This morning I was shocked to read on the front of the local paper about an arson attack on the City Central Mosque in Hanley, Stoke on Trent. Now, I am a Confessional Reformed minister. I had a long talk on Wednesday with a local Muslim who was determined to convert me to Islam, and I am quite convinced forst of all that he was wrong, and secondly that Islam is a false religion, and Muhammed a false prophet. I am not a liberal or an inclusivist. But of course, I unequivocally condemn this act of vandalism, and I am very glad that the mosque was not badly damaged. Paul says in Romans 12:21, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." That is to say, when Christians are attacked and persecuted, we are not to take up arms against our persecutors, but to do good to them, to pray for those who persecute us, and do good to those who do us harm. This is a command to us. What Muslims need is the Gospel, not to be forced out of our cities. Of course, I have no delusions that the youths responsible for this outrage thought they were doing it in the name of Christianity. No, they were of the same ilk as those who have vandalised and violated the little Presbyterian Chapel at Saltney Ferry, near Chester, and those who scrawled graffiti on our chapel wall. They were yobs, nothing more.
But they point us to an important fact, that violence is never finally the answer. "All who take up the sword will die by the sword," Jesus said. This is true, violence begets violence. War, I would add, as the ultimate expression of violence, is always an evil. It is just that sometimes it is the lesser of two evils, as it was with Hitler in 1939. As Christians, we are forbidden to fight. As citizens of earthly kingdoms we may, but always remembering that war can never bring in the kingdom of God.
I unequivocally condemn the attack on the City Central Mosque. All Christians should join with me in doing so as well.