Waging Peace: Muslim and Christian Alternative begins airing June 23 on NBC local stations

Our documentary, Waging Peace: Muslim and Christian Alternatives is airing for the second time on national TV outlets, this time on NBC-TV between June 23 and the end of November. (In 2011, it had a run on ABC-TV.) It airs at the local choice of NBC affiliates.

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How did Mennonites come to produce a program exploring peacemaking threads among Christian and Muslim traditions? Haven’t Christians and Muslims been fighting each other ever since the Crusades (and before)? Aren’t extremist terrorists the number one threat to our peace and well-being? The mayhem and tragedy at the most recent Boston Marathon remind us these tensions continue to lurk under the surface for law-abiding Muslims and Christians alike.

I personally have felt this tension among the people that I know and love over the years since Sept. 11, 2001. In 2009 one of the predecessor organizations of MennoMedia was talking to the folks at Odyssey Networks about a documentary focusing on religious pluralism. The Interfaith Broadcasting Commission supplies some religious programming for ABC and NBC (which local stations can use or not use) and they were interested in this topic as well.

Documentaries and other media are best when zeroing in on specifics and stories rather than generalities. As a Mennonite organization with concerns for peace and justice issues, we proposed a program addressing pluralism by looking at stories from the peacemaking traditions of two religions, Christianity and Islam. I set about writing the initial proposal.

Waging Peace productionOdyssey supplied some funding along with grants from Schowalter Foundation and individuals. Buller Films LLC undertook the massive research and filming through a contract for then Mennonite Media in partnership with ISNA, related to a Muslim media organization. The film crew of Burton Buller, his wife Mary, and son Jon traveled from Los Angeles, Calif. to Waterloo, Ontario to Chicago and many points in between and gathered stories focusing on refugees; high school students; Muslim and Christian families; refugees escaping war; and an Imam and Mennonite pastor in Waterloo who began chatting over breakfast which eventually led their faith communities to create comforters together for refugees.

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The documentary was a daunting task in many respects. How do you begin to grapple with the current tensions between Christians and Muslims? By learning more about both religions. Even though the production team thought we were well steeped in Christian peacemaking teachings and traditions, there are many different kinds of Christians with different viewpoints. For instance, a Baptist pastor who opposed a mosque being built next to his church agreed to be interviewed for the documentary expressing one viewpoint.

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There are also many kinds of Muslims, also with diverse viewpoints from each other. There are different basic understandings about the concept of justice: Burton Buller, producer, said he learned through his interviews with Muslims that in their viewpoint, there can be no peace without justice, no matter how nice it is to talk about such things.

Here is a clip:

How you can help

Contact a local station. We’re thrilled for this documentary to have another run on network TV. So far the list of those airing the program is not long, see here.) BUT, if you are interested in seeing this program air in your area and wish to contact the local NBC station, find the name of the program manager. Call the station and ask to speak to that person. Leave a message if necessary. Tell them you represent (whatever group in the community you are with, from a church, a larger ministerial association, an inter-religious association, a civics club) and that you would like to see Waging Peace: Muslim and Christian Alternatives air in your community. (See the bottom of this post for more detail)

Arrange a screening. Or, you can do what Leon Kehl did in his area of Ontario. Since NBC does not air in Canada but the documentary featured his congregation, Floradale in Waterloo, Ontario and a local Christian school, Rockway, he arranged a screening tour for the program. Over 700 people in nine churches, mosques, and other sites in Ontario saw it from Feb. 12-19, 2012. Accompanying the film was Sheri Hartzler, the project’s executive producer. Most screenings were followed by a discussion led by a multi-faith panel, including people who participated in the film project. Supporting the screenings were Mennonite Central Committee Ontario, Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, Islamic Centre of Cambridge, Intercultural Dialogue Institute, and other local churches and organizations.

Study the DVD in a group. The program is only $24.95 with a study guide available at the website, www.WagingPeaceAlternatives.com. Or order by calling 800-631-6535 (Canada) or 800-245-7894 (U.S.).

More about the Network “feed”: The network “feed” of the program to local stations is Thursday morning June 20th for the first play date of June 23rd. NBC feeds it once, and the station can air it whenever they want. If a station misses the feed–they often call NBC–which in turn contacts Interfaith Broadcasting Commission to be sent the program on DVD. There is a six month window in which they can air the program on NBC.

Let us know if we can help you with any of this.

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Melodie Davis
MennoMedia Writer/producer/editor

 

How do you raise almost a half million dollars?

When I was hired as director of development for MennoMedia more than a year ago, one of my primary responsibilities was to raise $400,000 over four years for “new curriculum development.” At the time, I remember thinking that this seemed reasonable since Mennonite Church USA had recently raised more than $5M for a new office in Elkhart, Ind., and in the early 2000s Mennonite Publishing House had raised more than $5M to retire its debt. I recently became aware of a United Methodist church in my home town that raised $250k, with an expectation of raising another $500k, to renovate its stained glass windows. If one congregation can raise three-quarters of a million dollars for its stained glass windows, then surely more than 1,200 Mennonite congregations in the U.S. and Canada could raise $400k to help pass along their Christian faith, with a distinct Anabaptist flavor, to their children.

