A picture of a young girl in Gaza, standing against a school and mourning the loss of a relative killed there, fills the main part of my browser this morning.
And yet the advertisements on the right-hand side of the page are for a new car, a deal on a pedicure, and an overnight getaway.
A story of global conflict and American lifestyle advertisements. It’s a mismatch, right? Or is it. I live in the U.S., in a small Ohio town where there really isn’t any violence to speak of. So I could click to claim the deal on a pedicure and go about my day or I could read the article and think about this world we live in: a world rife with conflict, a world filled with people who need to figure out how to understand each other, a world where we forget that we are connected to each other. Too often I get pulled into my own life and work and fail to see myself as a global citizen.
This week I had the pleasure of working on a forthcoming book, Christian. Muslim. Friend.: Twelve Paths to Real Relationship, by David Shenk (Herald Press, 2014). The book invites readers into authentic, respectful friendship with Muslims. It invites readers to listen and understand different points of view while also holding fast to one’s own beliefs.
In the introduction to Christian. Muslim. Friend., Shenk writes, “I am writing these lines in June 2014, which has turned into a month of anguish. Boko Haram has kidnapped some 300 high school girls in Nigeria. The United States is gearing up to provide more military assistance for moderate Muslims in Syria. Al Shabab have bombed a market and attacked Christians at worship in Kenya. Christian vigilantes are violently cleansing southern Chad of Muslims. A drone is reported to have killed Muslim militants in southern Yemen. The European Union Parliament is moving toward the right amid concerns about the growing Muslim immigrant community in Europe. . . . In Egypt, members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been served the death penalty by Egyptian courts.
“These 30 days in June are the context in which relationship building between Muslims and Christians must happen. The astonishment is that the participants in all these conflicts believe they are on God’s side. In case we have not noticed, peacemaking is urgent!”
Shenk’s writing is clear and easy-to-follow, with 12 paths that he sees as key to building relationships. These paths are designed to help readers learn and share about the contemporary challenges and realities of cultivating real relationships between Muslims and Christians, with particular reflection on the journey of North American and other Western Christians. For example, the first four paths are:
- Live with integrity: Christians and Muslims are often inclined to avoid candor in their relations with one another. This might be because of mistrust. However, integrity is foundational to wholesome relations.
- Keep identity clear: The Muslim scriptures encourage Christians to be clear about their identity. Christians meeting Muslims most often experience appreciation for Christians who are clear about their faith and church commitments.
- Cultivate respect: In the present worldwide atmosphere, much is said unkindly about people with different beliefs. Every effort must be nurtured to speak and think respectfully of one another.
- Develop trust: It is very significant when Muslims say that they trust their Christian neighbors, and vice versa. The three principles that are discussed in the three opening chapters of this book do sow seeds that nurture trust. Mistrust builds walls; trust creates open doors.
While Christian. Muslim. Friend. is specifically about fostering Christian-Muslim relationships, I believe it offers us encouragement and practical tools for building relationship amid all sorts of global violence. As Shenk writes, “Seeking the rule of God is a common strand of faith and intention that pulls us together in our work and witness.”
How do you seek relationship with the “other” in your context? How are you building friendship with those who believe differently?
Amy Gingerich is the editorial director for MennoMedia in Harrisonburg, Va. This post also appeared on the MennoMedia blog, MennoBytes.