher, the gay wedding and the baker

image credit: flickr Jamie Anderson

For those convinced that every Muslim is a terrorist, just try reading the news. My search came up with a few different stories. A radio station suspended for broadcasting al Qaeda recruiter's speeches, possibly the first Muslim gay wedding in the UK, and Nadia's thoughts about appearing on the Bake Off.

Twenty five hours of speeches by "the Bin Laden of the internet" were played on a Muslim radio station based in Sheffield during Ramadan.  After a complaint received about Anwar Al-Awlaki the watchdog Ofcom made the judgement that the lectures:

“amounted to a direct call to action to members of the Muslim community to prepare for and carry out violent action against non-Muslim people”.
— http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/iman-fc-muslim-radio-station-sheffield-al-qaeda-anwar-al-awlaki-charlie-hebdo-hate-speech-jihadi-a7830256.html

Jahed Choudhury and Sean Rogan have been recently got married in Walsall. Their wedding has been reported as the first gay Muslim wedding in the UK.(although another gay couple- one of whom is Muslim married in Birmingham in October last year.)  Jaheed  has married after being bullied at school ,barred from attending the Mosque and attempting suicide because of his sexuality.

Now married and very much in love, the couple, who recently returned from their honeymoon in Spain, said they hope to show the world “that you can be gay and Muslim”.
— http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/uk-first-gay-muslim-marriage-jahed-choudhury-and-sean-rogan_uk_59648e64e4b03f144e2d4e67

They have recieved a lot of online abuse since getting married.  Many comments have been made online such as: 

“Just putting asian costumes doesn’t make it a Muslim marriage, there is no concept of gay marriage in Islam.
Another said: “They are not Muslims, we don’t have gays and lesbians.”
— http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/muslim-gay-wedding-couple-uk-first-online-abuse-jahed-choudhury-sean-rogan-walsall-west-midlands-a7836936.html

Nadia Hussain, winner of The Great British Bake Off 2015, has also been in the news this week. The article mentions the negativity and aggression she felt before appearing on The Great British Bake Off.  Although apprehensive of being the "token Muslim" on the programme. 

“We are so much more accepting than that: I never realised Britain had such open arms”... and realised “what a lovely country I live in”.
— http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/2017/07/11/nadiya-hussain-felt-like-token-muslim-bake/

Is every Muslim a terrorist? Is every Muslim opposed of gay marriage? Has every Muslim baked cakes for the Queen?  Perhaps its time to let go of some of our stereotypes and get to know some of the individuals around us who happen to be Muslims.  

Please get in touch and tell us how it went.

How to inspire people to pray for Muslims

How to inspire people to pray for Muslims

This resource was shared at the 2016 National Gathering by Heather from Mahabba Oxford.

It is designed to help local coordinators foster prayer in local Mahabba prayer groups, but can be used elsewhere!

Resources

Keep informed

  • Stay connected with those in your prayer group/location who are working in Muslim contexts
  • Invite them to share when that’s possible
  • Build relationship between intercessors and those they’re praying for

Muslim world

  • There are masses of resources!
  • Too much information can make it difficult to pray, so be selective

Local knowledge

  • How many mosques in your area?
  • What sort of mosques?
  • Who are the imams?
  • Pray for them by name

Muslim communities

  • Ethnicity?
  • Brand of Islam?
  • What are their issues or challenges?

Special events

Your community

  • What’s going on in Muslim communities that you can pray for?
  • What are churches doing that you can bring a Muslim focused aspect to?

New believers

  • Pray for those who have come to faith from Islam
  • Invite any locally to meet with you if appropriate

Practical Ideas

  • Have a plan – you can always change it!
  • Vary the menu (eg., personal/local, national, international)
  • What do people in your group care about? Pray for Muslim friends by name
  • Incorporate worship – big requests require us to remember we have a great God
  • Remember to be thankful – feedback on answered prayer where possible
  • Develop persistence/perseverance – we may never know how our prayers are answered but we keep praying

Vary styles and patterns

  • Stay in a large group
  • Pairs/3’s/small groups
  • Move around
  • Don’t be afraid of silence
  • Give time to listening/reflecting
  • Speak out together
  • Declaration
  • Imagination (e.g., how do you think it feels to be a Muslim woman unwelcome at the mosque? How does it feel to be a moderate Muslim in Britain today?)
  • Be visual – use maps, pictures, short video clips
  • Scripture
  • Pray positively – choose to bless

The final word

  • Know your prayer group
  • Work with who you’ve got, not with who you wish was there!
  • Those who are there want to pray – aim to send them away encouraged!
  • Remember, everyone else’s prayer meeting isn’t more interesting/dynamic/successful/fruitful than yours!

I called on the name of Jesus

I called on the name of Jesus

This is the story of a member of a local Mahabba prayer group who has seen God move in the life of a Muslim from the local Pakistani community. This is a true story and happened recently in a city in the UK.


I met with a local Pakistani man who'd contacted a local church through their website.

