Hopeful, Sensitive Words about Muslim-Christian Relations

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What better way to post a blog than to cite an already written blog that says some fine things about something I have opinions about, but that says them in a far better, more knowledgeable way!

I subscribe to a weekly service from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) called Virtual House News. I don't know why, but EFC no longer publishes the newsletter on-line, but you can sign up now for this week's issue (September 17, 2010). Whether you’re Canadian or not, you’ll often find thoughtful articles and notices linked in to editor Daina Doucet’s cover letter. In today’s letter Ms. Doucet picks up the very hot issue of Muslim-Christian relationships. She cites several, clear, calmly reasoned contributions from knowledgeable, wise servants of God on this volatile topic.

If you are interested in reading charitable, honestly Christian comment on this topic—especially on the topic of Koran burning—today’s letter will be helpful. Pass this around to members of your congregation, council members, friends. Encourage prayers, calm, gentleness and generous portions of Christ’s love. If you don’t have time to read all the items Ms. Doucet refers to, I particularly recommend at least Geoff Tunnicliffe’s record of his conversations with Pastor Terry Jones.

While I’m at it, I’ll also give you a link to my friend Doug Koop’s editorial in Christian Week (yes ANOTHER Canadian paper!!). I’m saddened by the dangerous words, but heartened by the good, careful thoughts around this issue.

May God bless your worship as preachers, pastors or lay persons this weekend and in the new week God gives us. Let’s remember: Love our neighbours as ourselves.

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Thanks for the links, Jim.   After sorting through the issues last week, I offered the following position statment (of sorts) to our members, via our weekly bulletin 'Pastor's Comment'.  I think it's important to keep our flocks focused on the mission of the good news to all people, without capitulating to either uninformed fear of Muslims nor a pluralistic, neo-liberation theology of world peace. 

Pastor’s Comment: Global headlines have been aflame with public burnings of Islam’s Quran to mark the anniversary of 9/11. I condemn this action as unhelpful to the witness of Jesus Christ in our world. As Christians we affirm that all people need the saving grace of Jesus to be made right with God and each other. The most effective way to share this saving grace is to speak and live the truth in love, with respectful dialogue, as Christ himself exemplified (ie. John 3-4). Inflammatory actions misrepresent the vast majority of Christians, threaten to undermine global peace, put Canadian soldiers and civilians abroad at greater risk, and endanger Christians who live in Islamic countries. As an ambassador of the Prince of Peace, I pray for peace, even in the face of differing beliefs.

Community Builder

I received this comment to my blog from Moses Moini, a Sudanese member of our congregation. He was once a refugee, now Refugee Coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee for Ontario. He doesn't frequent the Network--I know: he should! But he's a good person regardless and his personal reflections are pertinent.

"Thanks for passing this on! Great read and insightful! Though, we as Sudanese have been terribly marginalised, oppressed and persecuted by the Muslims in the North for our faith and ethnicity, thinking of burning the Koran would be the very last thing in the mind of any sane Southern Sudanese.

"Dr. Goeff's call to the Biblical imperative to seek to dialogue with those we even disagree with is right on! Meeting with Pastor Jones was the right Christian thing to do. And though none of us can understand Pastor Jones, the first place we need to begin from is the premise that we are all fallen. And being in that position doesn't warrant us any right whatsoever to judge another. As for me, that is above my pay scale and I will leave it to God who is better equipped to judge us all.

"At MCC, we have become aware of the need to build bridges with our friends from other faiths. In the Kitchener office, Mennonites and Muslims work together to pack relief kits for our international relief work. Muslims and Mennonites meet to engage in dialogue about family and finances from their religious perspectives. In May, I participated in a forum discussion on refugee sponsorship and what the Koran says about refugees. There, I learnt that we have lots in common.

"Through the Mennonite/Muslim Interfaith Bridge Building Program, MCC resettled several Palestinian families in Ontario. None of this would have been possible without the relationship that exists between the Mennonites and the Muslims. Trust, respect and value for each other has been cultivated and strategic partnerships are being formed. This is neat and MCC Niagara is dreaming of expanding the Mennonite/Muslim Bridge Building Program to the region.

"With globalization, the world is becoming one. Canada is the largest multicultural country in the world and we need to take leadership in promoting an understanding of how to work and live with people from different religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Can the Americans learn a lesson or two from us. Of course :) "