Health conference held in France
Eight hundred French speaking Seventh-day Adventists in the medical professions in France, Belgium, and Switzerland feel they need understanding of Islam and special preparation in order to meet the new challenge arising from the ever-increasing number of Muslim patients seeking their help.
These Adventist health workers are working in Seventh-day Adventist institutions, government health agencies, and private clinics and practices in the three countries. They have formed the Association Medicale Adventiste de Language Francaise (AMALF), with Kohlia Stéveny, MD, from Belgium as president. They are an active branch of the Adventist International Medical Society (AIMS).
Muslim patients seeking help from nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, dentists, dieticians, and physicians often react—due to Islamic beliefs and lifestyles— negatively to some aspects of Western medical treatments and methods. These conflicts cause some anxiety on the part of medical practitioners.
The AMALF conference held at the French Government sports facilities in Tours, France, at the beginning of November 2007, had this issue as the main point on the agenda.
The theme for the meeting, attended by 55 medical practitioners, was “Health Professionals Facing Multicultural Patients.”
Many of the persons present were Loma Linda trained or experts who had taken courses at the University.
To deal with the issues, Borge Schantz, PhD, external professor at Loma Linda University and founding director of the General Conference Islamic Study Center, was invited as guest lecturer.
In his lectures, he dealt with Islam as a religion and how Islamic worldviews guide Muslims in their lifestyle and choices. It was pointed out that the determining factors in the complicated and sensitive area in dealings with Muslims, including medical care, are more due to religion than culture. Examples of confrontational problem areas were outlined and discussed.
Christian witnessing, a sensitive area in this contex, was an important subject at the congress. The traditional Adventist missionary approach in medical work, where medical skills are employed both to express Christian compassion and attract patients to the Gospel, should be the guide; however, it should definitely be applied in a different way.
It was emphasized that in government hospitals in the West, any form for witnessing is disallowed. It was also pointed out that spiritual blackmail in the superior-inferior relationships between medical practitioner and patient should be avoided.
A sincere friendship between health worker and former patient outside the clinic could possibly later give meaningful opportunities for witnessing.
A Salvation Army lady chaplain from a multi-religious hospital in Paris also lectured and narrated her interesting and demanding work.
Christian chaplaincy with people from traditional African religions especially had its challenges for her.
The dialogues at the convocation revealed that, in the extreme difficulties Christians face in witnessing to Muslims, health workers could prove to be important and accepted spokespersons.