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Posted by on Aug 17, 2016

Mission: Peacemaking and Muslim Christian Relations

Mission: Peacemaking and Muslim Christian Relations

Peace Flows Like a River

Water in the Desert

What I’ve discovered … is that when we show up for people in need — when we seek their well-being, flourishing, and justice, whether they ever convert to our religion or not — we might just see the transformation we long for in ourselves and in hard-to-access places around the world. – Jeremy Courtney

Baptist missionary Jeremy Courtney, his wife, and two children found themselves in the middle of the Iraq War.  In today’s attempt by some Moslems and Christians to demonize the other in a continuation of centuries of bloody warfare, Courtney has founded the Preemptive Love Coalition.

Courtney and his movement represent a broadening of the Protestant Evangelical notion of mission to one that is more in keeping with the Vatican II Catholic notion of the Christian missionary. Courtney’s approach is to pursue peace one heart at a time. “Love first and ask questions later.” became the theme of Courtney’s approach as he started helping Iraqi children to obtain life-saving and life-changing heart surgery within Iraq by increasing the capacity and capabilities of the country to care for its own children.

Courtney opens his web page, JeremyCourtney.com, with a compelling quotation from C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity about how our failure to accept and embrace people we see as opponents corrupts us and our relationship with God because it leads us to a universe of pure hatred.

Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything — God and our friends and ourselves included — as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Although C.S. Lewis wrote in the context of World War II and the Nazi regime, his words are especially relevant in our moral challenge of relating to Islam and to Islamic extremists.

Courtney focuses on the need for authenticity, since many Protestant missionaries pose as aid workers or teachers in countries that are hostile to Christianity. In an OpEd for CNN’s Declassifed – Untold Stories of American Spies – “Three Arguments Against Christian Covert ‘Spycraft'” Courtney decries this practice as dishonest, harmful to religious freedom, and because it “puts a target on the backs of local Christians”.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths.But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.

2 Timothy 4:1-5

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Posted by on Sep 11, 2010

A Prayer for Peace

On this anniversary of the terroist attacks on September 11, 2001, may we join with people of faith and hope from around the world and from all faiths in praying for peace and understanding. This prayer is from a website that offers prayers for peace from many world traditions.

 

Muslim Prayer for Peace

In the name of Allah,

the beneficent, the merciful.

Praise be to the Lord of the

Universe who has created us and

made us into tribes and nations,

That we may know each other, not that

we may despise each other.

If the enemy incline towards peace, do

thou also incline towards peace, and

trust God, for the Lord is the one that

heareth and knoweth all things.

And the servants of God,

Most Gracious are those who walk on

the Earth in humility, and when we

address them, we say “PEACE.”

 

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Posted by on Sep 9, 2010

“Love your enemies” does not equal “Burn their holy scriptures!”

Today’s Gospel reading is from Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Plain. It’s the section that begins, “To you who hear me, I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you and pray for those who maltreat you.” (Lk 6:27-28)

The reading spoke loudly to me today because of Pastor Terry Jones’ announced plan to have a burning of the Qur’an ceremony on September 11, the anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center and attack on the Pentagon, a date that this year also coincides with the feastive end of the penitential season of Ramadan. The plans sparked protests from believers of all faiths, leaders of Christian and Jewish faith communities, and governments around the world. Reports are that the burning has been cancelled because plans to build a mosque near the “ground zero” site in New York have been cancelled.

Both the threat to burn the Qur’an and the opposition to the construction of a mosque, a place of prayer, near a site of unspeakable tragedy for people of all faiths speak to me of a huge lack of faith among us as Christians. How can we possibly reconcile “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” with the idea that all members of another faith are enemies because a few of their number carried out acts of terrorism? And even if all members of that faith were our enemies, we would not be justified in responding in kind if we are to be faithful to the new command given by our Lord.

The kind of spouting of hate filled rhetoric that we have seen in recent weeks is not consistent with the love of God. It comes from the Deceiver, who whispers coyly to us about how we have been wronged and how others can only be trusted to harm us and how all members of another community wish us harm or are evil. It all sounds so smooth and reasonable, especially when we see wars being waged and combatants couching their actions in religious language overlaid with centuries of injustice and misunderstandings.

The desired effect of the Deceiver’s whispering has already been attained, even without a single text being burned. People all over the world are stirred up. Protests are raging. Hatreds are reignited. It matters not a whit that leaders of the United States and of all major religious have condemned the plan. Extremism doesn’t deal in facts or the distinction between truth and falsehood, regardless of which extreme is in question. I can just imagine the delighted smiles on the faces of the evil spirits involved in this huge deception.

The example of St. Peter Claver, whose feast we celebrate today, speaks to us still today. Working in Cartagena, during the early 17th century, caring for the slaves who arrived from West Africa and serving as their advocate with their new owners, Peter Claver did not ask people about their religious beliefs before ministering to them. Once their illnesses had been treated, their wounds healed, their needs for nutrition and shelter addressed, he spoke to them of the love of Jesus and many became Christians because of the love he and his helpers extended to them.

The slave trade itself was “justified” by a series of Papal decisions based on the ongoing conflict between Christians and Moslems. Basically, the reasoning was that peoples living in areas of the known world where they might have had the chance to become Christians but did not do so could be enslaved as punishment/consequence for their failure to accept Christianity. Moslems were the original target of these rulings, but they were extended to include the peoples of the entire continent of Africa on the assumption that missionaries might have reached them. The peoples of the Americas eventually were specifically protected from enslavement for the same reason. Missionaries had not reached them before the voyages of Christopher Columbus and the Europeans who followed him.

Peter Claver and his helpers rightly reasoned that it didn’t matter in the least whether a slave was a Moslem or a beliver in a tribal religion or a believer in no religion at all. That individual was a human being, a brother or sister who deserved care and respect. Through that outpouring of love, care and respect, God reached out and touched thousands of people.

May we have the courage as people of faith to do the same.

St. Peter Claver, pray for us.

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