Does Friendship Between Christians and Muslims Require Agreement?

By Kevin Singer and Chris Stackaruk

Screenshot-2018-11-30-07.32.28A 2016 op-ed from the Huff Post recently re-emerged after it was retweeted by a renowned sociologist at Rice University, Dr. Craig Considine, who has a robust 53,000+ Twitter followers. The piece — written by Ian Mevorach, who identifies himself as a theologian, spiritual leader, and activist — argues that “peacemaking Christians” should accept Muhammad as the “Spirit of Truth” whom Jesus speaks of in John 14-16, effectively transforming Muhammad from historical figure to ultimate prophet in Christian theology. He argues this to be a solution to Christian Islamophobia: “Changing our view of Muhammad—so that we recognize him as a true prophet rather than discredit him as a false prophet—would effectively inoculate Christians against Islamophobia and would help to establish a new paradigm of cooperative Christian-Muslim relations.”

Mevorach rightly notes that some of the most revered Christian theologians in the history of the Church, including John of Damascus, Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Nicholas of Cusa, and Martin Luther, would find Mevorach’s conclusions deeply troubling. Yet, he feels that his argument will “transform the way Christians and Muslims see and relate to each other.”

We co-direct an organization, Neighborly Faith, that equips evangelical Christians to be good neighbors to people of other faiths—especially Muslims. Over the last four years, we have built an expansive network of everyday evangelicals and their leaders across many churches, colleges and vocations with which we promote Christian friendship with Muslims. Putting the theological cogency of Mevorach’s argument aside, we can say with assurance that his argument would not “make peace between our communities” as he proposes. In fact, we believe it does the very opposite.

Mevorach injects urgency into his argument by noting that “the majority of Christians still maintain a fundamentally Islamophobic position on Muhammad,” and that “our planet simply cannot afford another century of misunderstanding and violence between these two communities.” Yet, the issue with his argument is that he correlates Christian opinions about Muhammed with their feelings about Muslims.

If we have learned anything during years of promoting real, on-the-ground engagement between Christians and Muslims it is that, (1) theological disagreement is not what causes conflict, and (2) theological agreement is not a viable means for reconciliation.

His arguments demand that Christians overturn centuries of belief, which will not be remotely compelling to the Christians he describes. Rather, an argument like this only makes Christian-Muslim friendship more out of reach for most Christians, who are not willing to sacrifice core tenets of their faith.

We have unfortunately seen this habit among many progressive thinkers in North America and Europe who, from the best of intentions, wish to be bridgebuilders and peacemakers. Mevorach and others like him contrive expedient solutions to “the problem of belief,” but never take into consideration whether the people who presumably need to change would find their arguments compelling. Unfortunately this is the case for Mevorach’s essay: His solution is laughably idealistic.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ISLAMIC MONTHLY

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Conservative Christians: Think Twice Before Claiming ‘Islam Is Not a Religion’

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The assertion that “Islam isn’t a religion” should be a cause for concern among conservative Christians as it can so easily and destructively be turned on Christian minorities in other parts of the world.

In her recent New York Times opinion piece, Asma T. Uddin rightly criticizes the “disturbing trend … [of] state lawmakers, lawyers, and influential social commentators,” like Oklahoma Republican state Rep. John Bennett, who claim that Muslims in the United States don’t deserve religious freedoms granted to adherents of other religions because “Islam is not even a religion; it is a political system that uses a deity to advance its agenda of global conquest.”

The claim has been floating around for several years, but it’s nonsensical for a host of reasons. No reasonable observer would contend that Muslims are the only religious people who try to advance their interests through concerted and coordinated political action, as should be clear from the Moral Majority, the Christian pro-life movement, and the opposition of many conservative Christians to the Johnson Amendment. The fact that the most obvious examples in the United States derive from conservative Christianity is only because conservative Christians have been more intentional, vocal, strategic, and successful in their religious politicking. However, it’s clear enough that liberal forms of Christianity also espouse their own brands of politics.

The obvious national and international political aspirations of Western Christians make their criticisms of the entanglement of Islam and politics particularly bewildering. Such criticisms, therefore, could only emanate either from a stunning lack of self-consciousness or a quite conscious, knowing, and cynically self-serving denial of the nature of things.

