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by Rick Love

What pops into the mind of the average American if you ask him or her about Muslims? Most would say something like this:

“Muslims are terrorists.”
“I fear Muslims. They want to take over our country.”
“I am very suspicious of all Muslims.”

I fully understand. Many media outlets paint an ugly, distorted, and inaccurate picture of Muslims.

According to Ed 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.”

Yes, there are a miniscule number of violent extremists who want to do us harm. But the vast majority of Muslims are just like you and me. They want to be faithful to God, love their family, and be productive members of society.

So how should followers of Jesus respond to the realities of terrorism and the exaggerations of media?

  1. FACTS

    We need to love God with our minds and learn the facts about Islam. This means we practice the art of evaluation. We don’t believe everything that comes across our computer screen or fills our inbox. We critically assess what we read or watch.The Muslim world is radically diverse and pluralistic. There are over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world representing over 2000 different ethnic groups. There are two major sects (Sunni and Shia) and 8 legal schools of Islam. In addition, there is a strong mystical movement within Islam called Sufism which influences a large percentage of Muslims. There are Muslim secularists, modernists, traditionalists, fundamentalists, and terrorists.

    So when someone makes a comment that Muslims believe this or Islam is like that, you need to ask, “Which Islam?” For example, “Does Islam oppress women?” I believe women are oppressed in Afghanistan. But the country next door, Pakistan, once had a female head of state – Benazir Bhutto. With all of its problems, the country of Pakistan has, in some ways, been more progressive on women’s issues than the United States.

    Here are two suggestions for how to use facts to overcome your fear of the other.

    – Read Grace & Truth: Toward Christlike Relationships with Muslims

    – When someone makes a comment that Muslims believe this or Islam is that this, ask yourself and the other person, “Which Muslims?” or “Which school of Islam?”

     

  2. FAITH

    Our faith teaches us that “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). We overcome fear when we submit to the Holy Spirit.The Bible also teaches that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). In other words, we dislodge the crippling effects of fear by experiencing God’s love (1 John 4:16) and obeying his commands to love (1 John 2:5).

    Finally, the command to “fear not!” is one most frequent commands in the whole Bible. While the media says, “Fear lots!” the Bible responds with “fear nots!”

    Here are two suggestions for how to fear not:

    – Memorize 2 Timothy 1:7

    – Practically demonstrate your faith by praying for Muslims, blessing them, and doing good to them (See Romans 12:14-21).

     

  3. FRIENDSHIP

    I often get criticized because I love Muslims and share positively about them. One of my favorite responses to an irate critic is this: “Do you have any Muslim friends?” They usually don’t.A practical way to address our fears and prejudices is to actually get to know a Muslim. Nothing beats the personal touch. If you make friends with a Muslim, you will see things differently. This is a huge part of what Peace Catalyst International does. We organize loving initiatives that create safe spaces and foster authentic relationships between Christians and Muslims.

 

Two suggestions:

1. Visit a Middle Eastern restaurant and talk to the servers about their food and their culture.

2. Join Peace Catalyst!

We wage peace with wisdom by getting the facts – we love God with our minds. We wage peace with wisdom – by faith – we love God by believing and obeying His Word. And we wage peace with wisdom through friendships – we love God by loving our Muslim neighbors.

 

 

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This story comes from one of our newest Peace Catalyst staff members, Jaime Harris, who has been living and making peace in Indonesia for 20 years through education, serving the poor, organizing interfaith events, and more.

It started as we painted a bare tree and had our Peace Generation volunteers add their thumbprints in paint as their pledge for peace. We then took it downtown to the riverside, where young people hang out on Sunday morning, and we invited everyone who supports peace to add their thumbprints. We also had various peace cards with phrases that people could take photos of themselves with. The photo above is from the riverside event, and the card reads, “Peace Begins with Us.”

We put the tree on display, and now it resides in our cafe, where customers can continually add to it.

Interestingly, the tree is displayed next to paintings of famous peacemakers, and one Muslim friend shared that in Arabic, the word for “tree” is similar to the Indonesian word for “history.” He challenged us to look at the history-makers displayed, then look at our thumbprints on the tree and realize that we are part of the great “tree of history” and that we also are joining with them in changing the history written about us.

 

The alienation between many Americans and Muslims world-wide is based primarily on fear and not facts… Muslims equal “security threats” in the eyes of many people. But are Muslims really security threats?

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I had the privilege of speaking at this year’s Christ at the Checkpoint conference in Bethlehem, and you can now watch the video of my talk! It’s about 30 minutes long but worth watching to better understand the situation in Israel/Palestine.

Enjoy!

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by Rick Love

Are you fed up with hate speech, inflammatory rhetoric, and uncivil discourse in politics and social media? We in Peace Catalyst International are… so we are beginning the Waging Peace Campaign!

We wage peace because peacemaking is a battle. Overcoming evil with good or seeking to end a conflict non-violently demands strength and fortitude. We choose to:

  • Wage peace with wisdom
  • Wage peace in love and
  • Wage peace beyond security

Will you join the Campaign? Help change the angry, polarizing climate by becoming a powerful force for peace!

(PCI staff provide formal trainings and teachings on peacemaking – an average of 9 a month! Contact us if you want to know more about this).

Today I’d like to get you started on some practical ways to wage peace with wisdom. One of the keys to this is to explain, promote, and model the four R’s of civil discourse:

 

1. Respectful

If we take the Scriptures seriously, we will “show proper respect to everyone” (1 Peter 2:17 NIV).

When we get an angry email, an outlandish facebook post, or have an intense debate face to face … let’s resist the temptation to “fight fire with fire.” Even if the other person’s words are hateful and evil, we can still show respect.

Let’s remember that all people are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-28). We should see the face of God in everyone and treat them with dignity, whether Muslims, Mexicans, African Americans, Caucasians, Democrats or Republicans (and the list goes on…).

 

2. Relational

Relational communication is loving communication. “Let all that you do be done in love,” says Paul (1 Corinthians 16:14 NAU). We speak and write in such a way as to manifest love and strengthen the relationship.

So when we face controversy or conflict, we remember to attack the problem, not the person. We are commanded to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Speaking the truth means we can debate issues and expose problems. In fact we must do so! But speaking the truth “in love” means we seek to be winsome. There should be no angry edge to our communication.

Like many of you, I receive criticism on facebook and I am tempted to respond in kind. (Yes, I get angry at some of the outlandish statements I read!) But I have made it a personal rule to never respond quickly. I take time to ponder and pray.

I often thank people for sharing their views. Then I like to ask questions to make sure I understand their concerns. Questions also help people think more deeply about their statements. Sometimes these questions expose the error of my critics. Sometimes they open the door to deeper, meaningful dialogue. Either way, questions are good and help keep us focused on the problem rather than the person.

By the way, asking questions was central to how Jesus taught and communicated!

 

3. Reasonable

The God of truth commands us to love Him with our minds, so civil discourse should be reasonable. This means that we engage in dialogue and debates by presenting facts and giving arguments for what we believe.

Reasonable people weigh the evidence for a position and change their mind if persuaded – which leads to the last R of civil discourse…

 

4. Receptive

When we engage in civil discourse we should be receptive to other viewpoints. Proverbs repeatedly says that the wise person receives reproof – which means wise people are eager to learn and grow (Proverbs 12:1, 15; 15:31; 19:20).

 

The four R’s of civil discourse can be summed up in one word: WISDOM. The book of Proverbs and the letter of James teach that wisdom is about both our wording and our being, about a discerning mind and a gentle heart.

Let’s use these 4 R’s of civil discourse to wage peace with wisdom!