Open Letter to church in Ohio

The following is taken from Jamal Jivanjee’s FaceBook wall on which he posted an open letter to the church in Ohio, rebuking it for apathy and disinterest in the plight of Rifqa Bary. Well worth the read.

AN OPEN LETTER OF REBUKE TO THE CHURCH IN CENTRAL OHIO…(Please read and do not delay for your own benefit)
Yesterday at 7:10am

To the church of central Ohio,

I have been a part of the church in central Ohio since I became a Christian at the age of 18. I am thankful for the many people whom have enriched my life, and whom I have served with in this church over the years. I have since moved away from the central Ohio area, but because of my history in Columbus, the church here holds a special place in my heart. Because of this, I must tell you that what I am about to say does not come easy for me. I am compelled to say what I am about to say out of a heart of love for the church in central Ohio however. Since the rally for Rifqa here in Columbus, I have spent the last few days here in the city processing things, and praying. I have debated whether or not I should share these things with you, but I cannot keep silent about this any longer. I must share these things out of a personal sense of obedience. You can take this message to heart, or you can discard it. The choice is yours, but I must share this. I humbly but strongly ask you to read this letter in its entirety.

I can honestly say that in my entire 34 years of life, I cannot remember a time in which I was angrier than I am right now. In my 34 years of life, I have never experienced the type of strong nausea that I feel right now in the depths of my soul. I have never felt anguish like I have felt these last few days. In my 34 years of life, I can honestly say I have never been more broken for a group of people than I am right now. I began to wonder if I should be feeling like this, and if there was something wrong with me. A good and wise friend of mine shared something with me that greatly helped me however. She said that I don’t have to apologize for being angry, because God gets angry and he created us with this emotion. There is such a thing as righteous anger, and somebody in the body of Christ needs to feel the emotions that God feels. I believe these emotions are His, and not mine. So, what is the cause of my anger, nausea, anguish, and brokenness?

The institutional church in central Ohio!

It is absolutely heartbreaking to see just how spiritually dead or comatose that the institutional central Ohio church has become. I am absolutely ashamed to have come from you. I know that is harsh, but the facts speak for themselves. What facts am I talking about? Let me give you just one.

Cowardice

The institutional church in central Ohio has demonstrated its cowardice through its silence regarding Rifqa Bary’s struggle. Don’t get me wrong, there have been several precious and courageous people from central Ohio who have prayed and / or emailed, called authorities, or have spoken out in some way about Rifqa’s situation. Please know that this letter does not apply to you. This letter is addressed to the institutional church as a whole that has been utterly silent or ignorant of Rifqa Bary’s situation. There are literally almost 1000 local church communities in the greater Columbus metro area alone that represent tens of thousands of people. To my knowledge there are only 2 local church communities that have done ANYTHING to stand with Rifqa Bary!

WHAT AN ABOMINATION!

These 2 church communities know who they are, and I want to say thank you. Please know that this letter is also not addressed to you. This letter is to all the local church communities in central Ohio that have said nothing and have done nothing. You certainly know who you are as well.

The majority of Rifqa Bary’s support has come from out of state. The rally for Rifqa clearly demonstrated this tragedy. Many people asked me “Where is the church in Columbus?” I was embarrassed to say that I didn’t know. The Rally for Rifqa brought in speakers from across the country. All of them had important things to say. I can tell you that the majority of the people that showed up at the rally to support her were from across the country. I was amazed! People came from Wisconsin, Virginia, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, & California, just to name a few. Yes, there were some people who came out from central Ohio (thank you), but the majority was from out of town.

Now I know that not every Christian from central Ohio could come out to the rally on Monday for many different reasons. There is no need to apologize for this. I simply want to make an observation that if the church in central Ohio was standing with Rifqa Bary, there would have been thousands upon thousands of people spilling out all over the street in front of that courthouse. This was not the case. There was, at the most, a couple of hundred people; the majority of which came from around the country. Now, before you find fault with something that did or might have occurred at the rally as justification as to why you did not want to come to the rally, let me say that this letter is NOT about the rally at all.

Forget about the rally!

This letter is about the silence and the failure of the institutional church in central Ohio to stand with Rifqa Bary in general. I am convinced that the church’s silence is simply a thermometer of their frigid spiritual temperature. Nonetheless, here are some reasons that the institutional church in central Ohio uses to justify their silence. I have actually heard some of these excuses. It truly is astounding.

