Delegates to the second Global Anglican Future Conference heard Thursday that there is an urgent need to retrain church leaders in how to deal with the fast-rising Islamization of Africa.
“The church in East Africa needs to wake up to the reality that Muslims are determined to get as many converts as possible and this must be dealt with,” said Musa Baluku Syamutsangira, the Church of Uganda’s provincial coordinator of Muslim evangelism.
Syamutsangira said Muslims are focused on exploiting the weakness of the church. “Their greatest strength currently is in the knowledge that many Christians, including their church leaders, are not well grounded in their faith,” he said.
Syamutsangira, who works together with Muslim converts across Uganda, said church leaders’ training must address Muslim spirituality. “As Africans we are usually accommodating and anyone who comes to preach, be they Christians or Muslims, are listened to equally,” he said. “Muslims are using this tolerance to build their numbers.”
Strong support from Muslims both within and without East Africa was the key to faster growth of the religion, Syamutsangira said, warning that if not checked it would continue growing even faster. He was speaking at a session on “The Challenge of Islam.”
The Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali, who convened the session, agreed that church leaders’ training must include relations with Muslims. “We are already working towards achieving this in most of the trainings we are offering,” he said in an interview with TLC.
Earlier, he said that radicalization of Islam began in the fighting fields of Afghanistan but that it has now been exported to nearly all parts of the globe.
Poverty is one of the factors helping this brand of Islam gain currency, he said. “Take the example of Pakistan, where the government spends 50 percent of the budget on the military while education gets 2 percent. Many parents therefore send their children to madrasas for education and food, and it is there where they get indoctrinated,” he said.
Bishop Nazir-Ali said Christians must address issues like poverty if they intend to evangelize Muslims.
GAFCON 2013 has brought together 1,352 people, including archbishops, bishops, priests, and laypeople. Although some, especially the Western press, have depicted the group as a breakaway faction of the Anglican Communion, organizers stressed their continuing ties with the Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury visited with the gathered archbishops earlier this week, at a Eucharist celebrated by the Rt. Rev. Eliud Wabukala, Archbishop of Kenya.
At a press conference held ahead of the meeting the recently retired Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney said the movement wanted to model how the worldwide Anglican Communion can function, “particularly when the Communion insists on strong theological standards” centering on the Bible.
Tom Osanjo in Nairobi
Image: Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, on the eve of GAFCON. • Andrew Gross, ACNA, via Picasa