5 Reasons Christians Should Attend an Iftar During Ramadan

Peace Catalyst likes to get people together and Ramadan is a great time to do that. Our Muslim friends are already gathering many evenings throughout Ramadan to break their fasts together.  Sometimes they invite us into their space to share this meal with them. But sometimes, too, my Christian friends push back and resist accepting the invitation.  Perhaps they are fearful of the unknown.  Sometimes they don’t want to appear supportive of another religion. Some have told us that we are wrong or naïve to take people into the mosques, so let me lay out a few reasons why I think it’s important for you to attend an iftar meal during Ramadan.

  • You are serious about your faith so you want to avoid breaking the 9thcommandment – Remember that commandment about not bearing false witness?  Let’s face it, there is a lot of misinformation out there. Some people unintentionally quote and repeat things that are inaccurate.  I remember reading Christian books about Islam, some by missionaries, that were just wrong. Maybe they supposed that all 1.5 billion Muslims believed the same things based on what they had encountered in a particular culture. When I actually sat down and talked to Muslims, I realized that I had been fed a bunch of fake hummus.  The Muslims I met didn’t believe what I had read in some of those books. We really need to talk to individual Muslims to learn what motivates and inspires them, rather than lumping everyone together. You can do that at a local iftar.
  • It’s what Jesus taught his disciples to do –  Remember when Jesus took the disciples through Samaria and he talked to the Samaritan woman?  He seemed to delight in stretching them and showing them things religion had gotten wrong. He touched lepers, ate with sinners, talked to women, healed on the Sabbath and asked his disciples to follow him. I wonder what they were thinking when Jesus said, “We’re gonna stay a couple of days with the Samaritans.” (Martin’s paraphrase 🙂 )  Or what about the time he got them in a boat to go to the region of the Gerasenes, where the Gentiles were raising pigs? If you follow Jesus, he is likely to call you into some uncomfortable places, places you’d rather not go, but places where he wants to do some amazing things.  If you’ll read John 4 and Mark 5, I suspect some of my Christian friends will see several parallels with attending an iftar.  
  • You want to be blessed. –  Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers. You are tired of hearing about hate crimes and shootings around the world.  You believe Jesus offers hope for a better future, so you are willing to risk being a peacemaker.  Quoting from Psalm 34, Peter tells his readers to seek peace and pursue it! It is simple obedience to actively pursue peace.  

Psalms 34:12-14 (NIV) Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

  • God created us to be in relationship. – The consequences of the rebellion described in the Garden of Eden include the breaking of relationships: between God and man, between man and nature, between Adam and Eve, and the rebellion brought death instead of abundant life.  God immediately set about to rectify this. Cain and Able didn’t get it right, but we can.  Paul tells us that we have been charged with the ministry of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (NLV) And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.  So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

  • The food is great and the conversations are even better if you are open to such things.  Seriously, all faith traditions like to eat together; Passovers, church dinners, iftars. There is something about sharing a meal together that facilitates relationships, but some people say we shouldn’t eat together.  Jesus was sometimes criticized for eating with the “wrong people.”  You might be too.  WWJD?

If you’re uncertain about what you might be getting into, welcome to the world of being a disciple of Jesus. Bloomberg shared a good factual summaryof what happens during Ramadan. They pose a series of common questions and answers, but there are better questions to be asked and more insightful things to learn.  Some things can’t be asked from a distance.  Some questions require a friend to ask, like “Do you get headaches from not eating?”  or “Does Ramadan make you feel close to God or are you just happy when it’s over?” or “Does God ever speak to you through dreams or visions?”

The world’s problems cannot be solved by your attending a single iftar, but you are invited.  It’s a critical first step to loving others as we have been loved. It is one small way that you can promote peace with the Prince of Peace. 

Peace Catalyst is working with the Turkish Community to host an Iftar on Tuesday, May 28.  If you are near Louisville, you can reserve your spacethrough Eventbrite. If you don’t live in Louisville, Shoulder to Shoulder has compiled a list of over 100 iftarsaround the US and Canada with information about how you can attend.

One more thing, I really need more supporters so I can devote more time to this important work of peacemaking.   I need individuals like you that believe in what we do and are willing to plant seeds of peace.  Would you please give nowor, better yet, would you become a monthly sustainerof this ministry?

Thanks so much.  When you go to that iftar, save some hummus and baklava for me!

Martin

-Photo compliments of Jerry McBroom Photography from a Peace Catalyst iftar meal at the American Turkish Friendship Center.

Christians Should Embrace Welcoming Refugees

Evangelical Leaders' Petition to President Trump

Some friends at World Relief and prominent church leaders like Tim Keller, Bill Hybels, and Max Lucado (along with over 3000 other Christian leaders) have signed a petition to be presented to President Trump and Vice-President Pence. I like the tone of this petition.  Rather than being full of inflammatory speech, it quotes the words of scripture which show that welcoming refugees is what God expects of people.

The churches have spent millions, possibly billions, of dollars trying to take the “Good News” to the nations.  Now when God brings the nations to our doorstep, we try to stop them from coming. From a Kingdom perspective, it makes no sense. Perhaps people are driven more by fear than faith. In Acts 17 Paul tells the people of Athens that God made all men from one man and that God determined the times and the places that they would live.  He did this, according to Paul, so that men could find God.

