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.
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.
Odyssey 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.
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.
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.
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.