by Rick Love

This is the third of three blog posts about my recent trip to Indonesia. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Two leaders from the Hizb ut-Tahrir spoke to our group in Jogjakarta, Indonesia. These men outlined a bold, utopian Islamic vision. They saw themselves at war with Western civilization and sought to establish a global Caliphate – an Islamic government with a leader over their entire Muslim community, known as a Caliph.

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I was stunned when I realized how radical their vision was. This was a sophisticated, non-violent version of ISIS (at least they were non-violent to this point). But they were planning and plotting for an Islamic takeover of the world. And they shared about this in a public forum.

They began by explaining that capitalism is the enemy and Islam is the solution. I admired their zeal to win the world for Islam – after all, I want the whole world to follow Jesus. So I get that part of their vision. But… a global Caliphate?

During the time of Q&A one of the members of my group asked where this version of Islam is presently being lived out. The leaders of Hizb ut-Tahrir paused and replied, “Nowhere!”

My friend’s followup question was just as incisive: “You argue that the Caliphate is the rule of God. But people are sinners. So how can sinful leaders implement the rule of God on earth?” “The Caliphate will be led by devout leaders who want to obey Allah. And if they deviate from Allah’s path, we have lots of rules and laws to protect us,” the Hizb ut-Tahrir leaders replied.

Next I asked three questions: 1) What is the relationship between Democracy and Islam? 2) Can Muslims and Christians live at peace? and 3) Do you believe in freedom of religion?

I talked to Muslim leaders in four other cities in Indonesia, and they were positive about democracy. But these men from the Hizb ut-Tahrir stated bluntly, “democracy is the rule of people, whereas Islam is the rule of God.”

They said that Muslims and Christians can live together in peace and that they believed in freedom of religion. But in an unbelievable contradiction to these positive affirmations, they added rather nonchalantly, “If someone is a Muslim or becomes a Muslim and then leaves the faith, they must be put to death.”

If that is what religious freedom looks like, I would hate to see what religious repression is!

I spent the month of May in Indonesia – lecturing and peacemaking in five cities: Jakarta, Bandung, Salatiga, Purwokerto, and Jogjakarta. This whirlwind tour gave me a fascinating window into the beauty and diversity of Islam in Indonesia – which is a microcosm of Islam throughout the world.

The majority of Muslims I met were classic peace-loving people who were positive toward Christians and feared radical Islam. Other groups were less favorable toward Christians but still not radical. When I teach on Islam I remind people that the majority of people killed by terrorists are Muslims themselves. So for the most part, what we are seeing around the world is not a clash of civilizations but a clash within civilization.

However, the two men from Hizb ut-Tahrir represent the radical end of the Islamic spectrum. Fortunately, they represent only a miniscule minority of Muslims.

[For more about Hizb ut-Tahrir you can read The Islamist: Why I Became an Islamic Fundamentalist, What I Saw Inside, and Why I left by Ed Husain.]

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by Rick Love

A couple weeks ago I spent three of the most intense and exciting days of my life making peace in a city in Central Java, Indonesia called Purwokerto (more in my first post about the trip). Everywhere I went I told my favorite stories from our work in Peace Catalyst International and shared key verses from the Bible about peacemaking.

On the first evening I spoke at a talk show to an audience of 240 Christians and Muslims on the topic, “Is it possible to have peace between Christians and Muslims?”

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The next day I spoke five times: to an Interfaith group of religious leaders representing every faith in the city, to three Islamic boarding schools (called Pesantren), and at a church. But I must confess that speaking to Islamic students at the Pesantren was by far the most fun!

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Then on my last day I met with Islamic scholars from the prestigious Muhammadiyah University in the morning. In the evening I met with nine pastors to discuss peacemaking and what we could do together in the future.

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Virtually every Muslim I met loved the stories I told and nodded their approval when I shared verses about peacemaking from the Scripture. They were eager students who desired peace. I know that not all Muslims are like this. But the vast, vast majority are.

So… “Is it possible to have peace between Christians and Muslims?” My answer is and was a resounding yes! Christians can live at peace with the vast majority of Muslims. Why? Because we live by the truths in these four verses, which I shared everywhere I went:

  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God (Matthew 5:9)
  • Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39)
  • Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44)
  • If possible, so far as it depends on you, live in peace with everyone (Romans 12:18)

Even if one disagrees with my assessment of Muslims, I think we can all agree on the clear teaching of the Prince of Peace.

