Christian-Muslim Relations Team (CMRT)
- Intro to the team
- Appeal from the team
- CMRT resources
- Weekend seminar
EMM’s Christian-Muslim Relations Team desires to equip Christians around the world for life-giving relationships with Muslims through dialogue, witness, peacemaking, and hospitality. In a world where complex conflicts sometimes divide Muslims and Christians and where mutual suspicion can build walls, this team speaks boldly and trains persistently to build bridges of loving and respectful connection between Christians and Muslims, while faithfully confessing Christ.
Peacemakers confessing Christ
Jonathan Bornman served with his family in Senegal as a Bible teacher and prior to that in Burkina Faso developing water resources. As a consultant for Christian-Muslim relations, he has traveled extensively, equipping Christ followers to better relate to their Muslim neighbors. Currently, he is researching Sufi commitments to nonviolence in the American immigrant context. Jonathan, and his wife, Carol, enjoy sharing hospitality with their Muslim friends at home and abroad.
Angie Earl served in Indonesia from 2009–14, teaching in Christian and Muslim university settings and mentoring Christians to express Jesus’ love for everyone. She has helped equip young people to follow Jesus in learning to understand and befriend people of other cultures, sharing the hope found in Him. She and her husband enjoy welcoming refugees and immigrants from various backgrounds and encouraging others in such hospitality and witness.
Andres Prins has traveled, studied, and worked in various North African and Middle Eastern countries over the last 35 years. In 1988, he and his wife were commissioned by Mennonite churches in South America to serve Christ as teachers in Muslim societies, seeking to engage in hospitality, dialogue, witness, and peacemaking. Since 2012, they have resided in Lancaster, Pa. They feel deep gratitude to God for the many lives they have seen Him beautify and transform!
Grace and David Shenk have served many years in Somalia and Kenya as well as the U.S., giving special attention to bearing witness to the peace of Christ in a world of religious and ideological pluralism. David is a professor and the author of a shelf of books; Grace is a counselor. They travel extensively, encouraging peacemaking among Muslims and Christians. Hospitality has always been an important dimension of their peacemaking endeavors.
Among them, the five team members speak eight languages. All speak English. Andres can teach in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and North African Arabic. Angie speaks Bahasa Indonesian. David is fluent in Swahili. Jonathan speaks French and Wolof.
The team's witness-bearing commitment
In obedience to Jesus' command to be witnesses of the gospel among all nations (Matthew 28:18-20) and to the apostolic exhortation to commend Christ with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:8-17), we seek to bear witness to the good news of salvation, forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation offered by God in Jesus the Messiah. He is Himself the presence of the kingdom of God, freely inviting everyone to participate with all other believers (now and eternally) in the abundant new life of His kingdom. Therefore we desire to share in ways that are faithful to the following commitments:
- To reflect and honor the spirit and values of the Messiah.
- To be true to the gospel as revealed in the biblical Scriptures.
- To communicate God's deep love for all.
- To depend on God's Holy Spirit to reveal truth and transform lives.
- To reject the use of all forms of violence, imperialism, bribery, intimidation, coercion, vilification, misrepresentation, and deceit.
- To pursue peace, dialogue, and mutual understanding.
- To listen and respond carefully to the questions, objections, and witness others may have for us.
- To be honest and sincere and willing to suffer for the sake of justice and the truth.
- To be respectful of people of other cultures, languages, and faiths.
- To be ready to sacrifice for the well-being of our fellow humans.
- To seek to build up the local and worldwide church or Body of Christ.
- To take seriously the unique value of each person, language, and culture.
- To respect the governing authorities.
- To hold parents, children, and family life in high esteem.
- To fully recognize each person's dignity and freedom of choice.
If anyone sees any of us not living up to these commitments, please let us know so that we may prayerfully consider the concern, as we seek to be faithful servants of God.
