I first met Dr. Thomas Farr at Georgetown University where Peace Catalyst hosted the Evangelicals for Peace Conference. Before that I had quoted him in my master’s thesis on the role of religion in acquiring and sustaining peace. Religious liberty should be allowed in every nation. Farr makes it clear it is in our national self-interests to do so. Unfortunately, as I write this, the office of the Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom is vacant and has been for some time. If the US is interested in promoting religious freedom around the globe, the kind of freedom that would protect minorities and engage majority power brokers in ideological rationales for religious freedom, this office should be filled and utilized.
Is liberal democracy that provides equality and freedom for all consistent with the true teachings of Islam? Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish Muslim journalist and writer, thinks so. In Islam Without Extremes Akyol tells about the foundations of Islam and then follows it’s development through history. It describes struggles between rationalism and traditionalism. Chapters four and five are particularly helpful in explaining the different streams of thought and how they diverged. The results are played out in today’s headlines as many Muslims call for peaceful coexistence and others call for war.
Akyol is a Muslim that is not afraid to point out the inconsistancies between how Islam is being practiced and the ideals of Islam. He supports freedom of religion. He opposes violence. He looks to Turkey as a model for the future of Islam. In this, he is sometimes criticized as too “westernized.” However, I think that his experience as a journalist and his connections to the west help him explain the struggle within Islam for the hearts of the adherents to Islam. He sees Islam at a pivotal point in history and he proposes a future path that embraces peace and liberty for all.
I highly recommend this book for those who want to understand some of the historical roots of the present day struggles. You might also enjoy watching his Ted Talk on this topic and interviews he did with Carl Medearis. To purchase the book and help support Segues International website, just click on the title above.
What are the causes of violence and war in the world? Is there anything we can do to eliminate the violence, short of inflicting more violence? Dr. Glen H Stassen and his team of 23 scholars have come up with ten practical steps to reduce or eliminate violent conflict around the world. Originally published in 1998, the book is now in its third publication. Academics and practitioners have had some time to implement and observe the outcomes of Stassen’s recommendations. Many examples of their findings are included in the pages of this book.
Dr. Stassen passed away April 26, 2014, but his work lives on in his writings and in the many people who are looking for the root causes of conflict and war. Dr. Stassen has given us a useful framework through which to evaluate our participation in war, some have called it a third alternative to Just War Theory and pacifism. David Gushee, in a tribute to Dr. Stassen, said he was a “pioneering theorist in the field of Christian ethics.” I think you will find this book insightful and challenging as we “seek peace and pursue it.”
A Farewell To Mars (David C. Cook, 2014)
Brian Zahan has just saved me a lot of time. He has written a book that I have had in mind to write for several years. It shows how the evangelical community has embraced a culture of war and why this inconsistent with the teachings and example of the Prince of Peace. There is a lot of Scripture in this book. It should help the conservative Christians embrace our role as ambassadors of a new kingdom, one that rejects the ways of Cain and embraces the ways of Jesus. If I had four or five books I wish everyone would read, this would be one of them. Or, listen to it on Audible.com.