Welcome to Christian-Muslim Peacemaking 101! In this course I introduce you to the basics of Christian-Muslim peacemaking as practiced by Peace Catalyst International (PCI). Together we will reflect on what it means to live out Jesus’ famous beatitude, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
As God’s blessed children, we function as a “go-between,” or a mediator, between Christians and Muslims. We take the initiative to visit Mosques and meet Muslims. Before the groups from the church and the mosque get together, we build bridges with the Imams and other Muslim leaders - usually over a meal. We connect with leaders, prepare the program and create a safe space for the two groups to meet. These gatherings can be a small dinner at someone’s house or a large meeting of 50-200 people at a restaurant, church or mosque.
Providing this safe space is especially important, because we do what I call “inter-group peacemaking.” Interpersonal peacemaking focuses on specific conflict between individuals, whereas intergroup peacemaking focuses on barriers between groups (which often includes specific conflict). In Christian-Muslim peacemaking, we seek to break down prejudices and stereotypes between the two faiths.
During one of my visits to Indonesia, I had lunch with an Islamic teacher named Ahmed. As we ate our rice meals together, Ahmed confessed that he was prejudiced against Christians. When I asked him why he was prejudiced he said that his teachers taught him that the focus of true devotion to God in Islam is prayer, while true devotion in Christianity is evangelism. Thus, he said he believed that Christians only wanted to attack his faith and convert him. I told him this is true of some Christians but that the vast majority are not like that.
Then Ahmed asked me what prejudices Christians in America have toward Muslims. “Most Christians fear that Muslims are terrorists, Islam is violent, and thus Muslims want to kill them,” I explained. Ahmed said, “Wow! Both of our faiths fear each other because we think the other wants to attack us!”
After lunch we visited Adi Sutanto, the Director of a Christian denomination called JKI (Jemaat Kristen Indonesia). Without knowing anything about what Ahmed and I talked about during lunch, Adi shared a fascinating vision of JKI: “We have bought property and want to make a prayer garden. In fact, during a time of prayer recently we had a vision that this prayer garden will be used for Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists.”
I turned to Ahmed and said, “See, Christians are committed to prayer, not just evangelism!” We both laughed as he shook his head in agreement. Prejudices were starting to melt away. Intergroup peacemaking 101!
Some might think, "This approach to intergroup peacemaking works well in some settings but what about conflict zones?"
A Sudanese Bishop shared an amazing story with me while I was teaching on Christian-Muslim peacemaking at Duke Divinity School’s Summer Institute for Reconciliation. The Bishop was asked by Muslims to contribute to the building of a new mosque. He was not happy about this bold request. “Why should I support them?” he muttered to himself.
But the God of peace is also the God of surprises! In the next few days the Bishop sensed God saying that he needed to contribute to the building of the mosque. When the reluctant Bishop gave a contribution, he was invited to speak in the new Mosque once it was completed. He said with a big smile on his face, “I had an amazing time sharing about Jesus and his command to love our neighbor.”
The Bishop’s act of love and the Muslim’s hospitality led to walls of prejudice being dismantled and bridges of love being built between these two communities. Yes, intergroup peacemaking works in conflict zones! (You can read more about intergroup peacemaking in my book, Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Our Families, Organizations and Communities Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press 2014 pp. 137-146; 155-163. When I wrote Peace Catalysts I used the term “social peacemaking” to refer to intergroup peacemaking. But since then my preferred term is “intergroup peacemaking” since it is more accurate and descriptive).
Christian-Muslim Peacemaking 101 includes five modules that include videos, readings and questions to ponder.
Peacemaking is not so much an event as it is a journey. I pray that Christian-Muslim Peacemaking 101 will be a helpful guide for you on your journey. Thank you for joining us in these kingdom adventures. Let’s follow Jesus and wage peace … together!