The Only Way

November 19, 2014 — Leave a comment

by Neal Foster

“To tell you the truth, I’ve done the normal, ‘nice’ interfaith stuff, and now I want something different,” my Muslim friend said as he looked down at his coffee. “I want to start a group that takes seriously working for peace, compassion, and justice – we need to stand up for each other and really work for the good of our neighbor. I think you would agree – are you interested?”

My immediate reaction was, “Yes!” He and I continued discussing and dreaming about it, but later I reflected  more. Would it really work for a devout Christian and a devout Muslim to work together like this? Let’s cut to the chase: our respective religions are different yet claim to have an exclusive revelation from God; how can we honestly collaborate to promote a certain way of life (peacemaking, taking a stand for justice, loving our neighbor, and so on)?

As a Christian, I have to ask the question this way: is it possible to do interfaith work in a Jesus-centered way? Or do the exclusive truth claims of Jesus preclude partnering with non-Christians?

Jesus’s default attitude was love; in Mark 9, when his disciples got worried about someone “not with us” who was doing similar works, Jesus told them to relax because “he who is not against us is for us.”

So how does all this connect to Peace Catalyst’s vision to ignite a global movement of Jesus-centered peacemaking communities? My Muslim friend and I think we can be part of a peacemaking community that, inasmuch as we accept people of all backgrounds and labels who want to honor God and love their neighbor, is Jesus-centered. Following the two greatest commands of Jesus sounds like a great start to centering on Jesus. What happens next? Well, let’s see–for a group to be healthy and stand up for peace, compassion, and justice, we might need to do something like have regular meetings, where we:

  • Hear each other’s struggles
  • Encourage each other in our values of honoring God and loving others
  • Teach about those same values
  • Acknowledge our need for God’s help together
  • Plan activities that benefit our greater community, reach out to outsiders, and make a public witness for peace

This sounds like something Jesus would be in on. It sounds like a start toward what he did with his disciples. It sounds like starting to make disciples of all nations.

(My wife just walked in and looked over my shoulder. “No one’s planning to say anything about Jesus at those hypothetical meetings?” I said, “Honey, if I’m there, Jesus will be talked about. I can’t NOT talk about Jesus.” “Okay, sounds good,” she said as she gave me a thumbs-up.)

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I believe John 14:6 is a two-way street; not only does it say something about the exclusive nature of Jesus, but it shows us how to encourage all people to encounter the living God who loves us all more than we can imagine. I believe that whoever begins to value any little bit of the way Jesus taught, the truth he shared, or the life he exemplified, is on a collision course with the peaceful kingdom of the God who makes all things new. Yes, it is possible for a Christian and a Muslim to start a group composed of serious believers – of any faith – who want to love God and love others. It is even possible to believe that God will use such a group to draw people to himself, expand the influence of his kingdom, and increase faith in the ways, words, works, and worth of Jesus.

by Rick Love

davidshenkLink: emm.org/peacemakers

Recommended Reading: A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue, with Badru Kateregga

When God turned my life toward peacemaking, I had a difficult time finding a mature evangelical leader who was both an authentic peacemaker and a faithful witness to Jesus. But I finally found one in David Shenk.

Dr. David W. Shenk was born and raised in Tanzania. After working in education in Somalia for ten years and lecturing in comparative religion and church history at Kenyatta University in Kenya for six years, he is now a global consultant for Eastern Mennonites, specializing in Christian-Muslim relations.

I met David years ago and have enjoyed reading his books and articles, but in the last few years I have had the privilege of watching him up-close-and-personal with Muslims. He models an integrated commitment to the good news of peace and Jesus’s teaching about the way of peace. His commitment to peacemaking in the way of Jesus and his winsome, joyful manner has gained David access to over 100 countries. He loves people, models peace, and is a bold and respectful witness.

Most of you will not have the opportunity to watch David in action. But you can learn something about the peaceable ways of Jesus by reading his books:

A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue with Badru Kateregga

Journeys of the Muslim Nation and the Christian Church: Exploring the Mission of Two Communities

Teatime in Mogadishu, My Journey as a Peace Ambassador in the World of Islam, as told to David W. Shenk by Ahmed Ali Haile

Christian. Muslim. Friend. Twelve Paths to Real Relationship.

 

PCI’s Martin Brooks has been making a series of short video interviews with his friend Imam Wasif. They discuss a wide range of issues concerning Christian-Muslim relations, and today they talk about the treatment of non-Muslims in Muslim-majority countries.

Find more from Martin on his blog.

Treatment of Non-Muslims from Human Kind on Vimeo.

by Rick Love

This is part four in a series on freedom of religion. Click here for part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Release Asia Bibi images

The self-proclaimed “Islamic State” of Iraq (ISIS) warns the Christians of Mosul: convert, pay tax, leave, or die.

A Sudanese judge orders Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag to be hanged for apostasy and given 100 lashes for adultery.

A Pakistani court sentences Asia Bibi to death by hanging for blasphemy against Islam.

Headlines like these infuriate us and break our hearts. But stories like these are merely the tip of the religious freedom iceberg.

Most Americans understand that religious freedom is inextricably tied to our country’s founding and development. Most Americans believe that everyone should have the right to follow his or her conscience without fear. But too few Americans show concern for the plight of other people persecuted for their faith around the world.

Christians should see things differently. Why? Because lack of religious freedom is an attack on God’s image-bearers.

Every person in our global community is created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-28), and inherent in humanity is freedom to choose. To coerce an image-bearer against his or her will is an affront to a person’s humanity. So since all people are created in God’s image, religious freedom must apply universally.

Dr. David Gushee makes this point in his brilliant book, The Sacredness of Human Life: Why an Ancient Biblical Vision is Key to the World’s Future:

“Human life is sacred…. Through God’s revelation in Scripture and incarnation in Jesus Christ, God has declared and demonstrated the sacred worth of human beings and will hold us accountable for responding appropriately…. It includes offering due respect and care to each human being that we encounter. It extends to an obligation to protect human life from wanton destruction, desecration, or the violation of human rights. A full embrace of the sacredness of human life leads to a full-hearted commitment to foster human flourishing” (page 33).

So how is respect for the sacredness of humanity playing out in the world?

Not so good. Burmese Buddhists brutally persecute Muslims. Iranian Muslims violently persecute the Baha’i. Open Doors claims that “100 million Christians in over 60 countries are persecuted for their faith.”

In the annual report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), 16 countries were singled out as countries of particular concern because of their systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom:

  • Burma
  • China
  • Eritrea
  • Iran
  • North Korea
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Sudan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Egypt
  • Iraq
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Syria
  • Tajikistan
  • Turkmenistan
  • Vietnam

But the good news is that we can make a difference. Through much prayer and advocacy, the charges against Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag (noted at the beginning of the blog) have been dropped and she was released (see here and here).

So let’s pray for the release of Asia Bibi! I have contacted my Pakistani Muslim friends about Asia Bibi, urging them to intervene on her behalf. Here’s a petition you can sign asking for her release.

Freedom of Religion images

Most of those persecuted for their faith, however, are not high profile cases like Meriam or Asia. Unknown billions around the world are trapped and oppressed. This is the humanitarian crisis you never hear about.

 

(Stay tuned as I continue this series on religious freedom.)

 

There are many kinds of peacemaking out there and many ways to do it. We at Peace Catalyst identify ourselves specifically as Jesus-centered peacemakers, and in this video our President Rick Love talks about what that means and what distinctives characterize us as people who do peacemaking in the way of Jesus.

For more Peace Catalyst videos, visit our YouTube channel.