how does Jesus-centered peace building happen?

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

To sum it up in a phrase: Peace building is all about reducing misunderstanding, deepening trust, and building personal relationships.

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.

what is Jesus-centered peace building?

Peace building includes a wide range of efforts to address the root causes of conflict and violence and to facilitate a process that establishes a durable peace. 


When people ask us what we do, we often respond by describing our work as “Jesus-centered peace building.” But what does that mean? Is our work only secular and we’re just looking to create kumbaya moments between people, or is our goal to Christianize others using non-Christian language? Or is it something else entirely?

As you might expect, we’d like to explore Option C. To start, picture a Christian doctor. She (or he) does work that has genuine and profound value in the “secular world” – doctors are appreciated for their skills in every country and by people of any religion. But typically, a doctor who is Christian feels called to care for the sick and hurting because of Jesus’ example. In other words, the motivation behind a Christian doctor’s work is informed by the desire to follow Jesus and be like him, sharing God’s love for all people through her work.

A Christian doctor does not need to justify the spiritual significance of her work by making sure she tells each patient about Jesus, because she understands that practicing medicine and caring for the sick and dying has spiritual value to God (Matthew 25:36). Even so, she undoubtedly tries to be transparent and honest about the motivations that inform her work when, where, and with whom that is appropriate, and as she feels called to do so.

Jesus-centered peace building is similar to practicing medicine in these respects. On a secular level, most people in the world are completely on board with “world peace” – for reconciliation and renewed relationships to take the place of arguments, wars, distrust, and fear. But as peace builders who are Jesus-centered, we feel called to love our enemies and be peacemakers as Jesus taught us to do (Matt 5:9,44; Luke 6:27,35). In other words, the motivations behind our work are informed by our desire to follow Jesus, the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6), and be like him, sharing God’s love for people through the work of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18, Rom 12:18, 1 Jn 2:6).

Like Christian doctors, our work is not with ulterior motives as if we pursue peace in order to convince people of the rightness of our beliefs, any more than a doctor’s goal is to help the sick and hurting with any motive other than love. At the same time, we are transparent about how Jesus is our model, teacher, guide, and the one who motivates and empowers our lives and work, and we’re excited to talk about that when it’s appropriate to do so. In fact, it’s often more important in peace building work than in other fields to communicate one’s beliefs and values transparently, yet humbly, because the foundation for peace building is trust. In order to trust one another, we must listen to one another and be honest about our stories, motivations, and values.

Rick Love, Peace Catalyst’s co-founder and president, shares that Matthew 5:9 teaches us that “the distinguishing characteristic of God’s children, of God’s kids, is that they make peace. So we, as God kids, as God’s children, are trying to represent the God of peace, to pursue the peace of God, and share the gospel of peace in a world of conflict” (Isaiah 52:7, Ephesians 6:15). We’re pursuing peace, without ulterior motive, because that’s what Jesus modeled, taught, and calls us to.

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

Hawkins

Larycia Hawkins wearing a hijab in solidarity with the Muslim community after receiving the Council on American Islamic Relations’ support

 

Larycia Hawkins, an associate professor of political science at Wheaton College, unintentionally started a huge debate last month when she said Muslims and Christians “worship the same God.” After Wheaton suspended Hawkins, the “same God” debate grew among evangelical Christians. In response to the controversy, Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, posted an article saying, “One cannot deny the Son and truly worship the Father.” He answered the question with a definitive no: “Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God.”

But is the answer as simple as that? The question itself is complicated, and embedded within it are several others, including:

  • Are “God” & “Allah” the same?
  • Do Christians & Muslims conceive of God in the same way?
  • Are Christians and Muslims directing their worship to different entities?

Simplistic questions often result in simplistic answers. If we say, “yes, we worship the same God,” we might glaze over significant differences between Christianity & Islam. But if we answer, “no,” we create a barrier between Christians & Muslims that makes starting conversations difficult, but making enemies far easier.

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Who’s In & Who’s Out?

After reading Christianity isnt the point & Jesus and Gods Reign, I’m wondering if this whole thing isn’t just a question of semantics. Aren’t Christians the ones journeying and turning toward the Kingdom of God, being transformed by encounters with Jesus? Are you just using new language – “Kingdom” instead of “Christianity” – so Christianity sounds more inviting to Muslims and non-Christians?


