February 22, 2018

EMM worker invited to participate in Muslim interfaith peace initiative

Written by  Emily Jones
Panelists discuss interfaith peace at an Alliance of Virtue conference organized by Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah (second from left), president of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies. The conference took place in Washington, D.C., on February 5–7, 2018. Photos provided by Jonathan Bornman. Panelists discuss interfaith peace at an Alliance of Virtue conference organized by Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah (second from left), president of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies. The conference took place in Washington, D.C., on February 5–7, 2018. Photos provided by Jonathan Bornman.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A member of EMM’s Christian-Muslim Relations Team (CMRT) was invited to the issuing of a new declaration calling religious leaders from all faiths to work together to promote peace, seek reconciliation and healing, and advocate for justice and equality.

The document, called the Washington Declaration, was unveiled on February 7, 2018, during a three-day “Alliance of Virtue” conference organized by Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, president of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies.

CMRT member Jonathan Bornman was one of over 400 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious leaders who attended the conference and affirmed the Washington Declaration.

The Washington Declaration follows the Marrakesh Declaration issued in January 2016, which denounces division, violence, and oppression in the Muslim world and calls for harmony between different Muslim groups, for religious liberty and equality for religious minorities in Muslim-majority nations, and for the rebuilding of respect and trust between people of all faiths. Over 350 Muslim scholars and leaders from 60 countries met in Morocco to sign the Marrakesh Declaration.

The Washington Declaration calls for harmony not only among Muslims, but between people of all faiths. It says in part: “The vision we propose now is of a revived Alliance of Virtue, global in nature, open to men and women of every faith, race, and nationality, and dedicated — like its earlier namesake — to joint action in the service of sustainable peace, justice, compassion, and mutual respect.”

The declaration continues, “We take this step because we believe that individuals and communities need to move beyond mere tolerance and to dedicate themselves to a future in which all can flourish and in which all — empowered by faith — can build reconciliation and seek to heal the wounds of conflict and violence.”

For Bornman, the gathering created the opportunity for interfaith conversations and connections that he found as significant as the new declaration itself. He reported having many meaningful conversations with Jewish, Muslim, and Christian peacemakers.

Bornman heard hopeful stories from Abdul Hamid Samra, a Miami-area imam who has worked with CMRT member Andres Prins to form growing relationships with nearby Hispanic Christian congregations. Samra told Bornman about attending the Christmas celebration of one of those churches last December and encouraging three other imams and their communities to attend as well.

Bornman also spoke with a rabbi, a United Nations employee, a member of a Finnish humanitarian foundation, the co-founder of the Jesus-centered Christian-Muslim peacemaking group Peace Catalyst International, and a representative of a persecuted Shia Muslim community, among others.

Bornman said the conference and declaration sent a clear signal that many Muslims are deeply committed to working towards peace.

“The oft-repeated claim that Muslims are not speaking out against terrorism is debunked by a gathering like this one,” he said. “Hundreds of American imams gathering to declare that terrorism is unacceptable and that they are committed to working with their Christian and Jewish neighbors for peace is good news for everyone.”

People can work together for peace even when they disagree about matters of faith, said Bornman.

“The Washington Declaration should not be interpreted as saying we all believe the same thing,” he said. “The fact is, we do not.”

Bornman believes that working for peace is one of the ways he can faithfully confess Christ to those of other faiths. He pointed to Jesus’ blessing on peacemakers in Matthew 5:9 and the Apostle Paul’s appeal in Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

“Muslims, Christians, and Jews have many things they share, including a common interest in creating secure, healthy communities,” he said. “Affirming this declaration is a way to embrace relationship with other leaders to work for our common good.”

The Alliance of Virtue conference immediately preceded the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., a two-day event best known for the U.S. president’s address. Many from the Alliance of Virtue conference, including Bornman, remained in Washington, D.C. to participate in some or all of the National Prayer Breakfast events.