by Rick Love

Peace Catalyst International grieves with the people of Lebanon and France over these despicable terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris. May the God of mercy and all comfort be with all those impacted by these horrendous events.

These back-to-back terrorist attacks remind us that ISIS and other terrorist groups are not just attacking Westerners but also Muslims. Thus, we stand with people of all faiths and people of no faith in denouncing this evil, just like our Muslim friends and Muslim leaders around the world have done (see here, here, and here).

We urge followers of Jesus everywhere to love God with their mind in order to resist simplistic sound bites about Islam. Islam is radically diverse. The vast majority of Muslims are not our enemies. The tiny fraction of Muslim extremists like ISIS are (see my Jesus and ISIS blog post).

These terrorists consider themselves Muslims and embrace one very narrow and extreme interpretation of Islam. However, the majority of Muslims around the world reject this bloody, violent interpretation of their faith.

We call on followers of Jesus everywhere to resist any type of hateful backlash against Muslims in the aftermath of these attacks. Instead, may the love of Christ control us. Will you join us in obeying Jesus’ command to love our Muslim neighbors? (See our website for many practical ways you can build bridges of love with Muslims.)

If we fail to love and instead fan the flames of hatred toward Muslims, we actually play into the hands of groups like ISIS. They know that when hatred and discrimination increase, so too does the anger and frustration of Muslim youth in the West – and their recruiting campaign soars.

While it is sometimes necessary for governments to use force to confront extremists, force alone will never lead to peace. Behind the bombs and bullets of the extremist is a twisted and dangerous ideology that needs to be confronted. The efforts of governments need to be supplemented by the moral leadership of Muslims and Christians who will expose the darkness of these ideas and model a better way.

We need to develop and work for long-term solutions. Partnering for peace with mainstream Muslims is one of the most important things we can do to undermine and thwart violent extremism. We need to amplify their voices and support their efforts.

We believe that the real conflict is not primarily between Muslims or between Muslims and the West but between all types of violent extremists and those who long for a just, inclusive, and peaceful world.

islamophobia conf

by Martin Brooks

Douglas Johnston, known as the father of faith-based diplomacy, opened a recent conference on Religious Freedom and Islamophobia at Temple University by saying, “The greatest asset we have to fight militant Islam is the American Muslim community. Unfortunately, we have alienated many in this community.” Johnston also said, “As the Muslim community is marginalized, it plays into the hands of extremists.”

Peace Catalyst, along with The Dialogue Institute and International Center for Religion & Diplomacy, co-sponsored and hosted the conference October 6-8. It was a gathering of approximately 40 Evangelical Christian leaders from around the country to explore and better understand the consequences of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry and to develop thoughtful responses to Islamophobia in the United States. Selected Jewish, Muslim, and non-Evangelical Christian representatives also participated to help provide a broader contextual understanding of the issues being addressed.

Many in evangelical circles are concerned with the impact of overgeneralized anti-Islamic rhetoric and how that impacts common goals that we all share for religious freedom and security. The polarization between the Muslim and Christian communities is doing great harm to our nation and to our Christian witness. The thriving of all people is also increasingly difficult in such circumstances. This is why the Religious Freedom Conference called together academics and practitioners for this conference and used the lenses of biblical, historical, legal, and political rationales to explain why Islamophobia must be resisted (Honestly, I think we even need a new term to refer to this phenomenon. “Islamophobia” is pejorative and alienating to the very people who need to be involved in the discussion).

At this conference, Howard Cohen of Tulane University spoke of how the founding documents of the United States protected the diversity of religious practices in our nation. What made the United States unique was the elevation of civil law, which both accommodated and protected the religious liberties of all. In this season when Islam is being scrutinized based on the actions of ISIS and Al-Qaeda, Cohen said, “We need to think scalpel, not meat cleaver. We are bound to do so by our constitution.” To refuse to have a more nuanced conversation about Islam is to reject the very core of what it means to be an American. It is to reject constitutional and legal principals on which our nation was founded.

Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder of the Manhattan Cordoba Initiative, indicated that much of the tensions between the Muslim communities and the West are the direct result of American foreign policy. Rauf claimed that too many Muslims believe that if they die in getting revenge they will be happy. Rauf said, “We have created enough people that feel this way that we now have a problem. Simplistic one-liners will not resolve the issues.” He went on, “The real divide is not between Islam and the West but between extremism in all religions and modernists. This is a war that we all share.”

Muslims are concerned about the growing distrust of Muslims in the United States and where this distrust might lead. Will their children be able to get good jobs in America if they let others know that they are Muslims? Might they be deported or put in detention camps as some Presidential candidates have suggested? They feel they are being collectively held responsible for the actions of extremists. In the United States it is unlawful to discriminate based on religious preferences, but politicians seem ready to capitalize on the fears of the populace. It is a calculated risk on their part since Muslims only represent 3% of the U.S. population. It is as though the politicians believe that Muslims and our constitutional principles can be sacrificed in the quests for political power. Perhaps this is just electoral rhetoric, but it is a dangerously short-sighted strategy. It is not only illegal to discriminate based on religion, but it also alienates the very people who have the greatest chance of reversing this season of radical jihadism.

Majid Alsayegh, Chairman of the Dialogue Institute and former director of the Islamic Society of North America, said that the Muslim community is trying to help promote mutual respect between Christians and Muslims. They have urged Muslim immigrants to learn American history and to embrace the principles of religious freedom and equality for all. Majid said the Muslims should be the first to condemn violence done in the name of Islam. He cited the Open Letter to Al-Baghdadi as an example of Muslim scholars speaking out against radical jihadism and referenced Thomas Friedman’s Arsonists and Firemen article. There are people motivated to disrupt peace for a variety of reasons, and we need to evaluate the competing agendas through this lens: are people trying to ignite fires or put them out?

Many believe that Islamophobia is bad for American Muslims, which it is, but it has also damaged the reputation of the church as a loving place that accepts all. Church attendance peaked five weeks after 9/11 and has been going down ever since. People are not impressed with the church’s response to the world’s crushing problems, so they turn elsewhere for answers. Too often the church’s responses are driven by fear or politics or nationalism rather than the love of Christ for all those created by God. We are called to be ambassadors of the kingdom of the Prince of Peace. As God brings the nations to be our neighbors, we need to see them as a gift to help build bridges between cultures that frequently do not understand each other. Alienating our Muslim neighbors is a rejection of our constitutional principles as well as our very faith.


Martinbrooks bio squareMartin Brooks is Peace Catalyst’s Midwest Regional Director and is based in Louisville, KY where he lives and makes peace with his wife Susan. More from Martin at http://seguesintl.com.




by Rick Love

I just attended the Spreading the Peace Convocation in Baltimore, where almost 200 Evangelical pastors and Muslim imams gathered to declare their commitment to making peace with one another.

The evening began with Ed Stetzer sharing the results of recent polls on how evangelicals view Muslims. One example: According to Stetzer, 59% of Evangelical pastors say Islam is dangerous and promotes violence. They agree with Franklin Graham’s characterization of Islam as “a very evil and a very wicked religion.”

It was hard to start on such a negative note. But that is why this gathering was so important.

The convocation was led by my friends Pastor Bob Roberts Jr. and Imam Mohammad Magid. Bob and Magid demonstrated their warm friendship and talked openly about their differences. “I believe Jesus is God,” said Bob. “I believe Jesus is a prophet,” countered Magid with a big smile on his face. And so it went …



Bob then interviewed many of the pastors and imams. Their stories illustrated how these leaders overcame their own prejudice to learn how to reach out in love to the other faith community. We also heard stories of imams in Pakistan protecting Christians from angry mobs numerous times in the last year. It was a positive, upbeat evening!

