A few words from a novice
by Rebecca Brown

 

Rebecca Brown webI arrived at the Mosque that afternoon with an outline for the day’s event, a Muslim friend to co-facilitate with me, and a trust in God to do good things.

I left the Mosque with a heavy conscience, shaky hands, and no small amount of confusion.

So much for a first “real” peacebuilding event.

It all started when, few months ago, a fellow peacemaker and I talked about an event we could do together. I had attended one of her Sisterhood meetings and experienced nothing but warmth from the Muslim women there. Then recently, her Mosque graciously welcomed me to co-facilitate a discussion on the topic of “Strengthening one another: how to care for sisters of other faiths.” There were about 20 women who participated in the conversation—only 4 of them Christians. We framed most of our questions around the concept of befriending, a harmless-enough subject. I expected some tension around the concept of evangelism but mostly anticipated genteel conversation and maybe a few relational connections.

However, it did not go how I planned. It went worse.

There was one Muslim woman who disagreed with the entire premise of the conversation. She vehemently began, “This seems weird to me. Muslims cannot be friends with non-Muslims,” and proceeded to strongly condemn most of my efforts to shift the conversation in a positive direction. Her voice rose. My heart sank.

When she began to criticize, I felt adrenaline rush through my body. My face got hot, my breathing rushed. This is going terribly wrong, and I can’t recover. But Jesus calmed me and reminded me to listen. As the conversation developed, other Muslim voices in the group discussed the benefits of certain types of relationships with non-Muslims—but not friendship.

We made it through the obvious tension, acknowledging it—even referencing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s thoughts on it: “I am not afraid of the word tension… there is a type of constructive tension that is necessary for growth.” But the event felt like a failure. Essentially we had been told very publicly we were not going to find friends in that community. The conclusion was basically that anyone who befriended us was being unfaithful to Islam.

It was a rough first try at more intensive peacemaking. The incessant voice of the “I should have” pierced my thoughts for days. You know that voice? It’s an ugly, “I should have” voice of regret and shame that can dominate the mind with a force more deadening than hail on tender shoots.

If it had not been for my co-peacebuilders, that horrible voice would have killed the tiny bud of peace emerging from the soil of our shared community. My fellow workers in reconciliation encouraged me, “You don’t need to be discouraged. This is life in the arena as we attempt to find our voice.”

So I decided to keep listening. About a week after the meeting, I debriefed with the Muslim friend who had invited me in. She helped me understand more about the resistance that had been present in the conversation: among other things, some of the Muslim sisters thought we were there to evangelize them… and that was offensive. I made the assumption that this was because a Christian guest had, in fact, evangelized fairly openly. In the spirit of not letting tension cause complete division, I wrote a letter of apology to the Board of Directors at the Mosque, taking responsibility for inadvertently undermining their trust.

I heard back from the Board Chair promptly. His response was gracious, kind, and clarifying. My assumption about the blatant evangelism was wrong. That wasn’t the root of the problem.

It turns out that—for this particular Muslim community—to have any Christian teachings of Jesus referenced within their house of worship is unacceptable. Even though I had pure peacemaking motives, my understanding of Jesus is incompatible with their sacred space. After hearing back from him, I get it—there are plenty of Christians who would be very cantankerous over Muslims teaching about the prophet Mohammed in a sanctuary. This group of Muslims is comfortable with the idea of working together to benefit our common community—but that “working together” has boundaries.

I now see that the confrontational Muslim sister was, in some ways, acting like Jesus… though she was much less dramatic than he! When Jesus arrived at the temple in Jerusalem, he was righteously offended by the state of the temple—there were people putting up barriers to right worship in the house of God. He became so confrontational that he flipped tables. I would say that was one peacemaking event that didn’t “go over well.” The frustrated woman at the Mosque was powerful and honest. She didn’t want inappropriate behavior to happen in her community. She faithfully did her best to stop it.

Over the past few weeks, I have tried to listen. I have not tried too hard to silence the “I should have” voice, because there were things I should have done. But I have been striving to hear more clearly the voice of Jesus, growing me through the tension.

To my fellow peacebuilding novices, never let the “I should have” thoughts or an event gone wrong stop you. You are made for this time and this place. Remain in Jesus. He is faithful to finish the good work He started.

 

by Thomas Davis

Last month, I had the great privilege of traveling to to the Indonesian city of Padang, West Sumatra for two weeks of speaking, learning, and relationship-building.