FULL ARTICLE FROM REWIRE NEWS 

Syrian Christians and Muslims: from common wounds a future of peace

SIRIA_-_testimonianza_caritas_rifugiatiokDamascus (AsiaNews) – A lunch bringing together Christians and Muslims became an opportunity to share experiences of war, suffering, divisions and also to discover that despite differences in faith, no family was spared by the conflict.  It also became an opportunity to  discover that the same families can start a journey of reconstruction capable of building bridges on the ruins and achieving a peace that comes from the depths of hearts. This is what emerges from the testimony given to AsiaNews by Sandra Awad, head of Communications for Caritas Syria, 40, married and mother of two children, in the context of the “Share the Journey” initiative launched by Caritas Internationalis. A challenge for a country now in its eighth year of war, but which never ceases to hope for a “reconciliation” that knows how to “embrace the whole country”.

Here, below, the testimony she shared with AsiaNews:

When we received an e-mail notifying us about the topic of the new campaign held by Caritas Internationalis and other NGOs “Share the Journey”, which encourage local communities to receive and welcome refugees and help them integrate in the new society, we felt confused. How can we adopt this campaign in Syria? Which part of the society could be considered to be the host? And which part could be considered to be the new arrivals? Inside Syria, we don’t have refugees. Although the majority of people has become displaced, we are all one aching society who suffered from a long war, which did not exclude any family from its bad impact…

We felt that this campaign is not convenient for the Syrians inside Syria, therefore, we didn’t do a big effort to participate in it, till the day we received an e-mail from Caritas Internationalis inviting us to share a meal with refugees, as part of this campaign.

We finally decided to participate in this action and organize a meal with some displaced people from our beneficiaries from different religions. We started to plan for this event to have place on June 23, in the hall of the Orthodox Cross Church. Beside beneficiaries, we invited also many bishops and priest of the Catholic church.

We had a lot of worries about this gathering. What the reaction of the Catholic bishops would be when we invite them to an Orthodox Church? How would invited beneficiaries interact with each other during this event? They are a mixture of the Syrian society, Muslims, Christians, Alawite, Druze… We are a country which has been suffering from war for almost eight years, distance and separation between people has become wide, we are divided now, the east and the west, the city and the country side, the ones who left the country and those who stayed in it. Everyone is aching, and the hearts are filled with hatred and pain.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ASIA NEWS. IT 

Peace-building between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon

3642739700_27ece7f930_bLebanon (MNN) – The Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) seeks to change discussions between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon. In a country that still feels the effects of a 15-year civil war, people often mistrust those outside their own groups. But the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary and its department, the Institute of Middle East Studies, equips leaders to go back to their communities and build peace in the middle of chaos.

Peace-building and the Gospel

Martin Accad, the Chief Academic Officer at ABTS and the Director of the Institute of Middle East Studies explains the goal of ABTS. “We feel very much that our role is not only to develop theologically-thinking leaders, but to also develop leaders that can do works of transformation in society within the area of reconciliation and restoration of communities.”

These students go back to areas where Christians feel out of place in society. As a minority in their country, Accad says there is a sense that they don’t have a place in their culture. But this is not the message of the Gospel.

Christ calls his people to be peacemakers in whatever place they live.

Accad explains, “Peacemaking or peace-building first of all looks at conflict not necessarily as a problem, but as an opportunity. That would be the first aspect of being a peacemaker, but also peacemaking is something you do proactively rather than reactionary, as peace-keeping sounds.”

ABTS seeks to build peace proactively with five key initiatives, three of which are currently in progress.

Initiative 1: Bread and Salt

This unique program brings together both Christian and Muslim youths between the ages of 14-17 who live in the same neighborhood. Though these young people live close by, they may never have dialogued about their faith. ABTS gives them the tools they need to connect on a deeper level as they talk about their personal beliefs and break down stereotypes.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MNNONLINE 

Why Christians Should be the Biggest Advocates of Religious Freedom For Muslims Read

christians-muslims-dialogues-in-pakistanSometimes because I write so much about Christianophobia, some feel the need to tell me that Islamophobia exists. No kidding? Do you think when stories such as this one come out that I am ignorant of Islamophobia? It is as if some individuals do not comprehend the possibility that we can have anti-Christian and anti-Muslim hatred in the same society.

But Islamophobia does not merely manifest itself in violent acts. It also manifests itself in the double standard some people have in their treatment of Muslims. For example, the desire to create higher barriers for Muslims to enter the United States can also reflect Islamophobia. When we treat individuals worse because they are Muslims, then we are furthering an ugly Islamophobic mentality.

