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The Tenth Parallel-Dispatches from the Fault Line between Christianity and Islam

By Grieves, Brian | Anglican and Episcopal History, June 2011 | Go to article overview

The Tenth Parallel-Dispatches from the Fault Line between Christianity and Islam


Grieves, Brian, Anglican and Episcopal History


The Tenth Parallel-Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam. By Eliza Griswold. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010, Pp. 317. $27.)

This extraordinary telling by Eliza Griswold of the struggles between Christianity and Islam along the tenth parallel in Africa and Southeast Asia combines historical research with the author's own personal encounters with both Islamic and Christian voices. The book straddles the tenth parallel across Nigeria, Sudan, and Somalia in Africa, and Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines in Southeast Asia. Griswold amply demonstrates how religion is used as the rationale for ongoing battles for natural resources, especially land, oil, and water. It also provides Episcopalians and worldwide Anglicans with a context for the seething rancor within the Anglican Communion today.

The primary antagonists are militant Muslims (Muslim Brotherhood, Al Shabab,Jemaah Islamiyah, Abu Sayyaf, to name four) and mostly evangelical or Pentecostal Christians. Griswold notes that Pentecostalism and Islam are each growing faster worldwide than the global population. We are reminded that evangelicalism from North America, Great Britain, and Europe is historically the driving force of Christian work in Africa. The World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, organized by Protestants in 1910, partly argued that "the most pressing challenge to their faith - and to the world's future . . . was Islam," (29) shifting evangelicalism from a social justice movement to a challenge in Africa. Griswold traces back centuries of migrations of peoples from both religions.

There are Anglican references. Griswold meets Peter Akinola, now retired Anglican primate of Nigeria. His anti-Muslim bias is startling. Because of the strong competition between Islam and Christianity in Nigeria (each with 45-50 million members in a country of 140 million), world events impact those relations, such as the 2001 U.S. led invasion of Afghanistan. Akinola and other Christian leaders conclude that Christians in the West have turned against the true faith. Anglican bishop Benjamin Kwashi notes because of Christian growth in Nigeria, "God has moved his work to Africa" (55). He sees global conflict lived out locally.

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