False reason #1:
[We have not really heard much about Rifqa’s situation. We don’t have enough information about her or her case.]

False reason #2:
[We do not know if she is legitimately a Christian. Since she is not a part of our church and we don’t know her or her theological disposition, we are reluctant to speak up for her because we do not want to put our church’s stamp of approval on her brand of theology. We also do not know for a fact that Rifqa’s parents would kill their daughter for being a Christian. They are claiming that they would not do that. There is not enough evidence to support Rifqa’s claim.]

False reason #3:
[Our church wants to reach Muslims, and we do not want to come across as hateful. We do not want to offend the very people that we are trying to reach. Public activism and protests will not accomplish anything.]

I’m sure there are more reasons as to why the institutional church in central Ohio remains passive and quiet, but these are the reasons that I have heard consistently. Behind each one of these objections is a focus on what is not known, or is simply fear based. Please bear with me as I am compelled to address these reasons specifically.

Response to false reason #1:
It is astounding to me that there exists an institutional church in central Ohio that has not yet heard about Rifqa’s situation. There are legal institutions across the nation that are studying this case specifically because they are convinced Rifqa’s situation will be a precedence setting case that could very well be the next civil rights movement in this nation. Rifqa’s story has gotten national media attention. We have heard from people in nations from every continent on the plant earth about Rifqa’s situation. How is it that the institutional church in central Ohio can be that out of touch with what is happening in their own city? Who or what is blinding and distracting you? Is it normal for you to be that self focused that you could be so ignorant of a case of this magnitude?

Response to false reason #2:
Instead of being focused on what we don’t know regarding Rifqa’s testimony, or her theology, let’s take a look at what we do know about her. It seems that what we do know is a good place to start with anything. Only when we are already predisposed against something do we look for hang-ups and focus on what we don’t know.

First, we DO know that she was raised as a Muslim from a Muslim family. We also DO know that she says she became a follower of Jesus Christ in middle school and claims to have begun to live the Christian life in secret at home. We also DO know that Rifqa has an impeccable reputation with everyone who knows her. We also DO know that she is a great student, and we DO know that she is known by her strong love for God and people. We also DO know that she claims that her life is on the line because of her faith. When this kind of a girl claims to be in danger because of the Islamic teaching regarding apostasy, is that not good enough for you? Do you need something else? Why would Rifqa’s word not have any merit for you? Are you ignorant regarding what Islamic scripture teaches about deception and apostasy?

If a Muslim began to come to your church community and eventually she became a follower of Jesus, only to be threatened with death by her family, would you need more evidence before you tried to come to her aid and protect her? No way! I would like to think that you would stand with her. I would like to think that your whole church would stand with her and defend her to the best of their abilities.

I have a news flash for you…Rifqa is a part of your church! The last time I checked, 1 Cor. 12:13 teaches that we were all baptized into one body by one Spirit. That is bigger than your own little institution. That should mean something to you. You are not on your own, rather you are connected to the broader body of Christ in your own city! Are you blinded to this scriptural truth because of your commitment to your man made institution? Rifqa is a part of the same church that you belong to.

Response to false reason #3
There is a fear among many Christians of saying anything negative about Islam out of the fear that they will offend a Muslim and turn them away from Jesus, or that they will be perceived by the world’s system as hateful and intolerant. Many Christians have stayed away from anything perceived as ‘activism’ out of fear of the type of perception by the media and the world’s system. When we give in to this fear, we are the ones that are being hateful. Let me explain.

Imagine a future day in this country in which a law is passed that bans any kind of public proselytizing outside of religious institutions. (Similar to China) Now, Imagine for a minute that your Pastor and a member of your institutional church were arrested because they were sharing their faith out in public. Would that affect you? How would your church respond? What if they never mentioned it during the next several weeks during Sunday services? What if they simply just announced the upcoming Ohio State vs Michigan game get together, maybe they announced an upcoming potluck, a youth movie night, or even a church wide Thanksgiving potluck! Imagine that your church announced all those upcoming activities, but failed to even mention or announce the dire situation that your Pastor and key member of your church body was going through? Does that communicate love? Does that communicate concern? NO! In my opinion, the silence would communicate absolute betrayal. It would be a hateful thing to do.

