Ministry Report of rev. drs. Marten de Vries, Rotterdam.
In our ministry amongst Muslims, we are increasingly confronted with Muslims within Christian families. Children, brothers or sisters who turn away towards the Islam. Ministers and church councils are faced with members who give up their faith and do not want to be Christians anymore after having proclaimed the “shahâdah”.
There are Christians with an Islamic background, but also the opposite occurs. What happens most, is difficult to say: new Christians often hide themselves in fear of repercussions, whereas new Muslims often are exhibited as trophies. Yet, for both we feel a certain sense of responsibility.
In 2010, we started an initial activity. We have distinguished four target groups:
1) Families and elders having to deal with Muslims within a Christian family because of transition to Islam or a Muslim partner.
2) Christians (mostly women) who have a relationship with a Muslim.
3) Mixed couples.
4) Couples of whom one of the two has a Muslim background.
This is the order in which we ourselves are normally consulted.
The third category gives most tension. They cannot be conversion gatherings. Nor can they be psychotherapeutic sessions for men and women with wedding problems caused by different cultural and religious backgrounds: we are not trained to do so. There are also pitfalls: we do want to put Christians in touch with others where they can help each other, but we do not want Muslims to make it even more difficult for their other half when put together.
Nonetheless, we do assume it is in everyone’s interest to be able to get along with one another. Even with family or in-laws. And - within a European context - to make good agreements about the children and their upbringing. Therefore mutual understanding about the significance about the religion of one another’s and their families is needed. This understanding is often lacking.
We do indeed work from a Christian perspective. And as long as we are transparent about this, no one will bother us about that. Naturally, we are open willing to hear about experiences of others and are willing to share ours. It immediately became clear that this topic evokes a lot of emotion, requiring a lot of pastoral skills.