A Reformation in the Middle East

It’s beginning.

There’s a new shifting wind happening among my friends from the Middle East, and it’s kind of a “good news/bad news” kind of scenario.  As most of you know, at KIVU we have several entry points to help American students meet and develop relationships with students abroad in the Middle East.

I believe it’s essential for the future that we’re able to engage with other nations, cultures, and faiths where we can build common bridges to form meaningful friendships.

And, I’m always looking for people to begin explaining how goes the 50K foot view of the Middle East and learning how to engage with a premise of relationships.  After all, it’s always easier to come to a peaceful solution when you have friends on the ground in places that are seen as enemies.

So we’ll start with the good news first:

A Summit Of Leaders

Last week in Marrakesh Morocco, a group of Muslim and Christian leaders unveiled a declaration of religious freedom in predominantly Muslim countries.  CLICK HERE for the article by Christianity today.

Fellow friends in attendance included Rick Love (CEO of the Peace Catalyst) and Bob Roberts Jr. (Pastor at Northwood Community Church in Keller Texas) who kept the world informed on the progress.  These two men are two of my personal heroes when it comes to developing relationships for peace in the world.

This Marrakesh Summit’s 750 word declaration helps to frame the way non-Muslims are to be treated in Muslim countries, and helps to show the world Islam isn’t a place to find violence, but to the contrary; a place where people will be accepted.

I know it doesn’t stop the violence immediately, but I know many of you are interested in how to help and pray; well…this is the beginning of a groundswell reformation happening among religious leaders.

A Conversation with The Professor

Last night I had dinner with two high level leaders who teach non-violence in the Middle East.  For the sake of their work, I’ll keep their identities unknown for now.  But you can rest assured, these two men know more about the ins and outs of the practical Middle East than most.

I asked, “So if you have the magic wand to solve the Middle East, what would you do?”  I know…an ominous question.

The Professor stared at my eyes and declared…
“First, the Islamists need to embrace the reformation going on inside the religion.  These violent outbreaks will subside soon.  Just think about the crusades.  Religious Zealots come into history with violent objectives, but they flame out quickly.  Hold on.  There will be a day when the image of the  Middle East will cease to be that of violence, and will curb into their pluralist acceptance.

Second, there is a vast transformation happening across Europe.  The refugees that are being welcomed by people who love and give in the name of Jesus are adopting the ways of their hosts.  Those who are marginally active in their faith are experiencing a welcoming like they’ve never seen in their home country

Finally, The West is going to have to learn how to deal with a growing culture of spiritual muslims that seek peace, love, and grace.”

The Bad News

The problem for those of us in the west is the dramatic shift in the way our culture views God.  “I survey my students about where they pledge allegiance concerning religion, and it is overwhelming to hear ‘My Mom is a Catholic, My Dad is a Protestant, but I’m really not interested in religion.'”  He explained

The Nones are now the majority.

While the Middle East will begin searching for an Enlightenment of spirituality, the west is drifting into more and more of a secular anti-religious culture.

I think most of us who are involved in student work can see this every day, and we can either be anxiously nervous about the future, or we can begin working to help students see the beauty of living a life according to the life and teachings of Jesus.

I had a chance to talk with two young professionals on the porch last night on a capital hill row house, and both them agreed, “Evangelicalism as we know it is dying.  We’re not interested in that.  We are working to understand God as creator, giver of life, and center of moral human animation.”

So the bottom line:

  1.  The Middle East is undergoing an exciting reformation in religion.
  2. The West is trying to figure out how to exist in an increasingly secular world
  3. We have an opportunity to learn and adjust how we teach, how we disciple, and how we live with those interested in knowing Jesus.

I’m more excited than I am doom and gloom.  I’m super thankful for people willing to travel the world and look for places where humanity can exist together.  AND…I’m more committed than ever to helping students understand how to live in a world where people believe differently.   There are common places.  We don’t have to live at war.  But there’s a whole lot of work to do.

What do you think?

3 Comments

  1. Dear Andy, I have a dear friend in Tyler, Texas, who is Bob Roberts’s sister. I have known about his work for several years. I have never met him, but his sister Sandy has told me about his work, and I have read one of his books. Amazing man, for sure. Thank you for your work.
    Harriet Renner

  2. Andy, this sentence in your care-filled reporting caught my eye…”We are working to understand God as creator, giver of life, and center of moral human animation.” In the moments of our mutual working together, you and I both know that we need to begin asking ourselves the question…who am I?…before asking…who are you? Christian, Muslin, Jewish, None, Other…this is one of those core questions about life if honest dialogue is ever going to take place. Who are you at the core of your own life? Who do you long to be? I find, in our own work, that exploring those questions brings us to common values for living life…together…even where we might disagree. Will be eager to talk over more of this when we see each other in a few days. Keep these posts coming!!! 🙂

  3. Andy, John and I are working with the refugees in Germany. We are educating ourselves and have read many books, including the Qu’ran. Here are a few: “A Wind in the House of Islam”; “Jesus in Iran”; “Seeking allah, Finding Jesus” (see his testimony on Youtube) “Stepping Stones to Eternity”.
    Preparing for the Harvest, love you.

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