by Bryan Carey
Jesus-centered peace building work requires an internal disposition and some simple practical steps.
Internally, peace building requires the mindset to first seek to understand others, rather than seeking to be understood (James 1:19), as well as theological humility, which allows us to admit the limitations of our knowledge and understanding. When we recognize and admit the limitations of our own understanding and truly seek to understand others, it honors people and opens up the opportunity to form deep relationships that are mutually transformative. Without a genuine humility that seeks to understand our neighbors, efforts to “build peace” quickly appear to be – and easily become – superficial and duplicitous to people of other faith backgrounds. For that reason, these internal components of humility and curiosity that seeks to understand others deeply are the cornerstone of Jesus-centered peace building.
But peace building is nothing if it’s not practical. Here are a few ways Peace Catalyst International’s staff create spaces for Christians and Muslims to build relationships and work together toward peace in their local communities:
- Bringing together people from local mosques and churches by visiting one another’s places of worship allows people to learn about one another’s beliefs, reduce misunderstanding, and overcome fear so that people can begin to form relationships with one another.
- Sharing meals at local restaurants or in homes gives Christians and Muslims time to share honest conversation and deepen relationships with one another.
- Hosting panel and group discussions with Christians and Muslims interested in learning about one another’s religious views, particularly about challenging subjects, provides a safe space to begin to tackle tougher issues.
- Facilitating small groups creates an environment for Christians, Muslims, and others to study one another’s scriptures together, discover common ground, tackle challenging topics and points of difference, and build relationships.
- Collaborating together on projects allows Muslims and Christians to serve the community side-by-side.
To sum it up in a phrase: peace building is all about reducing misunderstanding, deepening trust, and building personal relationships so that individuals and congregations of different faiths can collaborate and serve together as a blessing to their community. Oftentimes deepening relationships occur as faith communities serve together, and theological or ethical conversations primarily serve as a means of reducing misunderstanding so that relationships and collaboration can occur.
If you’re interested in meeting Muslims or visiting a local mosque, check out this post for some tips.
If you’re looking for resources or ideas so your small group or church can begin some peace building work in your community, this post is a good place to begin.