Jesus-centered peace building work requires an internal disposition and some simple practical steps.
Internally, peace building requires the mindset to first seek to understand others, rather than seeking to be understood (James 1:19), as well as theological humility, which allows us to admit the limitations of our knowledge and understanding. When we recognize and admit the limitations of our own understanding and truly seek to understand others, it honors people and opens up the opportunity to form deep relationships that are mutually transformative. Without a genuine humility that seeks to understand our neighbors, efforts to “build peace” quickly appear and easily become superficial and duplicitous to people of other faith backgrounds. For that reason, these internal components of humility and curiosity that seeks to understand others deeply are the cornerstone of Jesus-centered peace building.
But peace building is nothing if it’s not practical. Here are a few ways Peace Catalyst International’s staff create spaces for Christians and Muslims to build relationships and work together toward peace in their local communities:
- Bringing together people from local mosques and churches by visiting one another’s places of worship allows people to learn about one another’s beliefs, reduce misunderstanding, and overcome fear so that people in each community can begin to form relationships with one another
- Sharing meals at local restaurants or in homes gives Christians and Muslims time to share honest conversation and deepen relationships with one another
- Hosting panel and group discussions with Christians and Muslims interested in learning about one another’s religious views, particularly about challenging subjects, provides a safe space to begin to tackle tougher issues
- Facilitating small groups where Christians, Muslims, and others can study one another’s scriptures together, discover common ground, tackle challenging topics and points of difference, and build relationships
- Collaborating together to serve the community in which the congregations live
To sum it up in a phrase: Peace building is all about reducing misunderstanding, deepening trust, and building personal relationships so that congregations of different faiths can collaborate and serve together as a blessing to their community. Oftentimes deepening relationships occur as faith communities serve together, and theological or ethical conversations primarily serve as a means of reducing misunderstanding so that relationships and collaboration can occur.
If you’re interested in meeting Muslims or visiting a local mosque, check out this post for some tips.
If you’re looking for resources or ideas so your small group or church can begin some peace building work in your community, this post is a good place to begin.
Most of Peace Catalyst’s work is in the United States between Christians and Muslims, churches and mosques. But what about internationally, like in Bosnia?
Jesus-centered peace building work in Bosnia looks very similar to PCI’s current work in the States. However, the context is a bit more complex. Bosnia’s history of divisions and religious/ethnic tensions is complicated, long, and deep. Within Bosnia, ethnic identity is very important (i.e. Bosniak, Croat, and Serb), and unlike in the United States, Catholic and Orthodox Christians make up a larger majority than the Protestant Church. Islam is also the majority religion – though, as in Christianity, there are different ideologies and viewpoints within the religion. But even with the complexities, relationship building is key for reducing misunderstanding and creating the trust that is required for lasting, genuine peace.