I was graciously hosted by precious Muslim friends, including several community leaders who are Muslim peacemakers and the family that Carrie and I describe as our “Indonesian family.”

It is noteworthy that in my first week in Padang I only encountered one other foreigner, a German man that I met in passing, and was not, to my knowledge, in the presence of a single other Christian. Thus, for much of my journey, I was the lone white American Christian in a context where every single person around me was both Indonesian and Muslim.

Knowing this, some of my Christian friends back in the United States worried aloud for my safety. I admonished them not to worry and explained that I would be on the receiving end of extreme hospitality. Thus, when it happened as I expected, I was not at all surprised and nonetheless completely blessed by the overwhelming kindness and sacrificial love of my Indonesian Muslim hosts.

It was an incredibly wonderful time, and I want to give you a glimpse into it through a few photos!

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 My wife Carrie and I love this family! On my birthday, they had a family celebration in my honor!

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Speaking at a major Islamic university. I offer much gratitude for the invitation to my friend and fellow peacemaker, Dr. Shofwan Karim, an Indonesian Muslim leader who is founder and director of the Religious Community for Humanity and Peace.

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I had the amazing privilege of spending a morning with and delivering a message to these beautiful friends, the teachers and administrators of an elite K-12 school with a massive focus on promoting peace and love and respect for all people. I am so thankful to my friend and soul brother, Budi Albarqy, for inviting me!!

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My great friend, Pak Budi, saying a few words after my talk.

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I had the opportunity to tag along with Pak Budi and his team of heroes as they serve food and distribute clothing to the poor. They do this all day four or five days a week. I was deeply inspired! Above, children are waiting in line to receive their hot, nutritious meal.

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Clothes for needy families.

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Debriefing the day’s work. Pak Budi and his team care for orphans and serve the poor. I told them they are doing exactly what Jesus said we ought to do!

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The celebratory meal. After feeding everyone else, the team gathers around for an end-of-day feast.

Jeremy_600He’s had death threats and fatwas issued against him, his staff arrested on false charges, and his house broken into and bugged by friends who turned out to be spies. But that’s not stopping him.

Jeremy Courtney was in a hotel lobby in Iraq in 2007 when an Iraqi man walked up to him and asked if Jeremy, as an American, could do something to help this man’s cousin, whose little girl was born with a life-threatening heart defect. Having had no medical training and with no idea what to do, Jeremy dove in to help anyway. And so began the journey that has shaped Jeremy’s life and saved many more in the years since.

Jeremy started the organization he calls Preemptive Love in an effort to heal broken hearts in Iraq, both physically and spiritually. Providing lifesaving heart surgeries for Iraqi children and training local doctors and nurses, Preemptive Love is not only mending physical hearts and saving lives but creating peace between communities and re-shaping the way people view their “enemies.”

A motto around Preemptive Love is that “violence unmakes the world, but preemptive love unmakes violence and remakes the world.” It has not been easy, but Jeremy and his partners have gone to extraordinary lengths to unmake violence and are seeing the world remade in the midst of war, violence, and conflict. Explore these links and get to know more about Jeremy and his work.

 

More about Jeremy and his work

TEDx Baghdad talk
Q Ideas talk: Restoring Hearts in Iraq
Jeremy’s book, Preemptive Love
Our interview with Jeremy about his perspective on ISIS

 

by Nick Armstrong

“We must curb and limit Islamic migration and stop the refugee dumps.” Three weeks ago a former Muslim who is now a pastor spoke these words to Idaho lawmakers and warned of a Muslim conspiracy to establish Sharia law. Riding the wave of popular scorn of the recent dark and horrific deeds of ISIS, there has been no shortage of anti-Islamic talk from some of the political arenas in Idaho, and soon after this meeting there was a newsletter published from the Bonneville County Republican Central Committee which warned that Muslims were “infiltrating” the state of Idaho. Then just last week, 100 people gathered in the Community Hall of Sandpoint, Idaho, where there was talk of Islam being “a culture of death” and on the move to create enclaves of Sharia in Idaho.

Given the media’s journalistic preference for sensational conflict narratives, it’s easy to understand how an anti-Islamic message gets propagated and how people become fearful. After all, the news of bombings and beheadings sells far better than the thousands of small stories of compassion and caring for each other. Yes, it is easy to understand why popular perception is the way it is, but it is also undeniably a false picture of what is actually going on.

