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How do we approach people who we love that are a part of a cult or a violent, destructive religion?

Like for example, if the person was Muslim, would you give the references such as intolerant verses like Sura ix.39:"If you do not fight, He will punish you severely, and put others in your place." to show how their religion contrary to what people may say is not a peaceful religion? Or is that really quite forward?
Requested by Tonyk and Answered by Fr. Antonios Kaldas on 07-Feb-2006 02:28 (3362 reads)
If we are talking about someone close like a relative or a good friend, you probably have some freedom to speak openly with them.

First, it is important to reassure them that you love them, whatever happens (God loves all of us, even those who reject Him).

Secondly, it is important to understand WHY exactly that person has got caught up in the cult / religion. Your approach will be different depending on the background of the situation. I will give a few examples:

1. A young Christian girl falls in love with a Muslim guy and wants to convert inorder to marry him.

Here the problem is not really theology or doctrine - it is a relationship. Possibly the Muslim fellow makes the girl feel special, loved, attractive. It is therefore hard for her to give up this relationship. To address it, you might need to get her true Christian friends together to remind her how special she is to them.

It may also be useful to point out the role of women in Islam, particularly the Suras that speak of husbands being ordered to beat their wives if they do not obey them, the Muslim divorce laws which are very easy for men, but hard for women, the fact that the evidence of one man is considered the equal of that of two women etc. (there's heaps more). it may also be a good idea to expose her to similar situations in the past that have ended in disaster (eg. the book, "Not Without My Daughter")

2. A Christian feels unwelcome at his his own Church and is befriended by a Jehovah's Witness at work. Gradually, he begins attending their meetings and now wants to convert.

Here again, the underlying cause is probably not doctrine or beliefs, but the fact that he feels welcome and valuable because someone is spending so much time to get him to join their cult. The remedy for this is to make him feel needed at his original Church. Perhaps Abouna could find a service for him to do, according to his talents. Perhaps you can take him with you to Youth Group and get him involved in the spiritual and social activities etc.

Of course, there can be many other reasons, so it is really important first to get to understand exactly what is going on that makes this person interested in another religion / cult. This means listening carefully and giving them a chance to open their hearts in a non-threatening environment.

At some stage, the question of which belief is the true one is likely to come up, and it is good to be prepared for this. That means studying your faith carefully and understanding why we believe what we believe and knowing the sources (especially in the Bible) for our beliefs. Books such as "Comparative Theology" or "The Heresy of Jehovah's Witnesses" by HH Pope Shenouda III can be very helpful here. Our Theological College offers Evening Courses that include Comparative Theology (other Christian churches) and Comparative Religions (other faiths like Islam and Hinduism). Finally, there is the resource of your local parish priest or senior servant who may be able to answer your questions, direct you to good resources, or even go with you to speak to the person in jeopardy.

In the end, I think it is better to be honest and up front with the person, but always politely and respectfully. Beware not to say nasty emotive things about other faiths - just point out the bare facts, which are usually more than enough to show up the faults. And pray for them constantly, that God may speak in their hearts to find the Truth of Christ once more.

They may actually come out of the experience a much stronger Christian than they were before...