Unfortunately, the way some Christians have approached Muslims reflects Islamophobia as well. There have been Christians who have tried to stop Muslims from building their mosques. Other Christians have called for a stop of Muslim immigration to the United States. This attempt to treat Muslims worse than we treat those of other faiths or no faith is wrong. The sad thing about the reality of how some Christians have dealt with Muslims is that we have a great deal of incentive to protect the religious freedom of Muslims. When we fail to do so, we fail to fully live out our faith, and we set ourselves up for future hardship.

Before I go into why Christians should defend Muslims, let me be clear about something. I am Christian and not Muslim. I believe that Muslims are wrong about the nature of God and in their belief that Allah is God. I support any efforts at witnessing to Muslims as long as it does not involve coercive tactics. To those who say that Christian proselytizing is evil, then I will ask you to give up telling Christians what to do. When you tell Christians what to do, you are proselytizing about your beliefs to Christians. Stop being a hypocrite!!

So my defense for religious freedom for Muslims is not a defense of Islam. I will leave that for Muslims to do. But I defend their right to be wrong just as I hope that non-Christians will defend my right to be wrong.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS

 

Commentary: Have questions about Islam? Let’s talk about them

newsEngin.19474449_rbb-True-Islam-2Courage is facing fear head on. One does not have to go through heroic situations to show courage; it can be found in the simple everyday actions. In this day and age, when the words “Islam” and “terrorism” have unfortunately become synonymous, I had a unique opportunity to talk to a group of women who wanted to learn about the truth of Islam directly from a Muslim.

Despite their understandable reservations and possible fear, they took the first step of starting a dialogue instead of being passive and believing in what they were told. I am thankful to them — not only for making me feel welcomed, but allowing me to feel as an equal part of the society.

I am an immigrant from Pakistan and a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a sect of Islam that has faced religious persecution for decades by its own countrymen. I grew up with fear of being judged and verbally abused because of my religious beliefs. In recent years, all those feelings have become all too familiar again as the media focuses only on the actions of some Muslim countries’ unjustifiable political agendas and label it as the Islamic way of life.

By receiving the invitation from St. John’s Presbyterian Church bible study group, I was not only honored, but my faith in the general American public was restored. I was treated with utmost respect and love and was asked genuine questions to help remove the misconceptions regarding Islam. I was given the chance to explain various aspects of our lives, which follow the true teachings of Islam.

We talked about jihad, which now is commonly perceived as the license to kill in the name of spreading the religion. The literal meaning of jihad is “struggle,” which is first applied in self-reformation. Only after that, when one becomes a portrayal of a true Muslim, he or she can spread the teachings of Islamic faith through his or her way of life and dialogue. I had the opportunity to discuss the rights of women, education, marriage and many other aspects of life as per Islamic teachings. It was no surprise that we found our religions to be quite similar. We follow the same guidelines to live a meaningful life in love and peace, which eventually lead us to finding God.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MY STATESMAN 

South Africa’s Untold Success Story: A Christian Nation’s Peaceful History With A Muslim Minority

 

01CAPETOWN-web2-master675Growing up in early 90s South Africa I was not exposed to many different races, in that stifling, artificially divided environment apartheid left us with. But I was immersed in a rich religious melange that formed my understanding of community. My neighbours on my right were Hindu, on my left were Christians and opposite me were Muslims. I heard stories about Ram’s love for Sita from Mrs Moodley, about Christmas from the Davids next door and about the Prophet (PBUH) at madressah. There were at least five temples, mosques and churches in my area alone (often right next to each other) and our parks were littered with white rocks that mark Shembe outdoor prayer sites. In town, outside the bustling African traditional healer’s market was the Catholic Emmanuel Cathedral and right next door was the largest mosque in Durban, the Juma Musjid Mosque dating back to 1880.

While we may have been segregated by race, there were no clear rules about religion and it is perhaps one of the reasons that faith bound us to one another so strongly. Religion was not only a source of strength and comfort during apartheid, it was also a means of resistance against a system designed to divide. And yet religion, the one thing that has divided the rest of the world so starkly, has not done so here. This has perhaps been one of the most remarkable stories of post-apartheid South Africa, but the least told.

FULL ARTICLE FROM HUFFINGTON POST (SOUTH AFRICA)