Recently I had the privilege of keynoting and leading plenary sessions at the International Family Conference convened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This meeting of more than 1,000 educational, governmental, and religious leaders and NGO executives was hosted by the Ministry of Women and Family Development and the National Population and Family Development Board of the government of Malaysia, an Islamic state.
Just the week before, I had traveled freely throughout Indonesia, teaching on parenting, marriage and the family. Indonesia is home to the largest population of Muslims in the world. All of my travels happened just a few weeks after the September 11 tragedy.
I experienced some important things:
1. I spoke freely as a pastor and teacher in two Islamic nations. No one profiled me, attacked me or debased my Christian beliefs.
2. I discovered my Muslim counterparts were as horrified as I was by fundamental religious sects and the September 11 tragedy.
3. I learned Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists and Christians alike care deeply about family and parenting children. Yes, Muslims were eager and willing to listen to a number of Christians present biblical truths about family.
I also heard Christians overseas wonder why some prominent Christian leaders in the United States canceled their visits and ministry trips to southeast Asia after September 11. If it was God's will for them to go before September 11, why had they changed their minds? Many suspected fear.
They rightly wondered that if American Christian leaders fear what terrorists can do, then perhaps Christian leadership needs to come from elsewhere in the world. After all, Christians in other countries live with constant persecution, fear and intimidation, and still speak out despite the danger.
I believe we have much to learn from our Christian family members living in Muslim countries. Their perspectives on how to walk by faith and not by sight could open us up to having a global vision for world missions, not just a national one.
In the aftermath of September 11, some Christian leaders may be tempted to become more isolated from Christians around the world. However, now is the time for more, not less, dialogue, travel, support and mentoring with Christians around the world. In fact, we could benefit significantly from being mentored by them.
In our post-September 11 world, Jesus still says, "Fear not." The command to "go into all the world" has not been retracted or mitigated.