Confessing the peace of Jesus in a terroristic world
A statement and appeal from EMM’s Christian-Muslim Relations Team (CMRT)
As a team, we teach about Christian-Muslim relations in North America and around the world. When the response time comes, we can always expect questions about Islamist terrorism. It is obvious that there is global concern about terroristic movements such as Nigeria’s Boko Haram. We are writing this at a time when Christian communities with a 2,000-year history in the Middle East are being uprooted and scattered in response to Islamist threats against their lives. In acts of reciprocal terror, both Israel and Gaza have been pummeled by a month of rocket attacks. U.S. drone attacks regularly kill leaders of movements opposed by the U.S. government. The disturbing question we face in our commitments to peacemaking is: “What has gone wrong?”
When we listen to our Muslim neighbors, we hear two different voices. One is the voice of Muslims who are committed to the conviction that God’s mercy is paramount as they strive peacefully to bring every area of life into submission to his will as “the most merciful and compassionate” God. The other voice is that of Muslims committed to doing whatever they can to impose God’s justice and judgment, as understood in Islam, on the rest of the world till all have been submitted to his will. We hear both voices.
The prophet of Islam mirrored both these voices. During 12 years in Mecca with no political power and often with his life under threat, he proclaimed an understanding of Islam that suggests that forgiveness and tolerance are the better way. Then came the momentous event of his pilgrimage from Mecca to Medina, known as the Hijrah. In Medina he became not only prophet, but also statesman and military commander. He defeated his enemies in battle and, in time, returned to Mecca leading his army in victory. He forgave defeated enemies who demonstrated remorse, but allowed other of his detractors to be handled as traitors.
Both these faces are present in the Qur’an as well as the Muslim traditions. Some Muslims are especially formed by the “sword” verses of their scriptures; others are formed by the “suffering for righteousness” verses. These different interpretations are not strange to Christians who also meet a God of vengeance and a God of forgiveness in the Bible. However, the reign of God in the biblical Messianic vision is the restoration of peace centered in redemptive love.
Six hundred years before the prophet of Islam, followers of Jesus in Galilee forcefully attempted to make Him their king. He rejected that invitation and instead took the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, where He was crucified. Those wounded welcoming arms of that Man on the cross are the arms of the One who is “God with us.” Open arms are for forgiving; they are for embrace and reconciliation. This is the reason churches across the Middle East are recognized as communities of reconciliation and forgiveness.
Three hundred years after Jesus, a third journey happened that has immensely distorted the gospel witness.
Constantine, in defense of his imperial ambitions, had the cross painted on the shields of his soldiers. He won the war under the sign of the cross. Seven hundred years later, Christian Crusaders devastated the Middle East under the sign of the cross. Many Muslims perceive the wars of the last decade as a continuation of those Crusades. Witness Serbian militia planting crosses in the ashes of burned-out Kosovo villages during the 1998–1999 Kosovo War.
These three journeys powerfully inform our modern situation: Muhammad to power in Medina; Jesus to the cross in Jerusalem; Constantine to empire in Rome. These are journeys in different directions; which journey do we choose?
Just over a year ago, one of our team met with the associate to the Grand Mufti of Egypt. Our team member told about the Anabaptists of the 16th century who would not participate in Europe’s wars against Muslims because
Jesus calls his disciples to love the enemy. He explained that he is a member in a community that joins with peace-loving Christians and all people of peace in seeking to build bridges, not walls. He shared that although we recognize our inadequacy, nevertheless, we seek to be people of Christ’s peace.
The Imam responded by saying that he had a message to all American Christians. First, work for justice and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. He observed that the church in America carries special responsibilities for encouraging justice with peace in Israel-Palestine.
Second, follow Jesus. He observed that as American Christians follow Jesus, they become a life-transforming community. He commented that historically, Egyptian Christians have been examples of communities of transformation. We appreciate this counsel from the Associate Imam of Egypt in these troubled times.
We invite you to join us in taking these practical, transformative steps:
- Pray that God’s kingdom will come on earth as in heaven — pray for shalom!
- Commit to working for justice.
- Develop friendships with Muslims.
- Share generously with church agencies working in the current refugee crisis.
- Show hospitality to the displaced persons who come your way from regions in turmoil.
