Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Muslim-Christian Relations

We've spent a couple days in class talking about inter-faith dialogue, especially between Muslims and Christian. Here is a sample of the resources that informed the conversation to one degree or another:
And I would like to read It's Really All about God (Samir Selmanovic, 2009), which was written by the Adventist pastor who runs Faith House Manhattan in New York.*

Today we had a guest speaker, Bertha Beachey, who lived in Somalia and Kenya for more than two decades. Her stories of building relationships with Muslims there was just beautiful. Amazing. She actually points to her Amish childhood as preparing her for that cross-cultural setting because she learned how to live in an oral culture where discussing issues and sharing stories are a rich part of the tradition.

Now nearly 80 years old, her advice for us was:
  • Be true to your calling.
  • Nurture your inner life.
  • Be responsible for the calling, the gift, you've been given.
  • Keep short accounts.
  • Be open to God in your life and in the lives of others.
  • In the cross-cultural setting, know their language, history, religion and land.
  • Know what you believe and live it openly. Only use words to convey it when necessary.
  • Be invitational; don't just tell.
  • Be touched by the life and religion of the other.
  • Never stop learning.
Naturally, she had stories to flesh these out. Since I don't have an Amish background, I lack the skill of the narrative. :)

I really appreciated her thoughts on building relationships with people at home, not just abroad. She admitted that sometimes it's harder for her to get along with some U.S. political conservatives than it was for her to live in harmony with Muslims in east Africa, so she now works to build bridges with those on the far right as well.

Part of the presentation was a brief history of Somalia. Bertha wishes patterns of engagement by foreign countries had been different, that military intervention wasn't seen as the answer for every problem. In this area she spoke positively of Three Cups of Tea.* The two-plus hours necessitated a truncated discussion of this aspect since her focus was on ministry not political science.

One comment that really stood out to me was a story of grace where her greatest failure led to one of her greatest blessings. This is God's grace. That resonated with me since being at AMBS is a great blessing despite my failure to follow God in 2003 (it's a long story). The bookend to that failure in 2003 was enrolling here in 2009.

Bertha closed by saying, "Be responsible for what God gives you to do. Believe it or not it helps to change the world."

*I have not yet read these books. I hope to one day.

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