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Baptist Head Urges Prayers for Muslim Conversion

Baptist Head Urges Prayers for Muslim Conversion

Author: The Associated Press
Publication: The New York Times
Date: November 27, 2001

The head of the Southern Baptist Convention is asking its 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 G. Merritt, leader of the nation's second-largest Christian denomination, said in a statement yesterday.

The theologically conservative Southern Baptists, who have 16 million members in the United States, have provoked criticism by praying for the conversion of Jews and Hindus on the holy days of those religions.

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

Calling Christianity "the only true religion," Mr. Merritt said that "every other religion gives a false hope of having a relationship with God."

"That's not what I say," he added. "That's what Jesus says."

"It's a free country," a spokesman for the Council on Islamic-American Relations, Ibrahim Hooper, said. "If he wants to have Christians fast and pray, we're hardly in a position to tell people not to."

Mr. Hooper said Muslims had objected to Christian actions such as appearing at a mosque to lay hands on it or "going into refugee camps and troubled areas where people are poor and oppressed and using power relationships to push these kinds of beliefs."

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