Talks with Muslims point way to peace
Group shares faith, promotes interfaith reconciliation in the PhilippinesBy Jon Rudy Mennonite Central Committee and Eastern Mennonite Missions
MINDANAO, Philippines — When a group of Mennonites visited a Muslim leader in Marawi City recently, he told them he had been banned from many mosques after he initiated dialogue with Christians.
The Muslim peace movement, he said, needs Mennonite encouragement.
That’s what it got April 24-May 2 when five Mennonites traveled through conflict-ravaged areas of Mindanao in the southern Philippines to learn from Christians and Muslims who are in dialogue with each other about ways to reduce violence.
The delegation included Richard Rancap, president of the Integrated Mennonite Churches of the Philippines; Luke Schrock-Hurst, an Eastern Mennonite Missions worker in Manila; David Shenk, global missions consultant with EMM; and Dann Pantoja, a Filipino member of Peace Mennonite Church in Vancouver, B.C., who now serves in Mindanao.
As the 10-day journey across Mindanao’s primarily Muslim regions began, Shenk led a one-day seminar on “Christians Ministering in Islamic Communities” at a theological seminary in Davao.
“Islam needs to be engaged at a spiritual level,” Shenk said. “Christians are equipped for this conversation since our understanding of God is that he is dialogical.”
Experts believe peace efforts in Mindanao will have to address how Muslims and Christians relate to each other, in part because many see the conflict here as a war between Islam and Christianity. By showing the world that Christians and Muslims can live in harmony, the hope is that this wrong perception will be corrected.
In Cotabato City, the group visited an evangelical partner of Mennonite Central Committee that works in Muslim communities. A leader in this effort said the project’s role is to bring Jesus to the community through acts of service, not to bring community members to church.
Several times as the Mennonites spoke with Muslim student groups, they raised the difficult question of forgiveness as the students shared their stories of pain and loss at the murder of loved ones.
“Christianity is centered in forgiveness through Christ’s atonement,” Schrock-Hurst told a student group. “Our own spiritual ancestors suffered, as you have, but through God’s grace we have been called to forgive our enemies.”
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