The fact is that there is no such thing as refugee dump in the United States or Idaho. Less than one half of one percent of the refugees in the world are allowed to come to the U.S., and only about one percent of those end up in Idaho. Furthermore, those refugees who do make it to the U.S. have an average waiting time of 5 years in a refugee camp and are extensively screened by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and the USCIS (United States Customs and Immigration Services), a department of Homeland Security, before being allowed to come to the United States. Also, only about one half of one percent of Idaho’s population is comprised of Muslims, and the overwhelmingly vast majority of those Muslims believe that they are not only required to uphold the laws and constitution of the United States but, as a good citizen, to safeguard and protect the security and wellbeing of the United States and its people. So the warning that Muslims are “infiltrating” the state of Idaho and would border on comical if it weren’t so grossly misleading.

Interestingly enough, at the same time as 100 people were gathering in Sandpoint, Idaho to listen to anti-Islamic rhetoric, there was a very different kind of event being held more than 400 miles to the south of Sandpoint. This “Peace Feast” was held at a Boise restaurant and was attended by an equal number of Muslims and Christians sharing dinner and, instead of stoking the flames of fear, building bridges and understanding.

 

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The Islamic community in Boise is very ethnically and culturally diverse, made up of people who have come to Boise as refugees from countries like India, Bosnia, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Syria, Bosnia, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, the United States and elsewhere. The one thing all the Muslim refugees share is a story of persecution, escape, and survival. For many of these survivors, some of the greatest battles they face are not physical but rather fear, loneliness, despair, trauma, and the loss of family and community. These Peace Feasts are intended to wage peace, build bridges, and provide opportunities for authentic friendships to take root.

 

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As a kind of postscript to this blog, as the Peace Feast dinner wrapped up, I was asked by a Saudi Arabian and two Kuwaiti students who had been quietly dining in the back of the restaurant during the presentation to come outside with them. Just outside the restaurant they told me how impressed they were that this group of Muslims and Christians were actually learning together, and one of the young men insisted on paying for everyone’s meal – 20 people! God works His peace in mysterious ways.

 

footnote: It is because of the extensive nature of the screening process a refugee goes through before they are allowed to step on U.S. soil that only about 2,000 of the 12 million Syrian refugees in the world are slated to come to the United States this year.

 “The beginning of wisdom is:
Acquire wisdom;
And with all your acquiring, get understanding.”
(Proverbs 4:7)

 

by Rick Love, Ph.D.

One of the best ways to acquire wisdom is through reading. So I have put together a list of my current top ten books on peacemaking. It was painful whittling the list down to only ten books, but hopefully this will give you some guidance as you seek to acquire wisdom.

To say these are my top ten books on peacemaking does not mean I agree with everything in them. Nor are all of these books written from a Christian perspective. Sometimes the best books say things outside the box (hyperbolic and even heretical) and force us to think deeply about a subject. So as you read, follow Paul’s teaching, “examine all things and hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

 

Reconciling All Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace, and Healing
Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice

416fCrepkCL._AA160_A profoundly biblical description of reconciliation in all its fullness. Katongole and Rice will help you see the vital relationship between the Gospel and peacemaking. In fact, the guiding text for the book (2 Corinthians 5:18-21) indicates that reconciliation is the ultimate value of the new creation. So when we work for peace, we demonstrate the very nature of the new creation. This book will also help you confront the painful reality of the world in which we pursue peace. The chapter on lament is a much-needed addition to the spiritual life of any peacemaker. The authors are co-founders of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School.

 

 

Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Our Families, Organizations, and Communities
Rick Love

41h-ESc1zoL._AA160_Yes I think my book needs to be in the top ten! But rather than explaining why or writing a commentary on my own book, I will point you to two different reviews of my book: Jennifer Bryson’s “Reclaiming Peace by Love” is a great place to begin, and “Peace be With You” by James Stambaugh is another review worth reading.

 

 

 

 

Reconcile: Conflict Transformation for Ordinary Christians
John Paul Lederach

41DfW1jbQgL._AA160_This book is a great introduction to peacemaking and a wonderful window into the thought of John Paul Lederach, one of the most accomplished peacemakers of our generation. The author of 22 books on peace, Lederach serves as the director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. In this new book he shows his mastery of peacemaking practices which are rooted in Scripture. I especially enjoyed his chapters on Psalm 85 (where truth, mercy, justice and peace meet), Matthew 18 (where Jesus outlines clear steps to making peace) and Paul’s teaching on reconciliation as the heart of the gospel. His analysis of Acts 15 is also brilliant. He shows how the process described in this chapter (the Jerusalem Council) demonstrates what a good group mediation looks like. Read this book and you will acquire wisdom!

