Jesus-centered peace building FAQs

      1. What is Jesus-centered peace building?
      2. Why do you do Jesus-centered peace building rather than traditional Christian mission work?
      3. How do you do Jesus-centered peace building work? What does it look like?
      4. What evidence do you see for peace building work in the Bible?
      5. How do I get started (individually or as a small group)?
      6. How can our small group or church get involved in peace building work?
      7. What about conversion? Shouldn’t we try to convert Muslims to Christianity?
      8. What about saving people from hell?
      9. What about Muslim violence and the persecution of Christians?
      10. Do Muslims speak out against terrorism and other forms of violent extremism? (Yes, they do.)
      11. How should I respond to fear, hatred, and misunderstanding about Muslims among Christians around me?


  1. What is Jesus-centered peace building?
    • Peace building includes a wide range of efforts to address the root causes of conflict and violence between groups and facilitates a process that establishes a durable peace. When peace building is done between people of differing beliefs, worldviews, or faith backgrounds, it looks like building respectful, trusting relationships and reducing misunderstandings about one another’s convictions, beliefs, and practices, so that we can collaborate for the common good of our communities. As Jesus-centered peace builders, we are transparent about Jesus being our example and guide as we pursue peace with those around us. Read more here.
  2. Why do you do Jesus-centered peace building rather than traditional Christian mission work?
    • In our increasingly globalized world, Christian mission as an overall framework for how we engage with people who are not Christian is connecting less and less with non-Christians. We want to respectfully share the love, joy, and truth we have found in Christ, but in so doing we as Christians are often perceived stereotypically as arrogant, disrespectful, and un-Christlike – so much so that our efforts have historically and often continue to create wedges between ourselves as Christians and others. There has to be an alternate way for us to connect with non-Christians while still remaining faithful followers of Jesus.
    • We believe that when we as Christians reclaim our calling to build peace, we will find God at work in unexpected people and places. We will be discipled and transformed. Intentionally focusing on peace building (reducing misunderstanding and building relationships based on trust and mutual respect) allows people to see our pursuit of Jesus positively, in a fresh way. We believe Jesus-centered peace building is both a faithful way to follow Jesus in a changing, broken world and a transparent and humble testimony to our allegiance to Jesus and his way. Read more here.
  3. How do you do Jesus-centered peace building work? What does it look like?
    • Jesus-centered peace building work requires a certain internal disposition and relies on a few simple, practical skills. Internally, peace building requires the mindset to seek to understand others first, rather than first seeking to be understood (James 1:19). It also calls for theological humility, which allows us to recognize the limitations of our knowledge and understanding. When we admit our own limitations and truly seek to understand others, it honors people and opens up opportunities for deep relationships and mutual learning.
    • Practically, peace building requires us to learn how to ask questions, show curiosity, and seek out people who have opposing views or experiences. As we build relationships and seek to understand people coming from different religious or ethnic backgrounds, we can begin inviting those around us to new relationships with those they previously have misunderstood. Read more here.
  4. What evidence do you see for Jesus-centered peace building in the Bible?
    • The story of Peter and Cornelius offers a clear biblical example of interfaith peace building. Although Peter followed God’s leading into his encounter with Cornelius rather awkwardly, Peter’s understanding of God and the trajectory of the early Church were both changed entirely through this encounter with the least likely person imaginable – a pagan, military officer who was part of the occupying force subjugating the Israelites. This story teaches us some key lessons, some of which you can read about here.
    • God’s overarching work of reconciliation in his Creation, culminating in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus, provides the pattern after which peace building work is modeled. God has chosen to enter into this world as his incarnate Word, embodied in the person of Jesus, who humbled himself and took the nature of a servant, experiencing the worst sort of suffering and humiliation (Ph. 2:6-8). Jesus’ passion isn’t about an individualistic rescue so we can escape to heaven; it’s about God’s radical welcome, to offer reconciliation between himself and a fractured humanity, breaking down the dividing walls of hostility between them and offering peace (Eph. 2:11-22). What is sometimes read as an individualistic understanding of Jesus’ atoning work on the cross is actually a work of social healing – enemies are reconciled both to God and to one another.
  5. How do I get started (individually or as a small group)?
    • Start by meeting some Muslims near you! You may already have some Muslim friends from work or school, and you could get coffee or a meal together. Express your curiosity about their faith and their experience as a Muslim in your community by simply asking questions. At some point, it would definitely be fun to ask if you could go to their mosque (if they go) so you can observe the prayers and learn more about Islam itself. If you don’t know any Muslims, then you can contact your local mosque and plan a visit to make some new friends (read more here). Once you have a growing relationship with a Muslim neighbor, then you both can invite your friends into new relationships as well, and the impact will grow from there!
  6. How can our small group or church get involved in peace building work?
    • Jesus-centered peace movements between Christians and Muslims start with just a few friendships between those who seek to understand and love one another. We’ve found it hugely beneficial for church or small group leaders to meet with and get to know leaders at the local mosque before planning meetings or events that involve congregation members. Taking the time to meet one another shows respect, helps to gauge interest in future activities for both parties, and establishes a foundation of openness, transparency, honesty, and trust from the outset. After taking the time to build a relationship with the local mosque leadership, there are many opportunities to begin building friendships, reducing misunderstanding, and collaborating together to serve and be a blessing in your community. Go here to think about some of those opportunities and for a few resources that may help get you started.
