Christians and Muslims gathered in Phoenix to listen to and learn from one another around the theme of “re-writing the rhetoric of hate.” The evening’s panel of peacemakers were Rick Love, Imam Ahmed, Usama Shami, Muna Ali, and Jackie Parks. It’s obvious by a hand on a shoulder and laughter at a shared memory that some of these leaders have done the intentional work of building genuine relationships. There is a deep trust and mutual respect. Re-writing the rhetoric involves building relationships. Rick Love points out that how we respond to our Muslim neighbors is one of the greatest challenges today. Imam Ahmed agrees and suggests that we don’t only have differences; there is also common ground. “We can have differences and still love each other.”
In Romans 12:18 Paul exhorts followers of Jesus living in the Roman empire to do all they can to live at peace. It was a confusing time amidst competing worldviews and differing ideologies and pressures to conform to a majority culture that did not reflect the kingdom of God. Sound familiar?
We too are living at a time when hate and fear are common capital wielded for power, and the result is hurt and misunderstanding. And yet the word of the Prince of Peace is still, “love one another as I have loved you.” It’s easy to fear what we do not know. But we are promised that perfect love casts out fear. The aim of this gathering was to know one another and go beyond the stereotypes and rhetoric to see the person sitting at the table as made in the image of God, a neighbor, and even a friend. In faith we love and resist fear.
The panel discussed how part of confronting fear is deconstructing the narratives we have previously learned. Muna wisely issued a caution regarding a “single story perspective” regarding people, cultures, and history. “A single story distills the complexity of people into a single image,” she said. She expertly responded to questions regarding misconceptions about Muslim women and the complex issues surrounding extremism of all kinds. Knowing the facts is part of breaking through the rhetoric. For example, it’s important to know of the great diversity among Muslims, their contributions to communities and culture throughout history, that the majority of women do not feel oppressed, and that our Muslim neighbors are greatly threatened and otherwise negatively impacted when media paints everyone with the same brush. The positive re-writing of these single stories happens through relationships and intentional engagement, which allow us to hear new perspectives and gain a fuller understanding of the facts. The Imam graciously expressed his hope that Christians would feel welcome at the mosque ad made the gentle exhortation, “I want muslims to be comfortable to enter a church and be able to make a friend.”
3 things that challenge hateful rhetoric:
- Friendship – As peacemakers who follow the Prince of Peace, our desire is build genuine relationship with our Muslim neighbors, humbly listening to and learning from them.
- Faith – Resist the temptation to be fearful, and intentionally love.
- Fact – The vast majority of Muslims want to be good neighbors, raise their kids in healthy families, and participate in their communities. Learn more about the great diversity within Islam, and resist being shaped by a single-story image of Muslims. Share the positive stories and images you encounter.
Want to learn more?
Watch the Ted Talk “Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story“