Unequivocal apology demanded from Pope; Christians fear reprisal.

By September 20, 2006

International (MNN)–There are growing fears that a controversial Papal address will spur more persecution of Christians in Muslim-dominated areas. Along with that fear is a demand by Muslims that the Pope give a clear apology for remarks seen as portraying Islam as a violent faith.

Pope Benedict was in Germany last week encouraging his listeners to reject religious motivation for violence. To illustrate his point, he cited the words of a Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as “evil and inhuman,” particularly a “command to spread by the sword the faith.”

The ensuing protests and violence have stirred up memories of the fury over cartoons of Mohammed that were published in a Danish newspaper, as well as fears of violence against Christians.

Open Doors’ Al Janssen says political and religious leaders have been largely unsuccessful in defusing the crisis. “It seems like the Muslim world doesn’t accept the Pope’s apology and accept the context in which he made those remarks, and are using this as a means to foment and continue conflict with Christians.”

When asked if the potential for trouble existed, Janssen not only confirmed it, he voiced grave concern over the threats and attacks they’ve already seen played out. Teams from the Gaza Strip reported a threat by militants to strike at Christian targets. Several churches have also already been burned and there are scattered reports of similar incidents throughout the Middle East.

Janssen says he’s planning a trip soon to encourage church leaders in some of the areas where attacks bear out Islamic ire. “There are Christians in a great deal of fear that their work could be attacked so that’s one of the things that I want to check out. I want to see how this is affecting mission work and see how the church is responding where they are a severe minority.”

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