On Sunday, the Vatican announced,
that there are now more Muslims in the world than Catholics.
In a major foreign policy address on March 26th, John McCain called "the threat of radical Islamic terrorism . . . the transcendent challenge
of our time."
The challenge is far more than military. It is about law enforcement,
foreign policy, public vigilance (but not vigilantism), strength of
character, and more.
The ultimate battlefield in the war on terror is not the United States,
Iraq, Iran, or even Afghanistan. It's a place in the minds and hearts
of a billion Muslims. Relatively few of these are "radical," and fewer
still have any intention of joining the terrorists. Still, the battle will be
won or lost within them. And it's a battle we've hardly begun to
Three Fridays ago, I addressed this issue in a three minute video
essay entitled, "Respect." This week, my wife, Pam, put it on
Even if you saw it here, you may want to watch it there. For one
thing, it looks much better. And for another, we could use some
"views." You might even want to comment.
"Blessed are the Peacemakers"
On 9-11-01, Americans found themselves in the midst of something
huge and mysterious, stretching back fourteen centuries. President Bush said it was an
attack on democracy itself — on our freedoms and way of life. How
would democracy respond? It has been remarkably resilient against
foes and in situations our founders could never have imagined. But
the challenge of Islamic terrorism is not like communism or world
wars or any of the other things we've been embroiled in. This time
winning will take more.
In December of 1999, I was in Amman, Jordan working on
an event hosted by Harald Bredesen, Bert and Jane Boeckmann, and
James and Susan Baker. They were giving the Prince of Peace Prize,
posthumously, to King Hussein of Jordan. Here were a group
of Christians honoring a Muslim peacemaker. King Hussein had
trained all his life for war, but his greatness didn't come on the
battlefield. It came at the negotiating table. Former Secretary of State
James Baker would say, "He waged peace."
Since I was involved in that Muslim-Christian effort, you may
wonder why I made a video stating that Christians aren't
honest enough with Muslims. Here's how it happened.
I think of my twenty-two years with Harald Bredesen as a series of
adventures. Harald was always seeing things Christians should be
doing, and then trying to do them — sometimes succeeding wildly,
sometimes not so much.
One of his chief interests was in Muslims. Note that I don't say
"Islam." Harald's interest centered around individuals. He had been
a dear friend of Anwar Sadat (the first recipient of the Prince of
Peace Prize) and other Muslims. Sadat arranged for him to minister
to the Shah of Iran as the Shah lay near death in Egypt. Harald was
grieved by the great enmity between Muslims and Christians. He
often heard from well meaning friends (and yes, occasionally from
me) that he was spending more time and resources on these
peacemaking efforts than made sense.
During those years with Harald, I learned of various Christian groups
reaching out to Muslims. As time passed, I came to feel many of
their efforts were misguided. There seemed to be an underlying
premise that Islam and Christianity are essentially the same, and if
we can only talk, we can work out the differences. Naively, I think,
many working for peace don't recognize the depth or importance of
the religious differences.
Harald saw himself as a bridge-builder, and that starts with taking a
clear look at the chasm to be bridged. Instead of ignoring the
differences, he admitted them, even embraced them.
He constantly showed love and friendship for Muslims. This was not
because he felt Islam and Christianity were branches of the same
religious tree. Neither was he motivated by faith in the teachings of
Mohammed. And, what may be most important, he never tried to
explain to Muslims what their faith really meant.
He knew the Christian side of the equation. He was there in
obedience to the love of Jesus which flowed through him, and to the
Lord's commands, such as "Love your neighbor as yourself."
This approach did not demean Mohammed or Islam. Just the
opposite. Demeaning would be to pretend he had been motivated by
teachings he had never embraced. It would have been demeaning if
he said the differences between Islam and Christianity are
"unimportant." The two faiths contradict one another in essential
ways. If the differences are no big deal, then neither are the essential
teachings of either religion.
To Harald, it was simple. We disagree on important issues. Where
we disagree, we each think we're right and the other wrong. But that
doesn't stop us from being friends. That doesn't stop us from
respecting one another. That doesn't stop us from engaging one
another in lively, but courteous discussion.
As one person said in the comments section of our video on YouTube, "We can't
‘celebrate diversity' by glossing over the differences between
James Baker made the presentation of the Prince of Peace Prize to
King Abdullah who received it in his late father's stead. Here is an
excerpt from the former Secretary of State's remarks:
King Hussein . . . was a Muslim. Most Israelis are Jews. Many of us
here tonight are Christians. These are different faiths with different
understandings of the meanings of God's words and of the working of
God's hand in the world. These differences do exist. They cannot be
denied and they cannot be ignored. And these conflicts, sadly, have led
to great conflicts in the world, both in ancient times and in modern
times. I think the great challenge for all of us is how to find common
ground with people of other faiths without compromising or denying
our own faiths.
Some Christians reading this may be saying, "But Muslims blow up
our buildings. They kill civilians. They praise their young for
strapping bombs to their bodies and blowing themselves up, along
with as many others as they can."
Yes. Some Muslims do those things. But not all. The challenge before
the rest of the world — no matter the faith or lack thereof — is to
encourage and strengthen those Muslims who don't want an ongoing war, haven't declared jihad against us, but don't particularly like or trust Americans.
How does it feel to be a moderate Muslim living in the United States, Europe, or the Middle East, and hear the term "Islamofascist"? Late in Harald's life, a Muslim friend wrote him a letter telling him
how this term grieved him. At the time, I thought, "Sorry, but it's a
Now my thinking has changed. There are lots of good descriptions.
Why not sacrifice this one for the sake of friends struggling to stay
friends and for enemies who might one day become friends?
Americans who use the term are describing a certain group within Islam. But that's not how it feels to most Muslims. By and large, they
feel painted by one big brush.
Does the term "Islamofascist" win hearts or harden them?
We can't compromise our principles, but we can be kind. We must
try to understand how others think and feel, but never presume to
have looked around inside their heads or hearts. We must speak the
truth, but in love.
If you are a Christian, remember that this is a spiritual challenge.
Does prayer change things? Yes. So pray. Pray specifically and
generally. Call out to God on behalf of Muslims everywhere.
Yes, some have shown themselves to be your enemy, but not all.
Either way, enemy or friend, Jesus says love, bless, and pray.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour,
and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless
them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them
which despitefully use you, and persecute you. — Matthew 5:43-44
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