written by Tony Thompson of Hope Church.
Over recently years I have been able to build strong and mutually beneficial friendship with influential Muslims in the town. I have heard the pain and fear that accompanies every terrorist atrocity, knowing there will be a backlash. I have listened to frustration that their public condemnation of each is ignored. I have listened to concerns for their children, that they will be radicalised or racially abused. I have heard stories about how their Muslim faith was more fully embraced following encounters with the emptiness of secularism. I have cried, laughed and worked together with tremendous people.
Yet despite living in Luton for 17 years this has only happened in the last 2 years, previously I had no real contact with my Muslim neighbours. I want to use my experience to help others build friendship bridges with their Muslim neighbours.
Luton is one of the few towns in the UK where white British population is in the minority.A quarter of the population in the 2011 Census said they were Muslims. This had grown significantly over the 10 years from 2001, and all the indicators would suggest that the percentage of Muslims has continued to increase. Luton is a vibrant and diverse community, giving churches a unique mission opportunity.
We had a mission field on our doorstep, but we were ignoring it, and we are not alone.
Others in the church have started to build close friendships with Muslims. Barriers are being broken down. There are growing numbers of joint Muslim / Christian activities.
This experience has convinced me that the church in the UK needs to be encouraged and equipped to engage with all the communities that are now on our doorsteps, including Muslim communities. We are therefore excited to be part of a programme where people from a Muslim background and others living in Muslim majority contexts can train and mentor us so that we can build genuine relationships with Muslims and to contextualise the message of Jesus.
There will be 10 Saturday sessions between October 2018 and July 2019 taking place mostly in Luton and occasionally in Birmingham. This training is being made available across the UK.