International (MNN) — In the war of words, names are important. They can describe the values of an organization or the reasons why people decided to identify themselves by that label.
Given the reality of the recent Jakarta, Indonesia attacks, there are questions about the terror group calling themselves the Islamic State. Are they “Islamic” extremists? Or are they merely “violent extremists”? Open Doors USA president and CEO David Curry says, “I think the term ‘Islamic extremist’ or ‘Islamic terrorist’ identifies an important fact: the fact is they are from the Muslim faith. They are a small sliver, or sect, a rogue part of that.”
His remarks came as the White House has notably avoided using the term “Islamic extremism” when discussing violent events that are unfolding across the globe. President Obama, as have other presidents and government officials before him, found more secular ways to describe the militants. But, as Curry points out, “If you take that out, it essentially suggests that the Muslim faith has nothing it can do to speak into that problem. I think that there is something that the Muslim faith must do to talk about the extremes within the faith.” In other words, as the saying goes, “Call it like it is.”
That’s not to suggest that all Muslims are terrorists, or that the terrorists represent all Muslims. Rather, the failure to call Islamic extremism by its name ignores the “theology of death” that is the natural outgrowth of jihadist groups like ISIS. “Islamic extremists have an agenda that is based in their theology. If we don’t understand that, we will always miscalculate and miss what’s going on.”
Additionally, there are some Muslims who support some radical ideology (a more conservative reading of Sharia Law), but they disavow terrorism. Moderate Muslims have been standing up, too, as was evidenced by the Muslims who refused to let Somali militants (suspected al-Shabaab) separate Christians from their numbers in a bus raid in Kenya, 22 December 2015. Their refusal to cooperate thwarted what could have been a far deadlier attack.
While Curry is hopeful that more will start to speak out, it does not release Christians in the West from responding. The Great Commission never got rescinded. Matthew 28:19 reads, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The refugee crisis is on everyone’s radar, and it means the nations are coming to us, Curry explains, adding, “One very practical thing you can do is try to love and reach out to Muslims in your community. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you need to be thinking in terms of what your influence and what your reach is.”
Acknowledging the fear of refugees arriving with the intent of jihad, he reminds us, “They need to know what a real Christian looks like: somebody who loves Jesus and wants to be a loving neighbor.” The best How-To manual for welcoming a stranger home is likely already in your grasp. “The Bible talks a lot about being a loving neighbor. The Bible talks a lot about caring for foreigners in your country, and so there’s a lot that the Gospel speaks to that goes beyond our political agenda, but is above and beyond and more timeless than that.”
In a war of words with so much at stake, a Christian saying “Welcome” might go a lot farther than saying nothing at all.