For a couple of years now, I’ve taught a course entitled Christian Encounter with Islam. One of the major themes of the course, as you might expect, is the contrast between the Christian worldview and its distinctive view of God, and the Islamic worldview and its distinctive view of God. In light of that contrast I was particularly struck by the following section (pp. 220-22) from the recently published book Dispatches From the Front, a missions travelogue by Tim Keesee. (Pay close attention to the third paragraph.)
Our last day in Chaghcharan. Beth spent the morning making rounds at the hospital. It looks like baby Tahira will live. She should be able to go home soon–once her mother finds a donkey to take them there. Tahira is a seven-month-old girl who weighs just seven pounds. Whether the baby will survive back home is anyone’s guess. One mother and four babies have died here already this week. These have become part of the world’s worst infant mortality rates. In Afghanistan one out of four children does not live beyond his fifth birthday. Too weak to cry, Tahira’s hollow, haunting eyes put a face to such terrible statistics.
Malnutrition claims many children. Leah, a nurse here, related to me yesterday a story of one of her young patients, a two-year-old girl named Nek-Bekhyr. Her name means “fortune,” but none has followed her miserable existence. She has experienced only a gnawing hunger that eats up life itself. Leah described how Nek-Bekhyr was so malnourished that her corneas has melted away. Leah pleaded with the mother not to take the girl back home, where she would soon die without care. Leah begged her, “She can live, and in time we can teach here. She can have a life.” “What kind of life would a blind girl have?” the mother replied, and she took her daughter back to her village, where no doubt Nek-Bek has already been laid in a narrow hole hacked into this hard land. Leah’s eyes brimmed with tears of sorrow to recall this little life that merciless reality had pulled from her arms.
The day is waning. The slanting light flickers in the snowmelt. The azan echoes in the streets. I think of Leah’s tears over a blind baby as good as dead. In this stronghold of Islam, where are the Iranians with their universities and wealth? Why have they not sent doctors and nurses here? Where are the Saudis, the Egyptians, or the people of the Emirates awash in oil and designer islands? These countries are sending fighters and suicide bombers, but not doctors and nurses. Out here among the poorest and neediest, it is Christians—not Muslims—who are caring for the sick and the dying. It is not because we are better than they are. It is because our God is better than their god. Leah, Beth, Jenni, Ben, and others here who, having received grace and mercy, show grace and mercy. The kingdom of Saud is not represented here, but the kingdom of Christ is. His servants have taken up their cross, and by grace they carry it through the dim hospital wards and along the snowy mountain paths that now catch the last glint of day.
What a testimony to the gospel of grace! And what a striking illustration of the practical difference between two religious worldviews (indeed, two theistic worldviews). If you think all religions have basically the same ethical core, think again. Even a secularist can see that the differences between the major world religions—Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism—can mean the difference between health and sickness, between life and death. The tree is known by its fruit.