Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cross-Currents: The Story of the Muslim and Christian Encounter in the Philippines

Finally, after about a month of blog silence, things have slowed down long enough for me to go through another book, and I especially enjoyed this one.

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My friends and I were at the SMX Convention Center for the annual book fair, and as we approached OMF's stall (if you can call something that big a stall), a sign hanging over the central area caught our attention. I think it said something like "Books at P100," and who can resist bargains like that? So I walked over, went over the selection and left OMF with a bag full of great books, one of which was Jonathan Fuller's Cross-Currents.

The full title of the book is actually Cross-Currents: The Story of the Muslim and Christian Encounter in the Philippines. As the title suggests, it's a history book, but unlike anything I've seen in Christian bookstores (not that there are a lot of history books in Christian bookstores, mind you). In it, missionary Jonathan Fuller examines the complexities of Christian-Muslim relations in the Philippines through the lens of history. By weaving together missionary stories with histories of Islam, he helps readers understand the nature of Islam in the Philippines, how attitudes of mutual fear and distrust were developed between Christian and Muslim Filipinos, and what Christians can do in order to witness to Muslims with love and sensitivity.

Cross Currents is a good read, and even if you don't particularly enjoy history I encourage you to take the time to digest the very important contents of this book. It was eye-opening for me, I think it will be for you, too.

Something To Keep In Mind

As much as I appreciated Fuller's work, I think there is one very serious flaw in his book: he talks a lot about the gospel, but never really defines what the gospel is, even in passing. At one point, he asserts that the Jesuits brought the gospel of Christ to the Muslims. Really? The Jesuits? That's a big question mark for me. I realized that I couldn't simply assume that he and I shared the same idea of what it means to know Christ.

Since I assume that Cross Currents is supposed to be a complete package, I think Fuller's oversight (or intentional vagueness) undermines his credibility as a spiritual guide. Of course, the reader can still benefit greatly from the (his)stories and insights contained in the book, but a little extra discernment is necessary.

Chapter-By-Chapter Summary

1 "Introduction" - Presents the Christian-Muslim conflict and explains why Filipino Christians need to understand the story of Islam in the Philippines.

2 "The Power of Story" - Story is a powerful tool by which we define ourselves and relate with others. While human experience is full of stories, there is "The Story" behind each and every one, namely, God's plan for humankind.

3 "The Beginning of the Story" - Provides a geographical, cultural and religious context that is essential to understanding Filipino Muslims.

4 "From Mecca to the Moluccas" - Begins with Islam's rapid expansion in the seventh century AD, its spread to and subsequent adaptation in India, and finally the establishment of Islamic kingdoms in Southeast Asia.

5 "Merchants, Migrants, and Missionaries" - Examines three ways by which Islam spread in Southeast Asia and into the Philippines. Accounts are included of important figures such as Abu Bakr of the Sultanate of Sulu and Sharif Kabungsuwan in Mindanao.

6 "For God and King" - Recounts the arrival of the Spanish in the Philippines and their attitudes toward the "Moros." Particular attention was afforded to Miguel Lopez de Legazpi.

7 "The Moro Wars" - Explains how conflict developed between the Muslims on the one hand, and the Spanish colonialists and Christianized Filipinos, on the other. Fuller also talks about Catholic missionary efforts to convert the Moros.

8 "America, Reluctant Civilizer" - Looks at the American colonial project in the Philippines, and how it led to deeper divisions between Christian and Muslim Filipinos. Fuller also discusses the attitudes of American missionaries towards Moros, presenting the missionary Frank Laubach as an example for Filipino Christians to emulate.

9 "One Nation, Two Peoples" - Shows how oppression, political and economic circumstances after the Second World War led to the formation of a Bangsamoro identity in Mindanao and Sulu, and the rise of separatist militants like the MNLF and MILF. Fuller also looks at how mutual distrust and disrespect between Christian and Muslim Filipinos have created significant challenges for Christian ministry to the Muslims.

10 "Followers of Christ" - Fuller's concluding chapter talks about how Christians ought to respond to the challenges presented to them by Christian-Muslim animosity.

Related Posts:
  1. Chapters in Philippine Church History
  2. Three Cups of Tea

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