General Secretary A. Roy Medley and other American Baptist representatives are currently overseas, participating in the Baptist World Alliance Annual Gathering in Izmir, Turkey, from July 5-12, 2014.
The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) is a fellowship of 228 conventions and unions in 121 countries and territories comprising 42 million members in 177,000 churches. American Baptist Churches USA is a member organization of the BWA.
This evening, several of us met with the Baptist and Muslim leaders of Izmir. In many ways it was an important moment for the churches as a tiny minority in Turkey that their Muslim neighbors would hear through us that the world Baptist community is committed to our living in peace with one another.
I learn much from the churches who live as minority communities. I confess that my anger often rises when I learn of instances of persecution against Christians. But I need to learn from a brother pastor in Egypt. He was speaking of over 60 churches being burned in the turmoil that had swept over Egypt. When asked, “How do you respond?” He replied, “When a blind person bumps into you, do you push back, or lash out?” I have much to learn about compassion and forgiveness.
As we sat together tonight our conversations occurred in small groups and I wound up talking with the 19 year old son of the chief Muslim leader of Izmir. My Turkish is nonexistent and his English was limited but growing. But we discovered the third language of tablets. Using our tablets we would pass from one website to another. I took him to the BWA homepage and he clicked on the video and was entranced by the worship section. We looked at websites showing where he lived and where our national offices are in Valley Forge. We googled “Baptists” and then he wanted to google my name.
As a young university student, he was very interested in the US and was surprised to learn of our work in dialogue with Muslims in the US.
Afterwards, the Baptist pastors expressed their heartfelt thanks for the impact the evening had on their Muslim counterparts.
Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA