Tuesday, November 27, 2001


The head of the Southern Baptist Convention is asking members to “pray and fast that God will miraculously reveal himself through Jesus Christ to Muslims” at the end of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month.

“Just as they can pray and fast, we want to pray and fast that they will find the true way to heaven, and this is through Jesus Christ,” the Rev. James Merritt, leader of the nation’s second-largest Christian denomination, said in a statement yesterday.

Mr. Merritt said Baptists should pray for Muslim conversions on Dec. 16, at the end of Ramadan. The holy month commemorates God’s revealing the Koran to Muhammad. Throughout the month, Muslims fast and say special prayers from dawn to dusk.

Calling Christianity “the only true religion,” Mr. Merritt said “every other religion gives a false hope of having a relationship with God. That’s not what I say; that’s what Jesus says.”

A Muslim spokesman was unfazed by the Baptist statement.

“It’s a free country,” said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of the Council on Islamic-American Relations. “If he wants to have Christians fast and pray, we’re hardly in a position to tell people not to.”

The Southern Baptists, who have 16 million members in the United States, were attacked in 1999 for praying for the conversion of Jews and Hindus on the holy days of those religions.

Before those controversies, the Southern Baptists’ mission board had published a similar booklet urging Christians to pray for Muslims during Ramadan, but it provoked no public furor.

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