Are today’s evangelical Christians going to miss the opportunity to be peacemakers in this generation? Generational blind spots have caused many Christians to miss the blessing of following Jesus as a peacemaker in the issues of their day—slavery, human rights of Native Americans, Japanese who were interned in camps during WWII, minorities during the civil rights era, etc. Is the issue of how we treat our Muslim neighbors nearby or around the world going to be another one of those missed opportunities?
This past weekend, Iraqi-American Muslim mother of five, Shaima Alawadi was being buried in Iraq after being murdered near San Diego. During this same weekend, Rick Love came to Crossroads Christian Church in Vacaville, California to lead a Peacemaking Seminar to help promote peace with Muslims. Fear of people who are different than us has often led to hate which turns violent, and this weekend was a great time to help followers of Jesus grow in a love that drives out fear (1 John 4:18).
During the weekend seminar, over 60 people from the neighboring communities took time to look at Jesus’s ways as he modeled reconciliation and love of neighbor, and what that means for us as we relate to our Muslim neighbors. Rick then spoke to hundreds during three Sunday morning services about how following Jesus in our location and vocation has a global impact.
Jesus lived in a time when there was intense conflict between political powers and religious institutions. Those attending the seminar were again amazed at how the attitude, words and actions of someone who lived 2000 years ago can greatly help us in our modern-day conflicts – in our families, in our neighborhoods and in the world.
Jesus shocked people with how he broke with tradition. He viewed people without stereotypes or prejudice. He wasn’t a “peace-faker,” ignoring the issues that divided people, and he also wasn’t naive. Jesus was a peacemaker. He called peacemakers blessed – those who boldly head into conflict to do what they can to restore harmony.
For instance, the relationship between the Jews and Samaritans of Jesus’s day is very similar to the one between Christians and Muslims today. Jesus’s interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:9) is one example. This woman was so surprised that Jesus was speaking to her, because “Jews refused to have anything to do with Samaritans.” This was especially true of Jewish men and Samaritan women. Yet, he showed humility and concern. He engaged in life-changing dialogue with her.
All of us at this weekend’s seminar were challenged by Jesus’s example and motivated to love Muslims enough to engage with them.
Here are a few more highlights from the weekend:
- A Christian schoolteacher and her husband were so excited to catch the overarching vision of peacemaking as it relates to Muslims. Their grown daughter who graduated from a Christian school has made trips with her Jewish supervisor to do life-changing surgeries for children living in Palestinian refugee camps. She is loving her role as a peacemaker as she follows Jesus.
- Key leaders from a local Armenian church attended the seminar, and they left with a renewed energy to pursue Jesus’s way of reconciliation. There are huge historical divisions between Muslims and the Armenian people.
- One pastor’s wife told me how her heart was being transformed during the seminar from fear to genuine love because of Jesus’s example, not only for Muslims, but also for others who are different from her.
- One university student said he would like to help tutor Muslim students in math as a way to serve the Muslim community. Another engineer volunteered to do airport pick-ups for Muslim international students or scholars coming to study in Davis.
- People realized that relating well with those who are different from us isn’t watering down our faith but practicing its core message of loving our neighbor.
- Many attendees of the seminar told how they see more clearly the difference between the vast majority of Muslims and those terrorists who use Islam as an excuse for murder. The role of the church is to love Muslims, and the role of the government is to deal with murderers.
- One Christian school teacher wrote how the seminar helped him realize how his views about Muslims sometimes have been influenced by being “overly” patriotic. “What Peace Catalyst International is doing is critical for us believers who are affected by our American culture.” Another teacher said how helpful it was to remember how God is in control of our nation’s future, because it helps eliminate fear.
Because of the weekend Peacemaking seminar, I am hopeful our generation won’t pass on this opportunity of pursuing peaceful relations with Muslims. With the example of Jesus, we hope to sow peace where there is so much fear and even hatred (James 3:18).
We hope to be among those who are blessed as peacemakers – true children of God, who act like their Father in heaven (Matt. 5:9).
by David Vidmar