Wagdi Iskander’s life is one marked by God’s trans- formative power. Born in the north of Sudan, he grew up a radical Muslim
until he accidentally broke one of the
Islamic laws and was cut off from his
community. Disillusioned, prideful and
angry with Allah, yet desperately wanting
to be forgiven, he walked away from the
mosque. Then he met Kamal, a Christian
he had persecuted years before for sharing
the gospel with him, and who for some
reason had now come back to find him.
Though Iskander thought Kamal
would never understand, he decided to
be honest about his need for forgiveness.
Realizing Iskander had changed, Kamal
told him the Good News of Christ again.
And this time he was ready to listen.
Iskander is now a follower of Jesus.
After facing persecution in Sudan, he
escaped to Calgary where he became a
church planter and pastor. On the phone,
he speaks with the controlled enthusiasm
of those who have been in tough ministry
roles for a long time. God has called him
to train people just like himself – Mus-
lim-Background Believers or MBBs – to
spread the gospel, particularly among
Muslims in Canada.
MBBs and Muslims investigating Christ
face major challenges integrating into the
Canadian Church. Now is a good time for
Canadian Christians to reflect on our attitudes and places of worship – are they
welcoming to one of the fastest growing religious populations in the country? More
often than not, the answer is no.
The Fear of Leaving
Possibly the biggest deterrent to Muslims
coming to faith in Jesus is the fear of what
they might lose. “Many MBBs get kicked
out of their homes, and lose jobs, friends,
family, everything” says Iskander.
Adding to that is the fear of physical
persecution when a Muslim leaves his or
her faith. As one MBB puts it the thought
process is often, “I’m saved now, but to be
safe here in Canada or back home, no one
can know about my faith.”
That fear not only hinders them from taking the gospel back to their Muslim communities, but also causes deep mistrust
even within national diaspora churches in
Canada. Iskander has seen many of these
churches – of Iranians, Afghans or Nigerians
– sharing the same language, culture, food
and faith in Christ. It’s beautiful. And yet, he
says, they never fully trust each other. What
if someone leaves the church and informs
the relatives back home? Many immigrant
MBBs prefer English-speaking churches
where they will not be recognized.
A Fearful Welcome
Where the Canadian Church should be
a welcoming refuge for MBBs, instead
it’s hampered by its own fears. A much-discussed opinion poll by Angus Reid last
year showed that the fear of Islam has
grown significantly in Canada in recent
years – including in Christian circles. Missionaries and MBBs in five cities across
Canadian Christians with an Islamic
background have unique struggles.
Churches can help. By Tarun George