We believe that shifting our focus from Christianity to God’s Kingdom is more than just a shift in terminology. Instead, it’s a paradigm shift in how we view our faith, the community of faith, and our relationships to those around us – both Christian and non-Christian. It is a shift that begins to challenge the age-old question of who’s “in” and who’s “out,” one that we’ve found both reflects the complexity of reality & is the most faithful way of reading the Bible and following Jesus.

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Alienating Muslims Plays Into ISIS’ Hands

Especially since the terror attacks in Paris, communities in the West have begun holding Muslims at arms’ length, suspicious that they are the enemy and treating them as such. This is particularly true in the Syrian refugee crisis: numerous political candidates, governors, and media figures have spoken out against welcoming Syrian refugees and Muslims as a whole, considering their affiliation with Islam to be a dangerous threat to national security. Our (Western) society is clearly failing to love neighbors and is succeeding to judge them indiscriminately, instead. But in its identification of Islam as violent and dangerous, it is doing even further harm:

By calling Islam the problem, we are doing exactly what ISIS wants.

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Is Islam responsible for ISIS?

“Is Islam responsible for ISIS?”


It’s becoming incredibly difficult to be a Muslim in a Western country. One reason is a growing tendency of many to attribute the violent ideologies of terrorist groups like ISIS to Islam and, oftentimes by direct association, all who identify as Muslim. According to this perspective, Islam itself is the primary motivator for the extremists who bombed Paris and attacked the Trade Centers on 9/11. In fact, in this view, Islam is responsible for anyone who does any sort of violence as a Muslim. Republican candidates are quite vocal on the issue, and an article by Graeme Wood summarizes this position quite well: “The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic.” Of course, the opposite perspective is alive and well too. The Democratic Party, France’s President in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, and many others have refused to label ISIS and radical terrorism as “Islamic.”

Is it just semantics and politics, or does it really matter whether or not we understand ISIS and terrorism to be “Islamic”? As with many things in life, the question seems simple, but the response is deeply complex.

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Who are you becoming?

“Spiritual formation is character formation. Everyone gets a spiritual formation. It’s like education. Everyone gets an education; it’s just a matter of which one you get.”
~Dallas Willard

“Why is spiritual formation so important in your work?”


“Everyone gets a spiritual formation.” Whether it is direct or indirect, intentional or not, every person is formed spiritually in one way or another. Catholic catechism may be the first thing that comes to mind when we mention spiritual formation because catechism is such an intentionally structured and deliberate process within a Christian framework. But atheists, agnostics, and Muslims undergo spiritual formation through their community, culture, and choices, as well.

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Jesus and God’s Reign

If you’re not going for conversion, then what are y’all doing? And how does the Kingdom of God fit into that?


We understand the Kingdom of God to be all that is under God’s reign, characterized by the restoration of relationships – ourselves with God, with one another, and with the world around us. Central to coming under and participating in God’s reign is both knowing who God is (we can’t have a restored relationship with God unless we know what God’s character is like) and following God (God reconciles – so we follow God, or when our lives line up with God’s way, we inevitably move toward reconciliation with others and the earth).

The question is, how are we to do that? Continue reading

Christianity isn’t the point

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” – Mahatma Gandhi

So you’re going to Kosovo to work with Muslim youth. Are you trying to convert them to Christianity?


Well, let’s start with the term “Christianity.” Christianity means very different things to different people. To many, Christianity is a beautiful word. It’s associated with Martin Luther King Jr. and nonviolent resistance, Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day, the outrageously generous community we read about it Acts, and ultimately, Jesus. Christianity began – and for most Christians, is still – centered on Jesus. To many others, however, Christianity seems anything but. It is instead shorthand for intolerance, violence, and hypocrisy, directly responsible for atrocities such as the Crusades, slavery, and the repression of women and minorities. In Kosovo in particular, Christianity is synonymous with the Serbian forces that committed an ethnic cleansing against Kosovar Albanians less than a generation ago. Christianity is, indeed, a loaded term.

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