Reflections on terrorist attacks
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Johnson Journal

A Christianīs Perspective on the Madrid Terrorist Attacks

Mark Johnson, March, 2004

Itīs been a struggle for me to come to grips with the reality of the March 11 terrorist attacks in Madrid. When I have been close to a terrible event like this one, I have tended to become anesthetized to the fear and terror of those directly affected, whether victims of rioting and mud slides in Venezuela, or of the terrorist attack here. God usually has to give me a shove to get me going His direction.

In our Lord's providence I was scheduled to attend a seminar the Tuesday following the bombings. The speaker was Don Curry who has spent most of his last 25 years training missionaries to reach Muslims with the gospel. He is now based in Granada, Spain, and has founded the Iberoamerican Institute of Transcultural Studies. Itīs goal is unite Christian agencies to reach Muslims and especially to train Latin Americans to go into places North Americans cannot.

The first part of Donīs presentation was actually related to the 9/11 attack in the United States. As it becomes clear that a faction of Al Qaida is responsible for the atrocity in Spain, his words take on an almost prophetic quality.

In the aftermath of 9/11, President Bush said that Islam is a religion of peace, that the extremists did not represent the average Muslim. The president was trying to avoid attacks of retribution on Muslims and the average Muslim is not violent, mostly because he is nominal. But Islam is not a religion of peace. Osama Bin Ladin was putting into practice 5 principles from the Koran when he planned the attacks in New York and Washington.

First, (1) the committed Muslim believes Islam is the last and greatest religion. He thinks it must correct the errors of Judaism and Christianity. In fact, he believes Islam is destined to rule the world. The writings of Hitler and Lenin were ignored until world events made people sit up and take notice. The Koran is much more incendiary than either of these. (2) The Koran teaches vengeance. Muslims keep score. They remember that Spain was Islamic in the Middle Ages. Also, the 3/11 attacks were exactly 911 days after the 9/11 attacks. (3) Any method may be used. There is no problem stealing an airplane full of innocent people, or bombing a train full of innocent people. As the accused mastermind of the Madrid bombings said afterward, "The only thing that interests me is god." One might well ask, what god? (4) A good Muslim sews terror in the heart of his enemy. Just as in the United States following 9/11, people in Spain are distraught, afraid to go out. Children of missionary friends here who took the train daily to school are now afraid to go on the train. (5) A Muslim is enticed by the afterlife, including unlimited sex. Death is not to be feared, especially if one is a martyr.

Martyrdom is great, but suicide is an unforgivable sin to the Muslim. So what were the airplane attacks on 9/11, suicide or martyrdom? Al Qaida, of course, believes they were martyrdom. It's interesting that the bombers did not stick around for the train explosions on March 11.

Once a piece of land belongs to Islam it always belongs to Islam. When he was in Pakistan. Don Curry remembers hearing Muslims talk about the day they would take back Spain. They don't forget, they think that God wants them to remember.

In The Crisis of Islam Bernard Lewis develops the thesis that the Muslim's idea of what Islam should be is far from current reality. "Compiled at a time when Islam was very much in the ascendant politically and militarily, the Shariah (Islamic Law) makes the assumption that political power lies in the hands of the conquering Muslims." Christians and Jews are to be treated as second class citizens. (pp. 19,20; Sookhdeo) As the radical, committed Muslim reads and understands the Koran, he is forced to accept the concept of Holy War to right the many perceived wrongs in the world. In fact, Holy War has become a pilar of their faith for many Muslims. This has caused many nominal Muslims to seek Jesus Christ. It's harvest time.

Muslims believe that Christians believe in 3 gods, father, virgin and son, and that Jesus is the illegitimate son of the father and the virgin. Jesus has a prominent place in the Koran. He is referred to as "Son of Mary" or "Jesus, son of Mary", and four times as "the Messiah, son of Mary". His deity and atoning death are obviously strenuously denied. (pp. 21,22; Sookhdeo)

Some Christians cite passages from the Koran where Mohammed speaks positively about Jesus Christ and Christians. This relates to the time early in the development of his religion. It must be understood that Mohammed was seeking to become accepted by the Jews in particular as a prophet of God. When it became clear that he was rejected, he turned against Judaism and Christianity. For example, early in his writings he tells his followers that it is good to take a Christian or a Jew as a friend. Later he writes to never take a Christian or a Jew as a friend.

In fact there are many contradictions in the Koran. They are addressed by the "rule of abrogation" which says that the later verse is the one which should be followed. For example, one verse in the Koran seems to advocate freedom of religion; "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (Q 2:256) A rather stiff contradiction is "fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them" (Q 9:29) Because 9 is later than 2, it is the verse that is to be followed.

How should the Christian react to the Muslim terrorist? Don Curry cites several Bible verses that should be our focus:

God our Savior ...wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4).

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9).


And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (Mt 24:14).

Thank you for reading my ramblings as I work through the implications of this most recent terrorist attack for me and, I believe, for Christianity and the world.

Lord, make me an instrument of peace to my new Spanish friends. Help me to respond as You would have me respond to the tragedy. As You so often do, turn this evil into good by opening hearts to Your gospel. Amen.


Patrick Sookhdeo, A Christians Pocket Guide to Islam, Christian Focus Publications and Isaac Publishing, Berkshire, Great Britain, 1997.

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