I remember as a young missionary reading Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.  Missiologist, Ralph Winters wrote an article: “The Kingdom Strikes Back: The Ten Epochs of Redemptive History.” Winters recounted the “in-voluntary go” mechanism of God reaching out to all mankind.  When people and nations hoarded God’s blessing, God would intervene, sometimes allowing them to be overthrown so the good news would spread. Persecution came to the church in Jerusalem and the blessing spread throughout the Roman Empire. Winters writes, “While the Romans lost the western half of their empire, the Barbarian world, in a very dramatic sense, gained a Christian faith.” Charlemagne eventually consolidated Western Europe only to have it attacked by the Vikings. The Vikings, largely unevangelized from further north, carried off monks as slaves and women as wives. The result? The vikings learned of and received God’s blessing.  Winters notes that the Vikings would not have been attracted to attack the monasteries or churches “had those centers of piety not to a great extent succumbed to luxury.” This story repeats itself time and again, at least according to Ralph Winters.

So if God determines the times and places that people live, we should not have to ask why all of these “foreigners” are coming to our cities.  God is calling us to share His blessings with the world. He has already given the church in North America about 400 years to prepare for such a time as this.   We can either embrace what God is doing, or we can, in rebellion, hoard the blessings.   But if we stiff arm these refugees, these neighbors in need, if we choose to abandon our Christian principles, we very well may find ourselves fighting the very hand of God.

I wonder what God thinks when Presidents and God’s people plead, “God bless America”? I wonder if He thinks, “I already have. Now its your turn to bless others.”

Cities Concerned about Declining Populations

The Blessings of Foreign Born Friends

The “Rust Belt.” The phrase brings to mind abandoned buildings, crumbling infrastructures, demoralized and unemployed people. Those that remain complain about the declining quality of life, police protection and the schools their children attend. What is a city to do when industry and people abandon their properties?

The Wall Street Journal on May 19, 2016 shared census statistics of the declining populations in US cities. Mayors and city councils are concerned with these trends. My city of Louisville would have declined in population over the last ten years if not for foreign born people moving to our city. Cities

Looking Like Jesus:

Actions and Proof Texts

I recently took my Syrian imam friend to a Christian college to speak. He was a guest lecturer in “Cross Cultural Communications” classes, a “Theology of Missions” class and a “Church Planting” class. It was really interesting to hear how the imam approached these topics from an Islamic perspective.

Maslow, Trump and Muslims

Why are evangelicals supporting Trump?

Remember Maslow and his “hierarchy of needs”? The basic premise is that we will sacrifice everything else we hold dear if we do not have our basic foundational needs met. If a person is dying of thirst or cannot breathe, he will do anything, including risking his personal safety, to get air or water. As you move up his chart, Maslow claims that people are more concerned about their safety than their self-esteem or belonging to a group. His theory is that people will abandon their higher values if they feel like their safety is at risk or their group identity is being threatened.

Peace Catalyst Helps Host Reception

Kentucky State Representatives Welcome Internationals

Mehmet works with the American Turkish Friendship Association of Kentucky. We have done many projects together; Peace Feasts, Iftar Dinners, arranging firefighter appreciation dinners and serving together in a local shelter. More than just doing projects together, we are friends. We drink a lot of tea together and discuss how we can make the world a better place.

Have you ever wished you could travel to another country and learn about some foreign culture? Or maybe you have watched a travel show or flipped through a magazine and had questions you wished you could ask. Did you know that over 100 languages are represented in our local schools? Chances are, whatever culture sparked your questions is represented in our state. Sadly, many in the state don’t utilize this great learning and cultural resource. Some of us would like to change that.

The Secret of Immigrant Genius

Why are Immigrants DIsproportionally More Creative?

Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein were all immigrants or refugees.  They either chose, or were forced, to cross cultures. Eric Weiner notes this phenomenon in a Wall Street Journal article, “The Secret of Immigrant Genius.”  So many immigrants excel that it has attracted the attention of social psychologists to ask “Why?”

South Sudan

Hope Deferred

I remember looking down on the village in South Sudan as we made our second approach to the dirt landing strip. The first fly-by was to chase the cows off the ru21205107313_9bf6b3512a_mnway. As we pulled up I saw anti-aircraft guns and several soldiers guarding the strip. At that time it was not yet South Sudan but functioned as an quasi-independent country. Fighting between the north and south had mostly stopped, but official recognition by the UN would only come later.

Islamophobia Hurts America

Religious Freedom and Islamophobia Conference in Philadelphia October 6-8, 2015

Douglas Johnston is known as the “Father of Faith Based Diplomacy. Opening the conference on Religious Freedom and Islamophobia, Johnston said, “The greatest asset we have to fight militant Islam is the American Muslim community. Unfortunately, we have alienated many in this community.” Johnston also said, “As the Muslim community is marginalized, it plays into the hands of extremists.”

Many in evangelical circles are concerned with the impact of overgeneralized anti-Islamic rhetoric and how that impacts common goals that we all share for religious freedom and security. The polarization between the Muslim communities and the Christian communities is doing great harm to our nation and to our Christian witness.

Muslims are Asking Questions in Louisville

Do you have answers?

I have been “evangelized” both by well-meaning Muslims doing da’wah and Christians who made assumptions about my relationship with Jesus. One Muslim wanted to “share his testimony” with me. I could not wait for that conversation to end. It did not feel so good to have my faith insulted as “inferior.” The phrase “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” came to mind and made me question the way many “evangelize” others.

What ISIS Really Wants

the Atlantic
March 2015

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The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.


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