Posted by: Titus Presler | December 16, 2011

Reconciliation in Faith: Meditation for Advent III Friday

The Christ Child comes into a world where people have been yearning for God from vastly diverse backgrounds and perspectives.  Jesus was born in a time of many religions new and old.  Those Wise Men from the East: What view of God did they have?  How did the trip to Bethlehem confirm or change their faith?

As in the first century, globalized communication, economics and culture in our time have brought encounter, jostling and now conflict between religions.  In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, many American churches reached out to mosques in their neighborhoods to reaffirm relationship.  The church-mosque-city procession organized in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for instance, was a counter-sign to violence that marked my consciousness, even as conflicts with religious overtones have multiplied in the world since then.

One flashpoint has been northern Nigeria, where people have died as Christians and Muslims fought about shariah law, economic power, and religious insults.  In Kaduna, rival groups led by Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pentecostal Pastor James Wuye were embroiled enough for Pastor Wuye to lose an arm in one skirmish.

Yet each was reading his scripture, and each was getting uneasy about how such violence squared with the call of God, the call of Allah, in his life.  Then compassion emerged.  Pastor Wuye’s mother fell ill, and Imam Ashafa asked if he could come and visit.  James was suspicious but agreed.  Muhammad came and kept on coming as James’s mother died and the family mourned.

Reconciliation happened.  The two began envisioning and strategizing.  Discernment brought mutual resonance.  They began traveling together to reconcile tensions, rather than foment them.  They founded the Interfaith Mediation Centre, which has worked on dozens of religious and ethnic conflicts. Each man continues zealous for his own faith and community, but together they’ve found and shown a new way in Nigeria.  They’ve become a sign.

One helpful factor in Nigeria is that Muslims and Christians have roughly the same strength nationwide, even as Muslims are concentrated in the north and Christians in the south.  Reconciliation is harder where one group is numerically and therefore economically and politically stronger than the other, as with Hindus and Muslims in India, or Muslims and Christians in Pakistan, or Christians and Muslims in the USA.  Nevertheless there are important efforts toward mutual understanding in Pakistan.  Faith Friends in Peshawar and the work of the Christian Study Center in Rawalpindi are instances, as I have noted previously in this blog.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,” sang the angels, “and on earth peace among those whom God favors!”  God’s glory is a generous glory.  Like the shepherds, we cannot help but make known what we know of the Child.  The Word has indeed become flesh and lived among us, “and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).  That glory invites us to live generously, our hearts and minds open to hearing and meeting the religious experience of others.

This meditation is adapted from Titus Presler’s “Alert for Signs: Seeing and Praying through Advent” (Forward Movement Publications). 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: