By Joy Kuttappan, for Southern Asia-Pacific Division, and Adventist Review
Although only 0.2 percent of Thailand’s population are Muslims, Asia-Pacific International University (AIU), a university run by the Adventist Church in Muak Lek, Saraburi, Thailand, enrolls a large number of students from around Southeast Asia. In that broader region, 25 percent of the population belongs to the Muslim faith. Taking this into account, the school is planning to open a chapter of the church’s Global Center for Adventist Muslim Relations (AMR) to better understand Islamic ideas, culture, and customs.
The decision to start an AMR chapter was made after an “Understanding Islam” colloquium held over two days in November 2022 by the university’s Faculty of Religious Studies (FRS). The colloquium’s guest speakers included Abner Dizon, director for Muslim and Secular-Postmodern Ministries for the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD), and Petras Bahadur, director of the Global Center for Adventist-Muslim Relations from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
A number of initiatives in Adventist Mission have included the AMR. However, many Adventists might not understand the idea of Adventism’s mission to Muslims and its accompanying techniques. The FRS colloquium communique stated that understanding the concepts relating to the Adventist mission to Muslims and its techniques is necessary so that members might take personal initiatives to reach out to their Muslim neighbors.
“There was much material on Islam, and the significance of the mission to Muslims presented at the AMR Colloquium. Both speakers were authorities in their respective fields, and as followers of Jesus Christ, they encouraged us to be enthusiastic about carrying out God’s job,” Alfredo G. Agustin Jr., dean of the FRS, said. “They also pushed us to put what we had learned into practice by starting the AMR chapter and AIU Missionary Movement.”
The two-day conference attracted a number of university staff members and students. Some of the topics discussed in the colloquium included “Adventist Identity,” “Understanding Islam,” “Biblical Truths and Islamic Sources,” and “God’s Plan before the End of Time.”
“I see a new perspective in our approach to carrying out church ministry because reading the Scriptures through the eyes of Adventist Muslim Relations is so beautiful and profound,” Dizon said. “Why should someone hear the gospel twice when others have not even heard it once?”
Dizon added that the AMR colloquium challenges the church to actively pursue its mission to reach the unreached because it is enlightening. Mahaingam Varah, the senior pastor of the AIU church, concurred. “We have hundreds of ‘Samaritan ladies’ right here on our campus, and it is time to present who Jesus is to them.”
The presentations were educational and novel, several of the participants said. “A lot of innovative information and methodology were offered,” Franklin Hutabarat, an instructor at the FRS, said. “The speakers’ firsthand accounts of reaching out to Muslims were eye-opening. The fact that the Muslim people can be traced back to Abraham’s ancestry is one significant feature,” he said.
At the conclusion of the colloquium, presenters assisted AIU’s pastoral team and theology faculty in identifying several outreach needs and strategies, including the decision to establish a section on Buddhism and Islam in the university library, and to launch a separate Sabbath school, church service, and week of prayer specifically for non-Christian students.