Inevitably, as we go out into the world as disciples, we will encounter people with different attitudes, different beliefs and different ways of expressing themselves.
Key Text: Acts 10:9-16
The philosopher Francis Bacon (1561–1626) said: ‘Human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion… draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects…’ Reflect on this quote and share your thoughts with the group.
About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance.
He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air.
Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.”
But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.”
The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”
This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.
Raheel Sharoon, development officer in the Diocese of Raiwind, in the Church of Pakistan, explores how Christians are living with difference and conflict in their communities.
The Church of Pakistan finds itself in a challenging situation, with political and religious conflict between and among different faith groups.
Yet we seek peace and make the most of limited options. We run community programmes to help people of different faiths realise that working together is the way forward. We work primarily with religious leaders, women and young people.
Religious leaders are particularly important because, on the one hand, they can easily divide communities for political ends – but on the other hand they possess the potential to help mend society.
Peace-building is a dangerous activity, but we do not stop. We even work with extremists and fundamentalist groups to try and build links. And there is hope – there are those in all communities who oppose violence and seek peace.
In 2015, in Lahore, a drug addict from a Christian family was accused of burning the Quran. A case was filed against him under the Blasphemy Laws. Some extremists wanted to attack local Christians and burn the church. But several Muslim clerics worked with my diocese to help clergymen and security personnel to diffuse the situation and save lives.
At times, Muslim leaders have been helpful in hiding or relocating Christians falsely accused of blasphemy. This is a major change. Through a continuous campaign of the church, an increasing number of Muslims have come to understand how Blasphemy Laws are being misused to try and steal land or carry out personal vendettas. Indeed, it is interesting to note that Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws are mostly commonly used by Muslims against Muslims, often motivated by personal grievances.
Looking at my country, it is fundamentalism that is the overarching problem – and I must mention that there are Christians who are fundamentalist in their attitudes to other faiths and even other Christian denominations. Indeed, a serious concern of the church is how to shield young Christians from hateful propaganda.
Holy God, you call us to be disciples in a complex world.
Thank you for the diversity which surrounds us.
Help us to widen our vision to see your image in all people
and to respond with your love to everyone in need.
In the light of this study, what learning might you adopt to help you grow in your discipleship?