However, not all went well. During a discussion around my table, one Arab Christian said he loves all Muslims but has serious problems with Islam. No problem so far. But then he used questions as a pretext to vent his anger and verbally attack the Muslims sitting at our table. And though Suhaib Webb, a prominent imam, did a good job answering his questions with equal intensity, I was uncomfortable with this exchange. We should be able to ask hard questions. But HOW we ask them is crucial. I am reminded of what James, Jesus’ younger brother, taught:

  • “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20 NIV).
  • “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18 NIV).

Thus, according to James anger does not achieve the righteousness of God, but speaking in a peaceful manner does! I wish my Arab Christian brother would have heeded these words.

Bob had asked me to speak on a panel at the end of this gathering. When he pointed the microphone at me I said, “I was saved in the Jesus movement, and we would often point our index finger into the air, indicating that there was one way to be saved – through Jesus. As Evangelicals we are very good at affirming this truth. But we need to study the life of Jesus more carefully. Jesus taught and modeled BOTH exclusive truth claims and inclusive love aims. We Evangelicals zealously uphold the truth claims but don’t do as well with the love aims. To deny either truth or love is to deny Jesus.”

The polls about the way Evangelicals view Muslims are disturbing. But even if we differ in our assessment of Islam, Jesus’ teaching and example are clear. As Evangelicals we need to keep sharing Jesus’ exclusive truth claims but also get a whole lot better at living out Jesus’ inclusive love aims! And as peacemakers, if we sow in peace we will reap a harvest of righteous relationships.


Peace Catalyst International gets asked a lot of the same questions over and over again. The wording may be different, but the concerns remain the same. Because of this, we are writing a number of blogs addressing some of our Frequently Asked Questions.



Many people love talking about freedom of religion as long as you are talking about their religion. Christians speak out against persecution of Christians, but few also speak out against the persecution of other faiths. Here are five reasons we promote religious freedom for all.


1. Freedom of religion is based on the creation story.

God gave Adam and Eve freedom to either obey or not obey His commands (Genesis 1–3). Because God wanted them to choose to love and obey Him, He gave them freedom of choice. True relationship demands freedom to choose. We need to imitate God by giving people freedom to choose.


2. Freedom of religion is based on the life of Christ.

Jesus repeatedly called people to follow him. But he gave people freedom to choose. Some followed him and others didn’t. In one of the most poignant moments in the Gospels, the writer records that Jesus felt love for the rich young ruler who decided he would not follow Jesus (Mark 10:21). Jesus demonstrated a love that gave people freedom to accept or reject him. We need to imitate Jesus by giving people freedom to choose.


3. Freedom of religion is based on the Golden Rule.

Jesus said, “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Surely everyone wants freedom to follow their conscience without coercion. We must grant to everyone the same thing that we desire.


4. Freedom of religion is based on the love command.

Jesus said one of the greatest commands is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). The standard for love in this command is the phrase “as yourself.” In other words, love means that I treat my neighbors just how I want to be treated. I want the freedom and protection to worship. This, then, is what I should also want for my neighbor.


5. Freedom of religion is based on justice.

The Old Testament frequently defines justice in terms of protecting the rights of the poor and needy:

  • Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute (Psalm 82:3 NLT).
  • Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows (Isaiah 1:17 NLT).
  • They deprive the poor of justice and deny the rights of the needy among my people. They prey on widows and take advantage of orphans (Isaiah 10:2 NLT).

Religious freedom is not about “just us,” it’s about justice! Therefore we promote it and protect it for all.



Is it Really Possible to Have Peace Between Christians and Muslims?
How Does Peacemaking Relate to Evangelism?
Why Should We Bother with Peacemaking?
Did Jesus Come to Bring Peace or a Sword?
Are You Teaching Chrislam?
What is Jesus-Centered Peacemaking?

After the cleanup effort organized in response to recent vandalism at a Louisville mosque, this video was put together by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s office. We are proud to be part of efforts like this to promote peace and cooperation for the common good in Louisville and cities around the country.