 

by Rick Love

In May I visited Indonesia – the largest Muslim country in the world. Indonesia is a democracy which has had a female President, Megawati Sukarno. So the typical stereotypes that most Muslims are Arabs, can’t embrace democracy, and oppress women are not true.

I love challenging false stereotypes about Muslims with solid facts!

What do peacemakers do in a country like Indonesia? Here’s an example from my recent visit, highlighting the essence of what we do in Peace Catalyst International…

I was warmly greeted by Islamic scholars from the State Institute for Islamic Studies of Salatiga (a city on the Island of Java). After formal introductions they invited me to talk about what we do in Peace Catalyst International. I shared a number of stories, and then one professor asked about the nature of peacemaking between Christians and Muslims.

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“Most peacemaking focuses on resolving conflict,” I said, “but Christian-Muslim peacemaking is different. It is social peacemaking. This means we seek to break down prejudices and stereotypes between the two faiths. We do this by gathering over meals to share our lives and our faith in a personal way.”

Next, the moderator of the discussion, “Munajat,” explained that Muslims and Christians have good relationships in Salatiga but that they fear Islamic radicalism in Solo, a city nearby. I was encouraged by his honesty and blessed to hear they are working to thwart radicalism.

After the meeting I found out that Munajat had been advising the Indonesian President Joko Widodo about Islamic radicalism. Since then, President Widodo has invited him to move to Jakarta (the capital of Indonesia) to take on a full-time formal role as advisor.

I also went to lunch with an Islamic teacher named Ahmed (who had joined us during the faculty discussion). As we ate our rice meals together, Ahmed confessed that he was prejudiced against Christians.

When I asked him why he was prejudiced he said that his teachers taught him that the focus of true devotion to God in Islam is prayer, while true devotion in Christianity is evangelism. Thus, he said he believed that Christians only wanted to attack his faith and convert him. I told him this is true of some Christians but the vast majority are not like that.

Then Ahmed asked me what prejudices Christians have toward Muslims in America. “Most Christians fear that Muslims are terrorists, Islam is violent, and thus Muslims want to kill them,” I explained. Ahmed said, “Wow! Both of our faiths fear each other because we think the other wants to attack us!”

After lunch we visited Adi Sutanto, the Director of a denomination called JKI (Jemaat Kristen Indonesia). Without knowing anything about what Ahmed and I talked about during lunch, Adi shared a fascinating vision of JKI: “We have bought property and want to make a prayer garden. In fact, during a time of prayer recently we had a vision that this prayer garden will be used for Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists.”

I turned to Ahmed and said, “See, Christians are committed to prayer, not just evangelism!” We both laughed as he shook his head in agreement. Prejudices were starting to melt away.

Social peacemaking 101!

 

by Rick Love

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Conversations about peacemaking can tend to communicate the notion that all force is always wrong. However, peacemaker Eric Patterson believes that we can work for peace while also supporting the use of force by legitimate authorities under the right circumstances. This way of thinking is known as the Just War tradition and has a long history within Christendom, tracing back to Augustine.

I met Eric Patterson at a dialogue between Christians and Muslims hosted at Eastern Mennonite University in 2011, and we hit it off immediately. As we talked he said to me, “Rick, you’re a thoughtful peacemaker!”

Soon afterward he invited Peace Catalyst International to put on a peacemaking conference at Georgetown University. So we convened Evangelicals for Peace: A Summit on Christian Moral Responsibility in the 21st Century.

Since then Eric and I have become close friends. I continue to learn from Eric and deeply appreciate his understanding of the Just War tradition.

Senior Research Fellow at Georgetown and Dean of the School of Government at Regent University, he also has practical government experience, having served as a White House Fellow and worked in the State Department’s Bureau of Political and Military Affairs. He also currently serves as a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard.

Eric has brought the ideas of the Just War tradition to peacemaking conversations through his research, teaching, and books, including Ending Wars Well, Politics in a Religious World, and Just War Thinking.

