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An Individual Act of Conscience or a Global Phenomenon? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 24 March 2008 11:38
Since a number of other bloggers have linked to my original post on the whole Allam baptism discussion, I didn't want the essential discussion between Abu Daoud and I to get lost in the comment boxes so I'm moving part of here up here..

Because I have reservations about the wisdom of broadcasting Allams' baptism around the world, people have lept to the conclusion that I'm opposed to his baptism itself.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As I wrote to Abu Daoud:

As I have said already several times: I welcome Allam’s baptism. Really. Truly. As an individual, he should absolutely be welcomed with open arms and he and his family supported generously.

But that could have been done lovingly and well a thousand different ways – none of which required that his face and story blanket the globe within hours of his reception. Being baptized did not require that he become the poster-boy for Muslims considering Christianity and there were a number of obvious reasons why he isn’t a great candidate for poster boydom and may actually be counter-productive.

Apart from the geo-religious-political implications, all this publicity could actually hamper his spiritual growth and that of his family. Being a trophy convert is often not a good thing for one’s actual process of conversion.

Here’s the deal. No one, obscure or famous, gets baptized by the Pope during the Easter Vigil accidentally. And I didn’t notice Vatican spokesman offering comments and clarifications about the other 6 adults baptized in the same liturgy. Someone (and I don’t know who it was) decided to use a globally streamed event watched by hundreds of millions to transform an individual act of conscience into a global phenomenon. It is the wisdom of that decision alone that I question.

By now, we all know the power of the wall-to-wall 24/7 media for good and for bad. I was simply pointing out that there were all kinds of “unintended effects” when you do something like this. They were not intended but many were clearly foreseeable - like the fact that jihadists will use this image to spin their myth of the great “crusade” and that can cause a ton of additional grief for various Christian communities in the Muslim world.

And what is the great good to be achieved that out-weighs these very real possibilities for real people? I don't think that question was thought through carefully enough before hand.

For instance, a law was passed on March 1 in Algeria that few westerners paid any attention to. From the website:
In Defence of Beleivers of a Faith other than Islam in Algeria

This law stipulates:

". . .the punishment is imprisonment from two (2) years to five (5) years and a fine from 500.000 DA to 1.000.000 DA for whomever:

“ incites, constrains or utilizes means of seduction tending to convert a Muslim to another religion, or by using to this end establishments for teaching, for education, for health, of a social or cultural nature, or training institutions, or any other establishment, or any financial means,

“ makes, stores, or distributes printed documents or audiovisual productions or by any other aid or means, which has as its goal to shake the faith of a Muslim."

This new law is part of a specific campaign by the government to head off the spread of the first small group of native Algerian Christians. Muslim governments are often (like ours) driven to appease public opinion. An easy and very popular way to do that is to get tougher on religious dissidents like Christians. And TV/internet/You tube images enflame public opinion with lightening speed.

Now the die is cast. Zenit has come out with an interview with Allam about his conversion. For good and ill, Mallam, who has been a Christian for less than 48 hours has already become the public face of MBB's (Muslim Background Believers) for the global media and apparently for the Catholic media as well.

That alone should give us pause.

I have blogged a number of times about the reality of MBB's here at ID: Here , here, here and especially here: Muslims Who Become Christian and the Price They Pay.

Read them to get more familiar with the realities facing MBB's who aren't famous and don't live in Italy. Many thousands of them. They and their families are just as important in the purposes of God as Allam and his family. When making these decisions, we can no longer simply let the urgency of western debates dictate what we do. Catholicism is truly global. We have to hold together the suffering of those persecuted now and the need to work toward true religious freedom in the future.

Since we aren't actively persecuted, it is easy for us to call for a full frontal assault ( Charge!) and "religious freedom now!" and to talk blithely about the blood of the martyrs being the seed of the Church. Cause the chances of it being our blood or that of our children is very, very small. But as I have said before, "charge!" and spineless cowardice are not the only two options available to us.

Meanwhile, someone really sharp, spiritually and theological mature, and prayerful needs to stay close to Allam and guide him through this tumultuous transition. It's hard enough to become a Catholic at age 56 from a non-Christian background. Doing it in the middle of a media and geo-political circus (Imagine if Princess Diana had become Catholic as was rumored before her death!) is full of potential pitfalls.

Allam and his family need our prayers. As do the many unheralded present and future MBB's around the world who are making their journey under often crushing circumstances.

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