He explained that as he'd begun to study Islam for himself the more he'd been put off.

He told me that it's the same for many others he knows.

He was thinking of becoming an atheist when a dream of Jesus started him on a quest to explore the Christian faith.

To begin with, he spent a lot of time talking with Jehovah's Witnesses, but found aspects of their faith quite off putting.

A few days before we met for coffee he'd had another dream.

He was being attacked by witches and evil spirits but repeating the Islamic statement of faith was having no effect.

In desperation he called on the name of Jesus to save him and the evil presences fled away.

He woke feeling shaken but determined to find out more.

He's keen to come and visit our church on Sunday and meet other believers from a Muslim background. 

Elliot's Round up: Acid Attacks and Hampers

image credit: Hiroyuki Takeda flickr

image credit: Hiroyuki Takeda flickr

This week's media selection starts off with acid attacks. According to one report Newham has been named as Britain's acid attack capital with 415 attacks since 2010. There has also been a sharp rise in attacks in London with 431 last year compared to 261 in 2015. UK wide there has been a doubling of attacks. Jameel Mukhtar and Resham Khan have been left with life changing injuries as a result of an attack in East London in June. Initially police refused to register the attack as a hate crime but have reclassified it as a racially or religiously motivated crime.  There is currently a petition to ban the sale of acids without a licence that can be signed.

Research suggests that the government's anti radicalisation "prevent" strategy is counter productive and causing Muslims to become further marginalised.  Promoting "British Values" and emphasis on "Britishness" is seen as particularly problematic. Instead of "equipping them with the knowledge to question extremist and radical views," the policy could be causing increased stigmatisation of Muslim students making then less likely to speak out. 

In a more positive light, Muslims are preparing to deliver hampers as a token of appreciation to fire fighters who fought the Grenfell Tower fire. Swansea's Muslim community has also been in the news for inviting everyone to an Eid in the Park event on Sunday, which will involve food, magic shows, inflatables and a football tournament. Eid was also celebrated in Trafalgar Square recently.  (Video available here).

Swansea's Eid event  is open to "all people regardless of age, sex, religion, creed or race." What  an invitation!  A free event- where everyone is welcome! What a challenge to me. I could probably be welcoming once a year given enough time to work up to it. I have received some great welcomes and magnificent hospitality so I know its important. But could I be welcoming everyday of the year, not just on a special occasion?  I know a friend who is welcoming everyday not only for free but also for the desperate, the hungry, the thirsty, the overlooked,the tortured, the imprisoned, the refugee and the unloved.  Jesus is still ready to welcome.  Are we ready to follow him?

Prayer resources for the Night of Power

Prayer resources for the Night of Power

Prayer resources for the Night of Power

Many local Mahabba prayer groups put on a Night of Power prayer meeting each Ramadan, not to mention other church small groups. With this in mind, we have put together some resources to help you structure your time and provide some focal points.

If you have any recommendations or feedback, please leave a comment below!   

 

Presentation

This is based on a PowerPoint developed by the Mahabba Cheltenham group for its prayer meeting on the Night of Power. It looks at themes of open heaven associated with this holiest night of Ramadan and John 1:51 - Jesus the link between God and humanity. The presenter notes can be found as comment 'bubbles' on each page of the PDF. The group used it to reflect on how Jesus presented Himself as Jacob’s ladder.

 

Prayercast videos

A series of videos that you can use to help you and your group focus your prayer time. Elliot in The Hub recommends the film on Ishmael, which can equally be used as the basis for prayer. 

 

Assorted web resources

Elliot in The Hub also put together these items from websites.

 

A prayer for The Night of Power

A Mahabba member commented that she really liked the Lovefast prayer for Night of Power, written by Gordon, which is equally good as a primer for prayer.

Father, tonight I am standing in unity and agreement with millions of fellow believers, and we thank you on this special night for an outpouring of your spirit across the whole Muslim world. As they seek you, will you reveal yourself to them in dreams and visions, and may countless millions have a life changing encounter with you, where they will come to know you as “Father” and Jesus as “Isa Al-Massih” - Jesus the Messiah
— Gordon

How do I start a Mahabba group?

How do I start a Mahabba group?

How do I start a Mahabba group?

It's dead easy, so don't worry! We've listed six simple steps below that we recommend you take.

