This is part four of a five part series written by USPG entitled All Things Are Possible, exploring how faith in God can change the world.
Key Text: John 14: 25-28
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states:
‘We are determined to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence. There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.’
Faith is often cited as the cause of wars, conflict and disharmony. But what if such conflicts have nothing to do with God but are the result of human attachment to dogmas and human selfishness and greed? This study explores the idea that peace is only possible through God.
People differ in many ways: age, gender, nationality, religion, class, etc. Recall a time when you were pleasantly surprised at meeting someone very different to you. What was that like? How did the experience affect you? Share briefly in the group.
A report from the Nairobi office of PROCMURA (Programme for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa), which is supported by USPG.
At a PROCMURA conference in Cameroon, a panel of Christian and Muslim leaders sat on the stage. We were debating various issues – and the conversation was going nicely – when we noticed a woman in the audience, in a great deal of distress, wanting to raise her hand to say something.
Dr Johnson Mbillah, former General Adviser of PROCMURA, said: ‘There is a lady who must speak.’ He then went to the woman and said: ‘Madam, my sister, get up and speak your mind.’
The woman by now was sobbing uncontrollably.
Dr Johnson helped the woman to her feet and gave her the microphone.
In a strong voice, the woman started speaking about the difficulties that Muslim women faced as a result of the prevalence of female suicide bombers. She explained it had become common for Muslim women to be searched in case they were concealing bombs beneath their burkas or hijabs, which she found highly intrusive. She said: ‘I am being violated because I live up to the tenets of my religion. Why should I suffer such disgrace at my age because girls have misused the dress of my religion to hide their evil intentions?’
The women’s comments brought the meeting to a temporary silence.
The first to react was the Muslim delegate from Chad. He said his government had banned the burka because it could be used as a cover up for suicide bombing. He said: ‘We, the Muslim community, do not protest about this because it is a security issue and we all want to have security – extraordinary situations necessitate extraordinary actions.’ He added that if the people of Chad succeeded in dealing with insecurity, then women would be allowed to wear whatever was acceptable to them in Islam.
Muslim leaders from Cameroon said they were working hard to counter extremism so the burka and hijab need not be banned in their country.
The last word was given to the woman in the audience, who said: ‘When will life be normal again?’ She then sat down, despondent but controlled, knowing her voice had been heard.
The philosophy of PROCMURA is Christians and Muslims can only succeed in dealing with radicalisation and violent extremism by working together. We endeavour to avoid the blame game or taking the moral high ground.
It might seem surprising to include an article that focuses on the concerns of a Muslim woman in a study course aimed at Christians. However, its inclusion is very deliberate because it gives us a taste of the sort of issues we will encounter if we engage in interfaith dialogue.
“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.
Take it in turns to reflect on the question posed at the start of this study: What does it mean to love our neighbour? Share briefly your insights.
Allowing God’s love to flow through us to our neighbour
Sit in the mystery of God, accepting your lack of perfect understanding. [Pause]
Allow yourself to trust in God’s love and God’s love alone. [Pause]
Know that this love flows through each person of the Trinity. [Pause]
Now allow the loving acceptance of the Trinity to rest in you. [Pause]
Now allow this love to flow through you to all people. [Pause]
To everyone in your church. [Pause]
To all your neighbours. [Pause]
To everyone in this town. [Pause]
To everyone in this country. [Pause]
To every person in the world. [Pause]
And to all beings and everything in the world. [Pause]
Rest for a moment in the all-accepting love of God. [Pause]
O God our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer,
thank you for revealing yourself to us as Trinity.
We pray for all peoples of faith that, recognising our differences,
we may work together for the common good.