Love urged for Muslim neighbors

Mission consultant encourages caring, clarity about Christian commitment

Jan 26, 2016 by and

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MORTON, Ill. — About 60 people gathered Jan. 24 at First Mennonite Church to learn about their Muslim neighbors from Eastern Mennonite Missions Christian/Muslim relations consultant Jona­than Bornman of Lancaster, Pa.

Jonathan Bornman, Christian/Muslim relations consultant with Eastern Mennonite Missions, guides volunteers in an illustration of Islam as a safe "house," as it is perceived by its followers. — Rachel Stella/MWR

Jonathan Bornman, Christian/Muslim relations consultant with Eastern Mennonite Missions, guides volunteers in an illustration of Islam as a safe “house,” as it is perceived by its followers. — Rachel Stella/MWR

Bornman, who lived among the Muslim people of Senegal from 1999 to 2009, led a workshop, “Understanding Your Muslim Neighbor,” that gave insight into Muslim beliefs and motivation.

He also commented on the controversy surrounding the Wheaton College professor who said Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

“Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? The answer is yes and no,” Bornman said. “There’s only one God. There’s no other.”

Yet he said the closeness between humans and God in the Christian faith is something Muslims do not know.

In a letter addressed to area church leaders inviting them to the workshop, First Mennonite Pastor Aaron Yoder highlighted two extreme attitudes toward Muslims held by North American Christians: “fear which leads to hostility” and “theological inclusion . . . [which means] one must approach a Muslim as a brother or sister in the faith.”

“We perceive both of these movements to be inconsistent with the life and teachings of Jesus,” Yoder wrote in the letter.

Bornman emphasized a middle ground between the two extremes.

“It’s OK to be 100 percent yourself as you interact with Muslims,” he said. “Be very clear about your commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.”

But he also emphasized the need for Christians to be friendly. After explaining the basics of Islam, Bornman described the faith as a “house” where Muslims feel safe, especially in places where they are a minority.

“There’s a pretty strong sense [among Muslims] that those outside the house are in opposition,” he said. “A lot of Muslims feel really threatened — by you.”

Friendship, hospitality

Bornman noted the general negative sentiment toward Muslims after the recent increase of violent acts in the name of Islam.

“Our Muslim neighbors are suffering a lot from Islamophobic attacks,” he said. “The most critical thing the church can be involved with is friendship and hospitality with Muslims in their community. My call to the church is to go out and love and care for your neighbors.”

He said “every Muslim community” is feeling afraid right now.

Yoder said he wanted to help provide Christians with information about Islam so they could be prepared to enter conversations about spiritual matters.

“In our area we don’t have any Syrian refugees yet,” Yoder said in an interview. “However, just because of news about refugees and Islam, I thought it might be appropriate to hear Jonathan talk about what exactly Muslims believe. . . . I think we should always be prepared, as Scripture tells us, to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us.”

The EMM Christian/Muslim Relations Team members are available to give presentations in multiple languages to church groups. Presentations include weekend seminars and shorter periods to discuss various topics about Islam, Christianity and peacemaking. For more information, visit emm.org/peacemakers.


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  • Debra B. Stewart

    I often wonder why we complicate things that are so simple. Our next door neighbors on the SW side of Chicago were Muslim Palestinians and the best neighbors we ever had. We mowed lawns and shoveled snow together; we traded recommendations on garage roofers and fence builders. We knocked on their door when we had a pipe break at 10:30 at night – one of the men was a plumber. My husband helped them with police questions and issues (and, dare I say, “fears”). And we talked. I’ll never forget, after hearing some stories about their experiences in Palestine, I asked what we could do to help. “Just tell our story to everyone you know. And tell them we love the American people; it’s your government we hate.” The evening I’ll never forget? My husband and I were invited to their daughter’s wedding and were the only non-Muslims in attendance! The bride made sure I sat with some of her cousins who could explain the ceremonies and traditions and answer my questions. It was amazing! And we didn’t have to attend a seminar to learn to love the best neighbors we ever had.

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