AUCKLAND, NZ (ANS) -- The time is ripe for the Church to face up to the threat of Islam in our country, to understand Islam's agenda and to respond with the love of Christ, says Middle East Overseas Outreach New Zealand director Murray Dillner.
That organisation, Open Doors NZ, Interserve and Asian Outreach are combining to host Mosque and Miracles conferences for the first time in New Zealand.
They will be held in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland in July, and are endorsed by Vision Network and Missions Interlink.
"Those who work with Muslims estimate there are about 40,000 of them here," said Mr Dillner. "The politicians estimate about 20,000 but others believe there are many more. Islam is having an impact."
Mr Dillner said he has become very aware that time is short before the pressure of ideologies such as radical Islam will "take away the freedoms we have in New Zealand and we will no longer have freedom of speech".
"The politicians will tell you Islam is a peaceful religion, but any former Muslim will tell you otherwise," he said. "Wherever in the world Muslims have taken over, democracy no longer exists."
Mr Dillner said many Muslims came to New Zealand to find a better life, but many others came with a "missionary zeal" to take over the country. Muslims may in future, for example, promote the idea of instituting the call to Islamic prayer in their neighbourhoods.
In many freezing works halal killing had become standard and a group of South Island farmers was considering starting up their own freezing works to avoid that religious practice.
"They are saying, 'Why should New Zealanders bow to Islam?' Islam has an agenda which is subtle and behind the scenes."
The two-day conferences have a three-fold purpose; to educate Christians about Islam, to inform them of what is happening in the world in relation to Islam; and to equip the Church to reach out rather than put up walls against Muslims.
The conference will have a number of experienced speakers who have held Mosques and Miracles conferences twice in Australia and in South Africa last year.
"He knows the radical side of Islam," said Mr Dillner. "He knows he is on a hit list. When he walks out the door to work each morning, he knows he may not return."
Mr Shayesteh will give his testimony at an evening public meeting at each of the three conferences.
Dr Mark Durie, vicar of St Mary's Anglican Church in Caulfield, Melbourne, has conducted extensive field trips to the Acehnese Muslim people in Indonesia.
Open Doors director Bruce Quedley said the conferences were not intended to stir up controversy but rather to educate the Church.
"We want to show Christians how to value Muslim people more, and reach out to them," he said. "New Zealanders react in fear when they see Muslim women wearing the veil. This makes the Muslim women feel isolated and left out completely and think they are living in a very unfriendly society.
"People are afraid of Islam but we want to release them from that bondage."
Mr Quedley said the conference would cover such issues as whether we worship the same god â€“ "that is a definite no" â€“ and understanding the Muslim requirement that Christian and Jewish people must pay a tax and live as second-class citizens in society if they wish to live at peace with Muslims.
Vision Network's Glyn Carpenter said he was pleased to support the Mosques and Miracles tour because there was a need for a better understanding of Islam and its impact on the national and international political scene.
"While our main focus is on loving God and loving others, whatever their beliefs, it can be useful to have some specific knowledge about where other people are coming from," he said. "We should also not ignore the fact that there is an element within Islam which is hostile to Western countries and to the Christian faith."
The conferences are open only to church leaders and members recommended by their leaders. However, there is an evening meeting open to the public at each conference venue. Early bird registrations close on June 22.( 03/19/2007)