Lebanon (MNN) — The more tragedies and hardships that hit countries and cities, the more communities splinter, drawing dividing lines and focusing on themselves. But even during trying circumstances, the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) looks to build bridges and foster friendship between Christians and Muslims through its Institute of Middle East Studies’ (IMES) peace-building initiatives.
Chief academic office Martin Accad explains that these peace-building initiatives remain distinctive because they put faith at the center.
“The purpose is to allow your faith values [to] inspire living together across faith traditions and working together towards the common good,” he says.
Included in these initiatives is the Friendship Network of Church and Mosque Goers. For the past two and a half years, IMES has worked to build a network of leaders across Lebanon that can bring people of both faiths together.
“With this group of 25 to 30 people, we explore themes around friendship,” Accad explains.
The pandemic meant these groups had to stop meeting, but the health crisis combined with a severe economic downturn means unity and cooperation are more important than ever. Accad says the friendship network is using relief funds to help both communities. The network has had Christian and Muslim leaders take food packs to families together.
“We want to demonstrate that in times of crisis, faith leaders, out of their values, are able to think beyond the wellbeing of their own community,” he says.
Accad also explains delivering these food packages serves two important purposes.
“We will have an impact in certain families that we are reaching out to, but most importantly, we will be demonstrating that people of faith can collaborate together toward the common good,” he says.
“It doesn’t mean that all religions are equal. It doesn’t mean that we are trying to say that there are no differences. On the contrary, true dialogue and peace building is based on the recognition that we are different, and we can collaborate together despite our differences.”