Mennonites Reach Out to Build Positive Christian-Muslim Relations

SALUNGA, Pa. — Eastern Mennonite Missions’ new Christian/Muslim Relations Team wants to equip Christians around the world for life-giving interaction with Muslims.

Eastern Mennonite Missions’ Christian/Muslim Relations Team, from left: Jonathan Bornman, David W. Shenk and Andres Prins.Eastern Mennonite Missions’ Christian/Muslim Relations Team, from left: Jonathan Bornman, David W. Shenk and Andres Prins. — Photo by Kim Winey/EMM

The team’s tagline is “Peacemakers Confessing Christ.”

“Globalization and immigration have resulted in the 2.4 billion Christians and the 1.6 billion Muslims of the world interacting and relating to one another in new settings,” said team member Jonathan Bornman, who served among the Muslim people of Senegal in West Africa for 10 years. “We want to equip Christians to open doors of friendship and good relations with their Muslim neighbors.”

Other team members are David W. Shenk, EMM global consultant known worldwide for encouraging Muslim-Christian dialogue; and Andres Prins, who has 30 years of experience in North Africa and the Middle East.

Shenk notes that many Christians in North America worry about having Muslim neighbors. Recently he discovered similar concerns in Neuwied, Germany, where he led a seminar on being good neighbors to Muslims and sharing the good news of Jesus with them.

The Christian sponsors of the seminar went to every mosque in the community with an invitation to the final evening session on the peace of Christ. A number of Muslims came and then lingered after the session for conversation.


Islam teaches reverence for Jesus and other biblical prophets

Jesus in islamHUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Many Christians and other non-Muslims are surprised to learn that the teachings of Islam include information about Jesus.

Zakiyyah Shakoor, a former teacher and an active member of the Huntsville Islamic Center, 1645 Sparkman Drive in Huntsville, explains where these teachings come from.

While Christians, by definition, also attribute to Jesus co-divinity with God as part of the Trinity, Zakiyyah’s simple explanation helps show that both Christians and Muslims can celebrate together the message about God that Jesus was sent to bear.

ur thanks to Zakiyyah and other religious leaders in Huntsville for contributing these LifePoints essays from time to time to The Huntsville Times.

Note: In the passage of the Quran, below, there are words in parentheses. Those kinds of designations are to be found in any translation of the Quran from the Arabic believed by Muslims to have been given by the angel Gabriel directly to the Prophet Muhammad. Those phrases clearly mark the translator’s additional words for clarification from the literal Arabic and remind those reading in translation of how carefully Quranic translators aim for precision. 

In her essay, Zakiyyah also uses the traditional Muslim blessings added after using the name of any of the Muslim prophets, “peace be upon him,” as a sign of reverence and thanksgiving for their witness.


Does Islam Need Good PR?

Islamic-imperialism-480x330Does Islam Need Good PR? My immediate answer is ‘No’. I also think that it is not for me, as a Christian, even if somewhat ‘expert’, to say what Islam needs, I will leave that to Muslim friends and colleagues. However, there are few areas that I would like to explore:

  • Islam, and Muslims, have many good things to say which are often not heard
  • There is so much focus on Islam that it would be great if there was less media exposure
  • What should Christians be saying about Islam?
  • How can we generate the right kind of PR?


Islam at the Louvre


The roof of the Louvre’s new Islamic art department undulates like golden fabric gently lifted by the wind—a feat, considering it is made of steel and glass and weighs almost 150 tons. Filling a neoclassical courtyard, the addition that opened last fall tripled the space devoted to Islamic art and more than doubled the number of objects on view to almost 3,000, or about a sixth of the museum’s works from the Islamic world.

In contrast to the spectacular architecture by Mario Bellini and Rudy Ricciotti, the installation is understated, an elegant version of open-storage: objects grouped in long glass cases; larger pieces—carved steles, inlaid doors, stone latticed windows—clustered on low pedestals; and architectural fragments affixed to partitions. The flooring is dark, the passageways plain and the lighting democratic, giving shards of earthenware as much attention as finely woven rugs from Iran, a jewel-encrusted dagger from Mughal India or 14th-century enameled blown-glass lamps from Egypt and Syria that are about as close to numinous as objects can get.

Wholly American, Wholly Muslim

All across this country—and the world, in fact—there are numerous people who seek to define Islam and Muslims in a specific and (frequently) negative manner. Islamophobes have, in fact, staked their careers on this task. There are also criminals, so-called Muslims, acting in the name of Islam in such a wrong way that provides a “definition” of the religion wholly inconsistent with its principles. The actions of these criminals are just that: criminal and twisted and do not reflect the truth. Islamophobes claim that these deviants are, in fact, only representing the truth, and any claim to the contrary is a “lie.”

Hence the importance of Muslim voices owning their faith. These voices define Islam; they represent the truth. This is why the “I Speak For Myself” series is so important. Starting with the first book, I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim (White Cloud Press, 2011), American Muslim women got the chance to tell the world their story, in their own words. Now, it is the brothers’ turn with All American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim, edited by Wajahat Ali (a Patheos contributor and former blogger) and Zahra T. Suratwala.


Muslims and Christians Gather Together at Texas Megachurch

northwood-churchKELLER — Hoping to nurture good will between two major faiths, Christians and Muslims will mingle Sunday at a Texas barbecue at a Keller church.

