Build Relationships, Put an End to Violence

A picture of a young girl in Gaza, standing against a school and mourning the loss of a relative killed there, fills the main part of my browser this morning.

And yet the advertisements on the right-hand side of the page are for a new car, a deal on a pedicure, and an overnight getaway.

A story of global conflict and American lifestyle advertisements. It’s a mismatch, right? Or is it. I live in the U.S., in a small Ohio town where there really isn’t any violence to speak of. So I could click to claim the deal on a pedicure and go about my day or I could read the article and think about this world we live in: a world rife with conflict, a world filled with people who need to figure out how to understand each other, a world where we forget that we are connected to each other. Too often I get pulled into my own life and work and fail to see myself as a global citizen.

This week I had the pleasure of working on a forthcoming book, Christian, Muslim, Friend: Twelve Paths to Real Relationship, by David Shenk (November 1, 2014; Herald Press). The book invites readers into authentic, respectful friendship with Muslims. It invites readers to listen and understand different points of view while also holding fast to one’s own beliefs.

ChristianMuslimFriend

This is Shenk’s fourth volume in the Christians Meeting Muslims Series. The other books in the series are:

  • A Muslim and A Christian in Dialogue, coauthored with Badru D. Kateregga (focuses on dialogue)
  • Journeys of the Muslim Nation and the Christian Church: Exploring the Mission of Two Communities (focuses on witness and invitation)
  • Teatime in Mogadishu: My Journey as a Peace Ambassador in the World of Islam, by Ahmed Ali Haile as told to David Shenk (focuses on peacemaking)
MuslimAndAChristianInDialogue JourneysOfTheMuslimNationAndTheChristianChurch Teatime InMogadishu

In the introduction to Christian, Muslim, Friend., Shenk writes, “I am writing these lines in June 2014, which has turned into a month of anguish. Boko Haram has kidnapped some three hundred high school girls in Nigeria. The United States is gearing up to provide more military assistance for moderate Muslims in Syria. Al Shabab have bombed a market and attacked Christians at worship in Kenya. Christian vigilantes are violently cleansing southern Chad of Muslims. A drone is reported to have killed Muslim militants in southern Yemen. The European Union Parliament is moving toward the right amid concerns about the growing Muslim immigrant community in Europe. … In Egypt, members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been served the death penalty by Egyptian courts.

1403

Author David Shenk

“These thirty days in June are the context in which relationship-building between Muslims and Christians must happen. The astonishment is that the participants in all these conflicts believe they are on God’s side. In case we have not noticed, peacemaking is urgent!”

Shenk’s writing is clear and easy-to-follow, with 12 paths that he sees as key to building relationships. These paths are designed to help readers learn and share about the contemporary challenges and realities of cultivating real relationships between Muslims and Christians, with particular reflection on the journey of North American and other Western Christians. For example, the first four paths are:

  • Live with Integrity: Christians and Muslims are often inclined to avoid candor in their relations with one another. This might be because of mistrust. However, integrity is foundational to wholesome relations.
  • Keep Identity Clear: The Muslim scriptures encourage Christians to be clear about their identity. Christians meeting Muslims most often experience appreciation for Christians who are clear about their faith and church commitments.
  • Cultivate Respect: In the present worldwide atmosphere much is said unkindly about people with different beliefs. Every effort must be nurtured to speak and think respectfully of one another.
  • Develop Trust: It is very significant when Muslims say that they trust their Christian neighbors, and vice versa. The three principles that are discussed in the three opening chapters of this book do sow seeds that nurture trust. Mistrust builds walls; trust creates open doors.

While Christian. Muslim. Friend. is specifically about fostering Christian-Muslim relationships, I believe it offers us encouragement and practical tools for building relationship amid all sorts of global violence. As Shenk writes, “Seeking the rule of God is a common strand of faith and intention that pulls us together in our work and witness.”

How do you seek relationship with the “other” in your context? How are you building friendship with those who believe differently?

Amy Gingerich, editorial director

Amy Gingerich

 

 

Living cross-culturally: Experiencing a feast of delectable tastes, objects and sounds

Most of us live our lives within tightly controlled comfort zones, whether staying in our air conditioned or well heated homes, or avoiding “the other” in our midst. However, I have learned from and admire those hearty souls who travel to distant lands and interact with locals, whether as missionaries, pilgrims or simply life long learners.

Recently, my wife Chris and I have come to know an Iraqi couple, Zeid and Sundis who came to the U.S. seeking political asylum. They settled in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and were quickly granted asylum because of death threats they experienced in Baghdad. They are Sunni Muslims who formerly lived in a Shia controlled area of Badhdad. Zeid is a successful businessman but, because of religious intolerance and greed, according to Zeid, he was twice kidnapped and held for ransom.

Last spring they hosted us in their home for a sumptuous feast of goat and traditional Iraqi dishes. Sundis is a wonderful cook and baker. We reciprocated and had them over for dinner. Zeid remarked, “This is the first time I have been a guest in an American home.”

On Labor Day my wife and I hosted four other couples, including Zeid and Sundis, for a traditional American cookout. However, in respect of their Muslim customs, we used halal beef to make the hamburgers. We invited friends who had visited Arab countries, including the former Mennonite Central Committee Middle East regional director, to join in the cookout. Zeid enjoyed meeting our friends and had such a good time that he said, “I want to host another party, for everyone who is here, at my home.”

I facilitated that event and five couples gathered in Zeid and Sundis’ home for an Iraqi feast of several fresh fish roasted whole, with the head and tail intact. There were no utensils but rather, we were invited to eat with our hands. The fish was supplemented with Middle Eastern flat breads, served with za’atar and olive oil, as well as dates, and salad. It was obvious that much care, time and love went into preparation of the meal. Sundis, who always wears the hijab, was draped in a particularly colorful garment for this special occasion.

149133994
When we had eaten our fill, the guests retired to the living room for a short time while the table was cleared and reset with an array of sumptuous sweets: baklava; Jordanian sweets made with walnuts, pistachios and dates; and fresh fruit skewered on a spit like shish kabob. Of course dessert was accompanied by Arabian coffee and a spiced tea served from decorated pitchers into small but elaborate cups.

After the meal, while still gathered at the table, Zeid asked us what we thought of the Muslim requirement for women to wear the hijab. Each of us answered in turn. Comparisons were made to Mennonite prayer coverings. One young woman, who grew up in China and experienced gender liberation under Chairman Mao and the Communist revolution, brought another distinct perspective to the dialogue. We spoke freely of our faith and love for Jesus even while we listened to the Muslim call to prayer emanating from Zeid’s smart phone. It was a rich time together.

78059710
Mennonite are not new to such experiences. Mennonite volunteers, from those who served in a relief program, PAX, during WWII, and those working with Mennonite Central Committee doing development and peace work around the world, embrace love for neighbors from other countries.

I suspect there are Muslims living in your region. MennoMedia produces resources which help equip individuals and the church to interact with their Muslims neighbors. I think specifically of the DVD, Waging Peace, and David W. Shenk’s trilogy of books: Journeys of the Muslim Nation and the Christian Church, Teatime in Mogadishu, and A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue. There is also a whole section of Third Way Cafe dedicated Waging Peace and helping people understand the Muslim faith and peaceful interactions.

I recommend these materials to you.

Steve C 2012

Steve Carpenter, Director of Development