  7. What about conversion? Shouldn’t we try to convert Muslims to Christianity?
    • We’re Christians for a reason – we believe we’ve been given a way of living and being in the world that is true, and quite honestly, the best – and naturally, we want others to experience what we’ve found as well. (Otherwise, our faith wouldn’t be genuine.) So while our Christian hope is that our Muslim friends would encounter and follow Jesus in the same transformative way that we do and convert to Christianity, we must recognize that our Muslim friends also hope that we might discover the truth as they believe it and convert to Islam to become part of the worldwide Muslim ummah (community). While these often are the ultimate hopes of Muslims and Christians who participate in dialogue and peace building efforts together, peace builders acknowledge that having the immediate goal of converting our friend of another faith will introduce an agenda into the relationship that sabotages mutual respect, self-reflection, and genuine understanding. Rather than pursue conversion as an agenda, peace builders 1) hope their lives speak loudly, so that ultimately others might see something beautiful and attractive because of their faith, 2) endeavor to decrease the misunderstanding each faith community has about the other, 3) work to prevent fear and hostility due to misunderstandings and misrepresentations of faith communities, and 4) are prepared to offer gentle and respectful “reasons for our hope” (1 Peter 3:15) when others are curious about our faith in Jesus and our efforts to pursue peace. In the context of trusting, respectful relationships and mutual understanding, we believe that God will be God, and he will draw people to the truth (it’s God, not us, who does this, anyway!). Read more here.
  8. What about saving people from hell?
    • Ultimately, “salvation,” or as we like to talk about, “transformation” (2 Cor. 3:18), is in God’s hands. God is the one who transforms us and he’s the one who ultimately will judge all people. All too often, we believe that we know how God will judge, whether that be through our limited understanding of others’ actions and deeds, or through our theological framework of what constitutes “right belief.” Rather than try to play God, we strive to follow Jesus’ teaching to refrain from judgement (Mt. 7:1-5). Often, Jesus upset the religious elite of his day by telling stories and spending time with people that demonstrated how “outsiders enter the Kingdom of heaven ahead of you” (Mt. 21:31). We strive to follow Jesus’ teachings to love enemies and care for our neighbors, living with the character of Jesus while humbly seeking the peace of the cities where we live. We focus on our own transformation, working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). At the same time, we also believe that a life following after Jesus’ teaching, rather than judging others’ eternal destinies, will be most transformative for our neighbors.
  9. What about Muslim violence and the persecution of Christians?
    • Two pillars of interfaith peace-building work are respect and religious freedom. Religious freedom requires that people be free to follow their conscience to practice whatever faith is most compelling to them. Peace Catalyst works with local and high level Muslim leaders to promote freedom of religion for religious minorities in Muslim majority countries as well as the freedom for Muslims (and all people) to convert to a different religion as their conscience dictates. This freedom is an essential part of peace building work.
    • Respect requires that Christians not maximize Muslim violence while minimizing Christian violence. Comparing levels of violence perpetrated by Christians and Muslims is not as straightforward as Christians often believe: the vast majority of Muslims are not violent, just as the vast majority of Christians are not violent.
    • As followers of Jesus, we are called to “first take the plank out of our eyes,” recognizing and repenting for the violence that does exist in our community, whether in word or deed, before we’re called to critique or condemn others. Jesus’ command to love our enemies means that we are still called to serve and love others self-sacrificially, even if they believe that they are our enemies or intend to do violence. We believe that this self-sacrificial love is our calling as Christians, and we also believe that Jesus-like love for enemies is the only thing that can transform enemies into friends and heal our world.
  10. Do Muslims speak out against terrorism and all forms of violent extremism?
    • Muslims certainly denounce terrorism and violent extremism, often going beyond simple verbal denouncements of violence, but it very rarely makes the news. In many places, in fact, Muslims are actively involved in pursuing peace by reducing the ignorance, fear, and a sense of alienation that Muslims experience, which are all factors which can make young people vulnerable to hateful and terrorist ideologies. Muslims are our strongest allies in preventing Islamist extremism. 
  11. How should I respond to fear, hatred, and misunderstanding about Muslims among Christians around me?
    • First, when we hear Christians (or others) promoting fear or misunderstanding about Muslims, it’s important to recognize that these folks are unintentionally playing right into the hands of ISIS and other extremist groups. ISIS’ explicit goal is to “eliminate the grayzone” of coexistence between Muslims and the West. In other words, ISIS wants to create the impression for Muslims that their allegiance must be either with the Muslim world against the West (which can promote radicalization), or with the West against the Muslim world (i.e. they have to forsake Islam). When non-Muslims promote fear or misunderstanding about Islam, they can encourage Muslims to feel that the West is against them and that Muslims have no place in Western society. So, combatting misinformation, fear, and hostility toward Muslims is an important part in preventing violent extremism. The Christian majority in the US has a great opportunity to demonstrate hospitality to Muslims, which helps reduce Western Muslims’ sense of alienation. 
    • Although it’s always difficult to have challenging conversations with our neighbors or confront misinformation and fear in our communities (and Christians yelling at Christians will get us nowhere!), we have a great opportunity to help Christians that we already have a relationship with to begin to develop a more Christ-like response to Muslims. If you hear another Christian friend spreading misunderstanding or fear about Muslims, it would be helpful to approach them privately and share with them that 1) extremist groups are hoping Western Christians alienate Muslims because it pushes the most vulnerable minds toward an extreme reaction of hate, and 2) a Christ-like response of “welcoming aliens” and “loving enemies” actually helps Muslim minorities near us feel a sense of place, thus preventing extremist ideologies from having any room to grow. Although the number of Western Muslims who are vulnerable to extremist ideologies is an incredibly small percentage, Shahed Amanullah writes that “the best possible antidote to Muslims falling prey to extremist thought is to craft and propagate a compelling Muslim American narrative that instills pride and purpose among susceptible minds.” When we as Christians show hospitality to the Muslims around us, we help offer them that sense of place, but we also show the rest of the world that Muslims and Christians can live together with hospitality and love.
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s