The day after bombs exploded on the London Underground in 2005, we received a phone call from Fatima*. We had lost touch with her when she moved house. But now she was living near one of the explosion sites and was phoning because she was afraid. She would not go out of the house without her Muslim headscarf, but she was scared that if she did wear it she would be attacked.
Many of our Christian friends were surprised by this story. They thought it was the 'non-Muslims' who were scared. We often hear statements like 'The Muslims are taking over'. Sometimes these are said with sadness, sometimes with anger; but most often with fear. It was such emotions which prompted the Runnymead Trust in 1997 to coin the word 'Islamophobia' - the irrational fear of Islam.
Our attitude to others is fundamental to our spiritual life. Fear is not to master us, or to be our motivation. Rather 'perfect love drives out fear' (1 John 4:18, NIV). As Christians we can form our own conclusions about Islam as a religious system. But we are told with complete clarity to love our neighbours as ourselves - including our Muslim neighbours.
So, how can we move from fear to love, and how can we help our Christian friends to do the same?
Firstly, if there is fear, we need to pray and ask for a change of heart.
Then we need to get to know Muslims. We fear what we do not know - in fact, we cannot truly love people we do not know. Simple questions like 'Tell me about your family', 'What concerns do you have for your children?' or 'How is your business?' can start to remove barriers. And it is when barriers are down that communication of deep truths can start.
* Name has been changed.
Written by a British Pioneer, currently serving in North Africa.