Interfaith foundation for making peace
A recent visit by a group of Mennonites to a predominantly Muslim region of the Philippines may be a sign of changing priorities for the church and for all Christians.
The 10-day journey through Mindanao by several church leaders was a modest beginning, but also a promising attempt to seek a place of respectful coexistence with the adherents of Islam.
The story was told in the June 27 MWR.
By focusing on a mutual desire for peace and not on political and religious differences, and by engaging one another through spirituality and prayer, participants on both sides were encouraged by the possibility for genuine understanding.
This is reassuring, because such dialogue may soon have to become a priority for Christians everywhere. With political groups identifying more all the time with the defense of their faith and ideology, the conversation between Christians and Muslims could be among the world’s most important issues during the next few decades.
Recent history in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan might have been much different if more of this conversation already had taken place. But it is not too late to make amends or, better yet, to learn to know one another as earnest people of faith, whose differences need not make us enemies. And a conversation it must be, with mutual respect, openness and two-way dialogue. This is a fact that David Shenk has known for awhile.
“Islam needs to be engaged at a spiritual level,” said Shenk, an Eastern Mennonite Missions consultant and an authority on Islam who participated in the Mindanao journey. “Christians are equipped for this conversation since our understanding of God is that he is dialogical.”
Not surprisingly, Muslims the Mennonites encountered were most easily engaged when it came to the common struggle to establish peace and security in their homelands. In these discussions an important connection emerged.
“What we heard consistently from Muslims and Christians on this trip was the importance of Mennonite encouragement to them on the sometimes lonely road of peace-building and dialogue,” Shenk said. “Muslims have respected Mennonites because they recognize that the church, when true to Christ, marches to a different tune than the government. On this trip, we’ve again been moved to see that love in action overcomes fear.”
This love in action is what Muslims need to experience whenever they encounter Christians. All too often, Muslims see Christians in the same skewed way Christians view Islam — as a religion of bombs and extremism that tolerates no detractors and puts the sword ahead of the hand of mercy.
Such misperceptions cannot go on if coexistence is ever to be achieved. The only way forward is to show a true and unfettered expression of the love of Christ for all people. All our interfaith peacemaking efforts must be based upon the conviction that Christ is the hope for the world’s salvation.
To open ourselves to Muslims, and to make a sincere appeal that they open themselves to us with trust and assurance of friendship — both of these are required if the way is ever to be made clear for mutual, productive lives of peace.
Faith should be the foundation of safety, not the linchpin of fear and war. A 10-day journey through the Philippines shows the path we must take.
Comment on the article Interfaith foundation for making peace
Please keep comments civil. MWR editors reserve the right to remove any comment. When posting a comment, you agree to the MWR Comments Policy. Name and comment will be posted; commenters are strongly encouraged to give their full name. Email address is for follow-up only and will not be made public.