I am convinced that most institutional church communities would not only announce what occurred to their beloved Pastor and church leader during their services, they would call special prayer meetings. Many would even be compelled to protest the injustice outside courthouses. I’m sure attempts to visit the imprisoned church members and leaders would be made. I’m sure that many would even write letters of support to them. They would not be concerned with being perceived as a crazy activist, because their love for their fellow church members would trump all of those other concerns. It is not different with Rifqa Bary.

TO THE CHURCH IN CENTRAL OHIO, let me speak to you clearly…Rifqa Bary is a very important part of your church right now. She is clearly being persecuted for her faith in ways that our nation has not experienced in modern history. Just as Jesus said to Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:4-5), when followers of Jesus are persecuted for their faith, it is really Jesus that is being persecuted. Your silence and indifference toward Rifqa Bary’s situation is betrayal and hateful to not only Rifqa, but to Jesus Himself! When we stand with those who are being persecuted for their faith, we really stand with Jesus. He takes this very seriously, and so should you.

Conclusion

I know that the majority of you reading this will simply find a reason to disregard this article, or become angry at me. I’m ok with that. I’m writing this letter for the few remaining individuals in central Ohio whose hearts are still soft enough to consider what I’m saying. I’m writing this article for those who know deep down that I’m speaking the truth in this matter. I implore you to beware of the modern day Pharisees whose hearts have become hard, calloused, calculating, and cold. Do not become like them. You will know them by their fruits. They are the blind leading the blind. You have the freedom and discernment to notice them, and pray for them. Just like Jesus said about the Pharisees, honor them, but do not follow their example of silence and cowardice. You are free to love and to stand up for truth. God will show you how to do this. Scripture tells us that in the last days the love of many will grow cold. This is clearly seen by the coldness shown toward Rifqa by the majority of the institutional church in central Ohio.

I’m also writing this article to prepare you for something that I believe very strongly. I believe that we are going to see many more Rifqa Barys in the future. I believe that there is coming a great harvest of Muslims who will come to know the Lord just like Rifqa Bary has. Many local church communities in central Ohio send out missionaries to the Muslim world with the hopes that many Muslims will become followers of Jesus. When people in the Muslim world give their lives to Jesus, their very lives are on the line. Many are killed by their families. Many have to flee their families. If you were that missionary, or if you were a part of the sending church of that missionary, would you stand with the Muslim convert to Christ? Of course! It is hypocritical to send missionaries all over the world and ask Muslims there to give their lives (literally) to Jesus, but not stand with the one Muslim in your own city who has done the same thing. If you cannot stand with one, how will you stand with thousands?

Please, I’m begging you…come out of this wretched system and wake up. Throw off the sin and distractions that are keeping you from seeing what needs to be seen both in your own city, and in our nation. Repent of your illicit relationship with the world and its system before it is too late. Rend your hearts…Cleanse your hands… “Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom” (James 4:9).

This morning as I was pondering this situation that I have just written about, I was meditating on Isaiah 6. You know the story. He had a vision of God, became aware of the sin in him and around him, received forgiveness, then heard the famous missionary call of God to Go. God asked; “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Isaiah responded: “Here am I. Send me!” As I was also responding like Isaiah this morning by telling God that I will go and do what He asks, I sensed Him giving me instructions through the very next set of verses in Isaiah 6:7-13 because I believe they are applicable to the central Ohio church, and our current situation. I’ll leave you with these verses that God was instructing me with this morning:

“Go, and tell this people:
‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive.
Keep on looking, but do not understand.
Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”
Then I said, “Lord how long?” And He answered,
“Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant,
Houses are without people.
And the land is utterly desolate,
“The LORD has removed men far away,
And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
“Yet there will be a tenth portion in it, (this is good news)
And it will again be subject to burning,
Like a terebinth or an oak
Whose stump remains when it is felled.
The holy seed is its stump.”

Standing with one in order to stand with thousands,

Jamal Jivanjee
www.illuminate-us.com

(Here are the speeches from the rally for Rifqa in Columbus, Ohio on Monday. Each speaker has something important to say. I speak for 10 mins. at the end. Please click here to watch: http://alturl.com/97bq )

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