- Express appreciation for the ways so many Muslims show compassion and serve the broader community.
- Always commend Christ in your words and actions!
Our world needs communities of witness and healing who confess that the God of the universe is fully revealed in that Man on a cross who forgives and reconciles His enemies, and who, in His resurrection, brings about a new creation. — Jonathan Bornman, Andres Prins, Grace and David Shenk, October 2017
Permission is given to reprint this statement and appeal if printed in its entirety and credited to EMM's Christian-Muslim Relations Team.
Approaches to Islam: Theological and Practical. David Shenk teaches on 20 topics designed to help followers of Jesus understand the message of Islam and faithfully commend the gospel of reconciliation as they engage with Muslims.
Peace Theology: Christians and Muslims. In this seven-part video series, David and Grace Shenk talk about peace theology in the context of Christian-Muslim relations. Their teaching includes thought-provoking topics such as violence, politics, Christology, hospitality, interfaith dialogue, and religious liberty. These videos were produced by Bienenberg Theological Seminary in Liestal, Switzerland
- "The Bible in Anabaptist Witness among Muslims: The Development and Distribution of The People of God Bible Study for Muslims in Eastern Africa" by David W. Shenk
- "Surprising Conversations" by Jonathan Bornman
- "Four Dynamics of the Church in Healthy Relationship with the Ummah" by Jonathan Bornman
- "Easter Egg Symbols" by Sheryl Martin
- "If You Read This Book ..." by Andres Prins
- "Si usted lee este libro..." por Andrés Prins
These papers were published in Anabaptist Witness 2, no. 1 (April 2015).
Christian + Muslim = friends?
Know anyone who believes any of these ideas?
- All Muslims are militant jihadists.
- Jesus followers need to hide their faith when relating to Muslims.
- Muslims are inaccessible or unapproachable.
- Muslims already have faith and don't need the gospel.
Invite EMM's Christian-Muslim Relations Team to challenge myths like these. Equip your congregation or group for life-giving interaction with Muslims. Work with the team to choose the best mix of core and optional seminar components for your context.
Core seminar components
Biblical foundations: Dialogue, witness, peacemaking, and hospitality have Biblical foundations that empower followers of Jesus as they relate to Muslims.
Answering questions Muslims ask Christians: Was the Bible changed? Why do you say Son of God? Do you really believe Jesus died on the cross? Why do Christians support Israel? These and other questions deserve to be answered.
Christian-Muslim peacemaking: Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers" (Matt. 5:9). Christians are commanded to seek peace and pursue it (1 Peter 3:11). Peacemaking is centered in Jesus' outstretched arms on the cross that offer a way of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Muslim beliefs and practices: Understand and compare the basic beliefs of Muslims and Christians. Explore the pillars of belief and duty in Islam, as well as the Muslim understanding of revelation.
Three journeys: Muhammad to power in Medina. Jesus to the cross in Jerusalem. Constantine to empire in Rome. These are journeys in different directions; which do we choose?
Unleashing the power of hospitality: The giving and receiving of hospitality is perhaps the one thing most lacking in modern Christian-Muslim encounters.
Optional seminar components
Mosque or Islamic community center trip: Probably the best thing the team could do is facilitate a visit with your local Muslim community, a great foundation for your learning and future involvement with Muslims in your area.
- "The Imam and the Pastor" — making peace between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria
- "A Cry from Iran" — the story of modern martyrs
- "More than Dreams" — five stories of Muslims who find salvation and hope in Jesus
Stories of Anabaptists meeting Muslims: Listen to a foundational story about Michael Sattler and then stories of modern Anabaptists meeting Muslims.
Testimony of a follower of Jesus from a Muslim family. Hear a former Muslim share his or her story of coming to faith in Jesus.
The mission of Islam and the mission of the church: Both Islam and Christianity are missionary faiths. Understanding the missions is critical for understanding the nature of our encounter with Muslims.
Women and the veil: Explore perceptions and stereotypes about Muslim women and hear how women who are disciples of Jesus share their faith.
Seminars can be taught in English, French, or Spanish.