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Many teachers appreciate MennoMedia’s present Gather ‘Round curriculum, which is approaching its final year of an eight-year cycle. One Sunday school teacher in Ontario said of Gather ‘Round, “I’ve taught grades 3‑5 and junior youth. I loved the biblical insight for teachers, the variety of activities offered, and the opening suggestions. The student books also have a great variety of activities, with a mix of historical or current information to geographical and cultural information. I found the kids like reading it and doing the puzzles and other activities.”

Although not an easy task in these challenging economic times, I think MennoMedia will be successful in raising the money needed to produce a new Anabaptist children’s Sunday school curriculum. We are a small agency in a small denomination and lack the financial reserves needed to hire writers, illustrators and project managers needed to produce a quality Sunday school curriculum. Therefore, we need to raise $400k in production costs ahead of sales.

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Our strategy has been to reach out to the churches who are the biggest users of the current Sunday school curriculum, Gather ‘Round. To that end I identified the top 50 users of the curriculum in the U.S. and the top 33 in Canada and embarked on a campaign to make a personal visit and campaign appeal to each of these churches. I’ve visited 45 of the top 50 churches in the U.S. and 19 of the top 33 churches in Canada. As a result, we have raised more than $103,000 in gifts and pledges over four years from churches and individuals, including pledges from MennoMedia employees and MennoMedia board members. That figure includes a $10k gift from Mennonite Church Canada and the promise of an offering, which will be designated for new curriculum development, to be taken during an evening worship service at Mennonite Church USA’s biennial assembly in Phoenix this July.

We now have a name, logo and know many details about this new curriculum, which will be available for use in the fall of 2014. It will be Bible story-centered with an emphasis on distinct Anabaptist theological convictions, such as peace, simple living, and intentionally following the way of Jesus. The materials will tell the biblical story and spend significant time with Jesus’ life, ministry, and teachings. It has lofty goals that we know are attainable, which have that “little extra” that makes them distinctive:

• Attend to spiritual practices and spiritual life.
• Build on the faith of young children and call children to intentionally follow the way of Jesus.
• Include stories from Anabaptist history and examples of contemporary persons of faith.
• Emphasize community and relationships.
• Emphasize seeking justice and wholeness for humanity and all of creation.
• Emphasize stewardship, service, mission, and simple living in response to God’s generosity.
• Emphasize peace, reconciliation, and nonviolence.
• Be sensitive to diversity, including socio-economic and racial diversity.

When you really think about these goals and our children, it is not hard to get excited about this new curriculum, which is called Shine: Living in God’s Light. It will serve children age 3 through 8th grade. It will be based on Bible stories and cover most of the canon in three years. There will be music CDs with songs to accompany the sessions, one for young children and another for kindergarten through 8th grade. Shine will not have a senior high youth component but other materials will be available for use with senior high school students.

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If you recognize the importance of having an Anabaptist-specific Sunday school curriculum, then I encourage you to support this effort financially. We still need nearly $300k to make the plan for a new Anabaptist specific curriculum a reality. Thank you for your interest in passing on Anabaptist faith to the next generation.

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Steve Carpenter
Director of Development

Your financial support for new curriculum development is much needed and greatly appreciated. Our online giving software does not currently give us the ability to designate donations, except in general for MennoMedia. So, if you want to give specifically to “new curriculum development” send your checks to:

Mennonite Church Canada, 600 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB R3P 0M4, Canada (designated for MennoMedia/New Curriculum)

or

MennoMedia, 1251 Virginia Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22802 (designated for MennoMedia/New Curriculum).

And if you want to keep up to date on all the latest Shine news as the curriculum is developed (and all of the latest happenings at MennoMedia, subscribe to this blog right here on the home page) and share with friends. That’s another way to help!

Reimagining Third Way Cafe

One of the many things that MennoMedia produces is Third Way Café. This site was launched some 15 years ago by Mennonite Media as a source for basic information about Mennonites, including history, beliefs, present-day values and thinking from an Anabaptist viewpoint.

There are over one million Internet searches each month for “Mennonite,” and Third Way Café is one of the places where people turn for information.

Our analytics show that we’ve had 70,000 visitors via computer since June—with half of them coming via a Google search. Plus there have been another 30,000 that came to Third Way Café via mobile devices—with 20,000 from iPhones.

And the numbers go up considerably when stories related to Amish or Mennonites make the mainstream news—or when Amish reality TV shows begin another season.

Our viewership statistics are impressive, and we are paying close attention right now as we get ready to launch a reconceptualization and redesign process for Third Way Café.

While some sections of the site are rarely accessed, others—such as the “Who are the Mennonites?” page—are heavily used. With a growing number of people interested in knowing about Mennonites, we want Third Way Café to continue to be a strong presence for searches about Mennonite faith and life.

As we embark on this reconceptualization and redesign process, we are asking ourselves:

We will work on this reconceptualization and redesign process both internally and externally in coming months.

To get us started, I welcome your feedback on Third Way Café.

  • How would you critique it?
  • How could we improve it?
  • How can we better use it as a communications tool for Mennonite Churches and for MennoMedia?

Looking forward to your input!

Amy Gingerich, editorial director

Amy Gingerich