 

 

Just Peacemaking: Ten Practices for Abolishing War
Glen H. Stassen, editor

41SMZYW3MSL._AA160_The late Glen Stassen, along with other top Christian scholars, describes a new kind of ethical theory about peace and war, which they call “Just Peacemaking.” In contrast to pacifism and just war theory, which are about whether or not one should go to war, Just Peacemaking is comprised of ten proactive practices to prevent war and facilitate peace. This new peace ethic can and should be promoted by both pacifists and just warriors.

 

 

 

Evangelical Peacemakers: Gospel Engagement in a War
David P. Gushee, editor

51t3pYE5OhL._AA160_This book emerged from the Evangelicals for Peace Summit on Christian Morality and Responsibility in the Twenty-First Century, which was held at Georgetown University in September of 2012. The speakers were a veritable ‘who’s who’ of evangelical leaders: the late Glen Stassen, Eric Patterson, Douglas Johnston, David Shenk, Jim Wallis, and Geoff Tunnicliffe to name a few. This book is a must-read for three reasons. First, it is the only book of its kind – as you probably know, evangelicals are not known for being peacemakers. Second, there are a number of articles that touch on Christian-Muslim relations. Third, the editor of the book, David Gushee, does an excellent job of critically evaluating each presentation and offering some wise concluding remarks.

 

 

Unconditional? The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness
Brian Zahnd

41VYH6zK+tL._AA160_With passion and prophetic insight, Brian shows the radical nature of forgiveness. He helps us understand the nature of the gospel and the role of forgiveness in peacemaking. “Forgiveness occupies center stage at all the most important places in the Christian faith: the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord’s Prayer, Good Friday, Easter Sunday” (p 92). Thus, “followers of Christ, who are both the recipients and practitioners of radical forgiveness, should be the leading authorities on peace” (p. 205). Amen Brian!

 

 

 

The Dynamics of Conflict Resolution: A Practitioner’s Guide
Bernard Mayer

513CHrda2bL._AA160_This book provides a profound analysis of the nature of both conflict and resolution. It gives a broad overview of issues and describes helpful models and paradigms. Mayer describes this book as a practitioner’s guide. His use of case studies does make it a valuable resource for practitioners. But I would describe this book as a theoretician’s guide as well. Its primary strength is helping the reader think more deeply about peacemaking issues.

 

 

 

Conflict Resolution
Daniel Dana

51MXrUbcGHL._AA160_This is one of the best books I’ve read about the practice of mediation. Dana masterfully describes the tools, terms, strategies, and steps of conflict resolution. He describes how managers can mediate, how to do self-mediation, team mediation, and preventative mediation. He also includes an important chapter on the “Strategic Management of Organizational Conflict.” This is a book you will return to again and again as you mediate conflict. My wife Fran and I are certified mediators and trainers with Daniel Dana’s organization, Mediation Training Institute International.

 

 

The Powers That Be: Theology For A New Millennium
Walter Wink

51AuDYHEEhL._AA160_I disagree with Wink’s demonology, but I love his political theology! He brilliantly exposes the myth of redemptive violence: “the belief that violence saves, that war brings peace, that might makes right… this Myth of Redemptive Violence is the real myth of the modern world. It, and not Judaism or Christianity or Islam, is the dominant religion in our society today” (p. 42). Wink argues that “nonviolence is at the very heart of the gospel, and that the church’s task is to attempt to spread this leaven into the life of the world” (p. 135). To do so the church must follow the third way of Jesus: Instead of passivity or violence, Jesus taught a non-violent resistance. A challenging book about the revolutionary Jesus.

 

 

Elusive Peace: How Modern Diplomatic Strategies Could Better Resolve World Conflicts
Douglas E. Noll

41TqgJeyhOL._AA160_Noll provides a profound overview of the field of peacemaking. The heart of the book, however, is his rigorous critique of diplomatic peacemaking methods and robust apologetic for the importance of emotions in peacemaking. Noll’s detailed illustrations and solid research will benefit peacemakers working at a grassroots level as well as those who do high-level peacemaking. If you read and apply Noll’s suggestions, I believe that peace will not be so elusive after all (see my review of this book here).