As Current as the Latest News: David Shenk’s “Christian. Muslim. Friend.”

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Reading/skimming things coming through my Facebook feed, if there was ever a helpful and timely book, David Shenk’s new small volume, Christian. Muslim. Friend. seems to be it. This book will be published Nov. 1 and is on pre-publication discount right now, see below. But that’s not why I’m writing about it.

While news rumbles on TV, Twitter and Facebook, deep fears and misunderstandings about people of the Islamic faith are stoked for many of our friends, neighbors and relatives.

Richard Kauffman, editor at Christian Century (and former editor at Mennonite Publishing House) shared a link to this Washington Post article on Facebook this week: “Even if we defeat the Islamic state, we’ll still lose the bigger war.”  Dick’s cogent comment to this was: “My fear: sooner or later, there will be boots on the ground.”

The major news networks this week also told about how and why young U.S. citizens are joining ISIS or other Islamist groups fighting the Syrian government. Not that that is new, either.

The good news of this week was that Malala Yousafzai, (the young Pakistani teen previously shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating girls’ education, and Indian children’s rights advocate), was announced as a Nobel Peace Prize winner. One of my friends on Facebook proclaimed, “If you ever need to recall a moment when a purely right good thing happened in the world, remember this event and this day.”

Recently our staff learned of powerful affirmation for David Shenk’s Christian. Muslim. Friend. Twelve Paths to Real Relationshipfrom an organization called World Concern. It is a Christian mission organization that since 1955 has been working on global relief and development and “extending opportunity and hope to people facing extreme poverty.”

David Shenk spoke at a public event for World Concern recently in a session titled, “Christians in Lively Engagement with Muslims.” Sounds like a great topic.

David’s newest book is actually the fourth in a series of eye-opening, helpful books working at relationships across these age-old faith groups, as a seasoned Christian living and working many years in Muslim settings. World Concern distributed a flier that characterized David’s books in helpful, impassioned language. We have permission to share it here; see below. If you haven’t discovered these books yet, check them out and note that currently Christian. Muslim. Friend. is on 25 percent discount until the publication date of November 1.

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Christians Meeting Muslims Series
Learning and Witness through Dialogue
A Muslim and A Christian in Dialogue – Badru A Kateregga and David W. Shenk

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In this book a devout Muslim and a devout Christian witness to their faiths, listen respectfully and respond as friends but also true believers. Badru D. Kateregga and David Shenk open up the basic questions of the human situation and confront the areas of convergence and divergence between Islam and Christianity. This book opens doors because both men present their beliefs forthrightly and with conviction and deep respect. It often serves as the entry point for sensitive and respectful witness.

Teatime InMogadishu

Making and Finding Peace:
Teatime in Mogadishu – Ahmed Ali Haile as told to David W. Shenk

Ahmed Ali Haile, a courageous and bold follower of Christ, tells his life story of growing up in Somalia, his decision to follow Jesus the Messiah, his biblical grounding for witness and his return to Somalia to mediate between warring clans. This book, now in many languages including Somali, tells Haile’s bold faith and his joy in suffering for the love of his own people and of Jesus his Lord and Savior.

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Witnessing to Muslims with Power and Love:
Journeys of the Muslim Nation and the Christian Church: Exploring the Mission of Two Communities – David W. Shenk

We know that Muslims will eventually ask some questions of Christians. Why do you believe in three gods? How can you say that Jesus the Messiah is God’s son? The Gospel of Jesus, a sacred book to Islam, must be corrupted—how can God speak through many authors? What do you think of Muhammed? What do we say? This book prepares us to respect Islamic world views while proclaiming the truth of the cross—of God who came down and opened the way to peace, reconciliation and adaption into the his family. Learn to respond wisely and without fear of offense.

ChristianMuslimFriend

Building Lasting Relationships to Muslims as Friends:
Christian. Muslim. Friend. – 12 Paths to Real Relationship – David Shenk

In this soon to be released book, David, who has proclaimed the gospel of Jesus in mosques around the world as a friend and respected guest, lays out 12 ways Christians can form authentic relationships with Muslims—relationships characterized by respect, hospitality, and candid dialogue, allowing Christians to bearing witness to the Christ-centered commitments of their faith. In a world where we sometimes respond to Muslims with fear, we are emboldened to become friends.

One member of our staff, Angela Burkholder, had opportunity to travel as a teenager to the Middle East with a group from her church. Angela wishes she would have had the book before that encounter. After reading the book, she wrote,

“The whole way through, I alternated between wanting to continue reading and wanting to delve into my Bible. It gave me such an appreciation and deeper love for the Word of God.