Step One

Step Two

  • Contact The Hub (Mahabba's central office) and ask to be put in touch with your nearest Regional Facilitator
  • One of our friendly reps will then help you take the next steps to start a local Mahabba prayer group and support you as you develops and grow

Step Three

Gather

  • Gather people into your local Mahabba prayer group
  • This relies on God, so it has to begin and be sustained by, persistent prayer
  • Don’t worry if it starts with only a few people
  • Keep making the group known and invite new people to join you
  • It is better to have a few committed people then many who are not

Get support

  • Seek to get the backing of local church leaders
  • Invite people from different local churches to participate
  • Mahabba works best as an activity of the wider church in your area, not only your local church

Build team

  • Designate someone, or better two or three people to coordinate the prayer meetings and other activities that emerge later from the prayer group

Be regular

  • Set a regular time to meet as a local Mahabba prayer group
  • Some Mahabba groups meet weekly, some monthly
  • The frequency is up to you, but it’s good to be persistent in prayer
  • There is no set way of praying, but again there are a few guidelines:
    1. We pray with the motivation of the love of God for Muslims
    2. Pray for everyday church member’s contacts
    3. Pray for the work among Muslims in the local area
    4. Pray for national and international prayer needs

For more ideas on how to inspire prayer in your group, see the following blog:

Elliot's Roundup: Bullying, uniform, fish and chips, and celebrating Eid in Trafalgar Square

image: flickr- Chris Goldberg

image: flickr- Chris Goldberg

Since recent terror attacks the number of race based bullying incidents has jumped, with over 300 receiving counselling in the fortnight after the Manchester attack. Children as young as 9 have been called terrorists Some have stayed away from school to avoid the bullying, others have turned to self harm as a way to cope with the situation.

Muslim children have told Childline they’ve endured constant name-calling, been accused of being associated with Isis and been threatened with violence. Young girls have frequently been victimised when they wear a hijab or headscarf, the helpline said.
— http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/nine-year-old-children-terrorists-race-faith-hate-bullying-childline-manchester-arena-terror-attack-a7810051.html

Also in the news is a secondary school Sir John Thursby Community College in Burnley, Lancashire. Apparently the first school in the UK to offer headscarves as part of the school uniform has had complaints that the school's headscarves are not modest enough.  A petition has been signed by around 150 people which states the headscarves are too short and pose a suffocation hazard.  A working party comprised of students, parents, staff and governors are planning to meet to find an acceptable way forward

Ramadan has ended, which means 24% of the population can go back to eating and drinking in daylight hours once more. Wales Online asks a Muslim about his faith including some insights into how Muslims in Wales are feeling after recent events.  Muslims also share their view of living in Ireland in the following video. 

An article from York shows how all communities can become closer through food- this time shared fish and chips.  As Ramadan finished Eid was celebrated worldwide. Although already celebrated Eid will be celebrated again this Sunday 2nd July in Trafalgar Square.  There will be a range of events on the main stage as well as a global food market.  

“In these difficult times, it’s been truly inspiring to see how communities have come together in solidarity. Throughout Ramadan, I’ve joined Londoners from all faiths and backgrounds to break my fast at Iftars across our city. For me, this is what the holy month is all about – sharing time with others and showing empathy for one another.”
— http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/attractions/eid-in-trafalgar-square-2017-lineup-timings-and-sadiq-khans-statement-a3574331.html

Sadiq Khan's words remind me of the ancient, yet still challenging words, found in Isaiah about true fasting- working for justice, setting the oppressed free, sharing food, providing shelter as well as not neglecting our own families. 

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
— https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+58&version=NIV

Let's be those people. I would love to be known as Repairer of Broken Walls or Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. Wouldn't you?

Lovefast out 🎤

Lovefast out 🎤

Thanks for following Lovefast over the last 30 days - it's been great!

We love to know what you've liked and what we can improve. Let us know your thoughts.

Other than that, we've put some of the highlights below.

 

Participants' stories

Lovefast 18 (Ties) suggested we seek to pray with a Muslim. I told the Lord I was willing, but didn’t know any Muslims. However, God responded to my willingness and brought in a very needy lady to our Church coffee morning who just happened to be a Muslim. We had a very good chat. As she poured out her heart I offered prayer. It turned out her Father is an imam, but she nervously allowed prayer. I am hoping she will come again.
I am really enjoying praying through the 30 Days of Prayer book and reading your Lovefast e-mails. I have been able to speak to some Muslims and some new converts from Iran, who have requested prayer. Be encouraged! I avidly read the information given. Thank you for your ministry.
Today I received a prayer request for a Muslim young man in Iran who is addicted to hashish, and for his father who desperately wants his son to give up the drugs. His brother has become a Christian and is making the request
I have lots of conversations with Muslims and pray with them regularly, even if they don’t believe in Jesus. Some have been baptised. Nearby we have seen many Iranians in particular (you won’t be surprised!) pray to receive Jesus and be baptised.
 

Comments on the blog

Many thanks for this thoughtful bulletin.
Lovefast day 1 done... Got to keep prejudicial thoughts at bay... and remember Hagar and Ishmael in Genesis that they too where set apart by God and their descendents would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Especially after Manchester it’s so easy to judge and condemn an entire religion... when in reality that task is only God’s place to do so. I must remember these people... and just pray for my witness of salvation through the blood of Jesus.

Most popular entry

Outside the first week, which normally attracts the highest engagement levels (while the campaign is still novel) Lovefast 11: Terror on 6 June was the most popular day. This followed the terrorist attack on London Bridge and Borough Market, so struck a chord, and we hope gave encouragement to respond in a positive way.