 

Learn More

Audio from Eric’s presentation at Evangelicals for Peace gathering, Georgetown
Just War Thinking by Eric Patterson
Ethics Beyond War’s End by Eric Patterson

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by Josh Prather

For the past five years I have been working with Muslim refugees in the Phoenix area and trying to get the Church to faithfully love the neighbors God has brought to our city. On this journey God has been faithful to teach me, through many failures, how to effectively move people toward loving the neighbors they would never otherwise spend time with.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned:

 

1. Humanize Refugee Muslims

Overall, I believe major media outlets have done a faithful job of dehumanizing Muslims for the people in our churches. Christians will often not think of human beings when they hear the word ‘Muslim’ but rather of a building collapsing, bombs going off, or people being mutilated. These images come from media outlets that are showing the violence committed by extremist Muslims, who make up about one percent of the total 1.6 billion Muslims around the globe (give me grace on the numbers, but they are close). I will often do an exercise where I ask people to say the first thing that comes to mind when I mention “Jihad,” “Islam,” or “the Qur’an.” Almost every person I ask will respond with these negative images. So I have come to realize that people will not naturally move forward in loving action toward Muslims, because Muslims have been so dehumanized. How do we bring humanity back to Muslim refugees? Stories have been a great place to start.

A while back, I brought a group of Christians to visit Muslim refugees and hear their stories. When we walked into the room, it was full of black African Muslims and women who were fully covered from head to toe. Needless to say, a few people in our group were nervous. However, after we heard the heartbreaking stories of trauma and abuse that many of our refugee neighbors have endured, American Christians were changed. As our group left, one man stopped me and said, “I walked into that room and was uncomfortable to say the least, but after I heard their stories, I left knowing that they were just like you and me.” For the first time this man saw his Muslim neighbor as a human being with human needs. Now when he hears the word ‘Islam,’ he will not think of bombs, but of Isha, the sweet 70-year-old Muslim lady that has made a long hard journey to the U.S. This is a good first step.

 

2. Seek Peace Between Ethnic Divisions

Most of our Muslim refugee neighbors are living in our cities because they fled persecution at the hands of another race, religion, or ethnicity. It has been a privilege to build peace between the Western Church and Muslim refugees, but we must also seek peace between ethnic divisions that exist within the refugee community. For example, I have worked closely with the Somali and Somali Bantu communities in Arizona. Although they are cordial, they are not at peace with one another due to the civil war that broke out in Somalia in 1991. I continue to bring up this vision of racial reconciliation among divided Somali tribes and cultures. It is not easy, but shalom is the way God intended things to be, and that is what we must pursue. The last time I sat with a Somali Bantu elder, a phenomenal leader by the way, I brought up this vision of peace between Somali and Somali Bantu communities here in Phoenix. He said, “There is still too much pain that exists between our communities at this time, and my people are not ready, but let’s hold on to that vision and revisit it in the future, Josh.” Pray with me for peace.

 

3. Embrace the Concept of Community Witness

One of the greatest ways for people to bless their refugee neighbors is by helping refugees navigate American culture and learn how to thrive in the U.S. This usually leads to ESL classes being taught by people in the church. This is a great way to demonstrate God’s love in deed, but Christians can easily become frustrated because they cannot communicate the love of Jesus to refugees who don’t understand English. Because of this, I myself feel an obligation to speak faithfully of Jesus whenever I sit down with leaders of these refugee communities who know our culture and language well. This is community witness. There are countless volunteers serving their neighbor in deed, and I have the privilege of speaking the Good News in word on behalf of myself and the volunteers partnering with me. Together this makes a holistic witness that communicates the love of Jesus.

 

4. Lead with Grace and Truth

Every partnership I establish with a Muslim refugee community begins with grace and truth. God created all people in His image, with equal value and dignity, and this allows us to learn from our refugee neighbors and work together toward common goals. This is grace. There are also distinct differences between our Christian and Muslim communities that we cannot sweep aside. This is truth, and we must speak the truth of our faiths to one another with respect and boldness. Therefore, though we are always speaking the Good News faithfully, before we begin a partnership with a refugee community, we sit down with leaders and talk through how our communities can remain true to our respective religions while also moving toward peace and friendship. These conversations are not easy, but they are necessary and rewarding.

 

I hope these hard-learned lessons prove helpful as you move toward peacebuilding partnerships with refugees in your own city.