The Rev. Bob Roberts, pastor of the 3,000-member NorthWood Church, said the gathering is intended to create friendships and recruit Muslims and Christians who will work together on a series of community projects.

“We’ve got a big Muslim issue in America,” Roberts said. “There are 2 billion Christians in the world and 1.5 billion Muslims. If we don’t learn how to get along, we are going to have a very sick world.”

Those attending will be served beef slaughtered according to Islamic rules.

It’s a follow-up to a similar service at NorthWood — attended by 1,500 Muslims and 1,000 Christians — shortly after the 10th anniversary of 9-11.

That service, labeled “repulsive” by a political activist, was highly emotional.

At one point, Roberts told the Muslims, “We love you.” After a standing ovation, a Muslim in the audience stood and replied to Roberts, “We love you too.”

At Sunday’s event, Muslims and Christians will sign up to work together on several volunteer projects, including painting and remodeling homes and renovating a Haltom City baseball field. Also, women will take part in cooking clubs, sharing recipes from their different cultures.

Among the speakers will be U.S. Rep. Kay Granger; former South Carolina Gov. David Beasley, director of the Center for Global Strategies in Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Azhar Azeez, vice president of the Islamic Society of North America in Plainfield, Ind.



15 Years in Jail: Egyptian family charged for attempting to restore Christian names

mourns-painting-stands-jesus.nAn Egyptian mother and her seven children have been given lengthy jail sentences for illegally changing their names on official documents. The family wanted to use their Christian names again after a conversion following their Muslim father’s death.

Nadia Ali Mohamed was born Christian but converted to Islam when she married her husband Mustafa Mohamed Abdel-Wahab. When he died in 1991, she wanted to go back to being a Christian, and pushed her seven children to convert.

In 2004, after the family had converted back to Christianity, they replaced their Muslim names on their identity cards with their Christian names. They had also moved to a different city of residence, which was changed on the documents as well.

Two years later, one of Mohamed’s sons was arrested by police at the information Center of Beni Suef, a town about 115 kilometers south of Cairo, where they were living at that time. Officials suspected that the boy’s documents had been forged.

The boy confessed his conversion to Christianity, and said that the subsequent name changes in the documents were at the behest of his mother. When the police passed the case on, judges decided to bring charges against the mother and all of her children, as well as the seven clerks from the registration office who had changed the family’s documents


Egypt’s Top Religious Adviser: ‘Islam Will Have a Place in Egypt’s Democracy’

JEgypt’s top religious adviser recently urged the importance of “inter-religious harmony” as the country “continues to pass through a sensitive period of transition,” adding that he believes the Islamic religion does have a place in Egypt’s democracy.

“Muslims and Christians alike are encouraged to transform sentiments of solidarity into true unity for the sake of the welfare of Egypt, and not in the interests of individual advancement or sectarian gain,” Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, senior adviser for Islamic law, wrote in a recent guest column for Reuters.

“This is crucial so that we may leave to future generations a pluralistic, humane culture at the root of which is true faith, a commitment to justice and love between the peoples of this great land,” Gomaa added.

Gomaa went on to address recent statements made by preacher Hisham el-Ashry, who called for the implementation of “anti-vice police,” or police who would patrol the country to ensure no civilian was breaking a law of Islam.

“Egypt’s religious scholars have long guided the people to act in ways that conform to their religious commitments, but have never thought this required any type of invasive policing,” Gomaa stated.


Buried Christian Empire Casts New Light on Early Islam

early muslim empireArchaeologists are studying the ruins of a buried Christian empire in the highlands of Yemen. The sites have sparked a number of questions about the early history of Islam. Was there once a church in Mecca?

The commandment “Make yourself no graven image” has long been strictly followed in the Arab world. There are very few statues of the caliphs and ancient kings of the region. The pagan gods in the desert were usually worshipped in an “aniconic” way, that is, as beings without form.

Muhammad had a beard, but there are no portraits of him.

But now a narcissistic work of human self-portrayal has turned up in Yemen. It is a figure, chiseled in stone, which apparently stems from the era of the Prophet.

Paul Yule, an archeologist from the southwestern German city of Heidelberg, has studied the relief, which is 1.70 meters (5’7″) tall, in Zafar, some 930 kilometers (581 miles) south of Mecca. It depicts a man with chains of jewelry, curls and spherical eyes. Yule dates the image to the time around 530 AD.


Christians and Muslims Worked Together on Christmas Food Drive

jesus-loves-muslims-too-christian-to-islam-building-bridges-to-the-world-artwork-665x385The London Free Press reports that Larcerte, the volunteer president of the St. Vincent de Paul conference at the church, reached out to the Muslim mosque for the first time this year in an effort to collaborate on community relief.

“We all want the same things: peace and respect, and I see this as a beginning of working together.”

Members of the mosque were overjoyed to be included in the food drive, said Ali D. Chahbar, who helped organize the partnership.

“To us, the spirit of Christmas is the spirit of brotherly love, and why wouldn’t we want to be a part of it?”

“It is so nice,” he continued. “People are really different. They are nicer and you notice it. I wanted to get a megaphone and shout ‘Can we keep this going all year, people?’ ”

“We are not Christians and don’t celebrate Christmas but we are engulfed by the spirit and . . . any time there’s a jubilant harmonious feeling, whatever creed it is under, we thrive on it,” he concluded.