 

I wish I could have a read this book way back when I was a teenager preparing to go on a REACH team to Israel.  My team worked with the Muslims and I wanted to connect somehow on a spiritual level with the Muslim friends I had made, but I didn’t have a foundational understanding of Islam. So, our conversations were fraught with all kinds of misconceptions (on both sides). I suspect, then and now as I relate to other Muslims, I have been guilty of fostering those ongoing misconceptions simply because I lacked proper knowledge about Islam.

 

I think this should be required reading for anyone preparing for the mission field, any young adult attending a secular college, any Christian who lives in or near a multicultural community, and anyone who travels.”

As Angela notes, many of us live, work, or volunteer among those of the Muslim faith in our neighborhoods, institutions and schools here in North America—without even traveling to another country. I work with several Muslim volunteers at our church clothes closet, for instance. In the Waging Peace documentary Mennonite Media produced several years ago, Mennonites in Ontario had frequent shared meals and comforter-making connections together. They have all benefited as they share food, conversation, and friendship.

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How well do you know your Muslim neighbor, co-worker, or friend? Perhaps David Shenk’s book can be a step in a good direction for many of us.

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Shenk’s series of four books would make a powerful, yearlong study for any church or small group which wants to take on a great challenge. All books used for study purposes are eligible anytime for our 25 percent off discount (5 copies or more of one title) from the Study Shelf.

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For a radio interview with David Shenk, which aired originally by Paul Ridgeway of KKMC Christian Talk radio, Twin Cities, Minn. listen here:

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Melodie Davis
Managing editor and Mennobytes coordinator

 

Poetry for Tuesday: Dantri, friend among the Taliban

 

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Dan Terry

*Dantri was the name of affection people in Afghanistan gave to Dan Terry, whose life story is told in Making Friends among the Taliban, written by storyteller Jonathan Larson; it was published by Herald Press, Fall, 2012 and the subject of a documentary, Weaving Life, produced by college students at Eastern Mennonite University in cooperation with MennoMedia during 2012. The documentary aired on ABC-TV fall and winter of 2012-2013.

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For something very different in this blog space, we’re sharing a poem by John Alter, the poet-chaplain at Christchurch School (Episcopal secondary school). Storyteller/author Jonathan Larson visited Christchurch School earlier in May, sharing the Weaving Life documentary and from Making Friends among the Taliban. Christchurch School is an Episcopal secondary school. This poem gives insights as to how the students at Christchurch were affected and Jonathan is eager to inspire other teens and college students. Contact us at MennoMedia for information on how to get in touch with Jonathan, or visit his webpage for the book. To preview a video clip from the documentary, check here.

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Dantri*

For my final theology exam I assigned
Who is my neighbor?  Designed

To allow each student to refine his or her sense
In whatever tense of what

We have learned together over this year.  Nobody
Shut down.  No shoddy answers.

A few swerved, a few perhaps dozed off a little, some
Mumbled, stumbled, fumbled, sure

And the moments of pure intellectual elation…
Well, vacation threatens, but

More than a few before they shut down for the year said
That Dantri the Taliban

Christian had unraveled their turbans gotten into
Their heads forced them to redo

Some obvious assumptions, an act of merciful
Sabotage long overdue.

The pull of the gospel in other words, what is true,
What is also beautiful,

And, Larson, you pulled on the rope and the great bell of
Mercy rang in the steeple.

Reminded of love the people who are my students
For a moment abandoned

What is merely prudent and self-serving, wondered what
Else they could do, might do, in

This life.  Before they shut down for the summer, looked in-
Ward a little even, knew

For a moment even that the only sin is to
Overlook your neighbor.  Here

At this school what is abundantly clear is that we
All live in a watershed

That is our history fate and good fortune.  Dantri
Got into heads already

To some extent primed perhaps, persuaded that life
Is a great journey.  The knife

That cuts through the ego’s knot is love of self neighbor
And place.  Leave the door of your

Caravanserai ajar then, knowing that more and
Less are arbitrary terms,

Understanding the great river of mercy.  Students
Squirm when reason overrides

Curiosity, is how we would like to decide
The curriculum.  Go out

Side, when pressed on the matter express some doubt that in
And out are meaningful terms.

Students squirm when sin is confused with rule-breaking, unless
The golden rule is at stake.

Then they confess to having taken some liberties
As Dantri did.  A sweet breeze

Moves through the apricot trees.  Who is your neighbor? Some
Mumbled a little, stumbled,

Nobody grumbled, and the story of Dantri claimed
A major part.   They named him

As somebody they might like to know: whimsical, sure
Footed, addicted to pure

Water, and, Larson, fire-starter, elemental tall-
Tale tiger-shooting story

Teller—we know the glory.

–for Jonathan Larson

Query: If you’ve seen Weaving Life or read Making Friends among the Taliban, how did either impact you?

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