Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger has issued a statement against the current escalation of rhetoric that seeks to demonize Muslims. Citing Jesus’ commands to love God, and love neighbor as self, and the parable of the Good Samaritan, the statement also calls church members to revisit portions of the 1991 Annual Conference statement “Peacemaking: The Call of God’s Peace in History” that direct the church to “explore avenues of interfaith dialogue leading toward a visible expression of God’s plan for human unity.”
The statement follows in full below, with a shorter video version available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ymd5uQ6b9kg.
General secretary statement against anti-Muslim rhetoric
Our nation is struggling to respond to violence and terrorism in Paris, Lebanon, Syria, Nigeria, and elsewhere. However, I am troubled by the hateful rhetoric that seeks to demonize Muslim neighbors and friends. More profoundly troubling is that the words of hate and demonization are surfacing among Christians.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus implores us to “love the Lord your God” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” In Luke, however, a scholar of the law presses Jesus further, asking, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). Jesus’ response is the parable of the Good Samaritan. A priest and a Levite ignore a dying man on the road to Jericho, but a Samaritan – a cultural and religious outcast – stops, bandages the dying man’s wounds, and finds him shelter for the night.
Equating radical Islamic ideology with the faith Muslims misrepresents and muddies Christ’s message with fear. We must resist the temptations fear elicits, holding strong to faith in the redemptive power of Christ. Suffering knows no religion.
As the conflict in Syria escalates, our mercy and compassion cannot be selective. Refusing to aid those fleeing violence and injustice, especially on the basis of religion, likens us to the priest and the Levite who ignored the dying man on the road to Jericho. Giving in to words that demean Muslims betrays our belief that everyone is a child of God.
In 1991, the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference reissued a call for peace among people of all religions in the “Peacemaking: The Call of God’s People in History.” It states in part:
“Therefore, the Church shall:
a. initiate and participate in efforts to overcome strife and differences within the Christian family;
b. work with those of other denominations, nations, and religions in the interests of peace, while maintaining our Christian witness and proclaiming God’s love for all humanity;
c. engage in the creation and support of ecumenical, cooperative, and coalitional efforts in peacemaking;
d. provide informational and educational materials to assist in a better understanding and love of people of other religions and faith traditions;
e. explore avenues of interfaith dialogue leading toward a visible expression of God’s plan for human unity.”
Finally, there is a word of hope. “God still wills wholeness and unity for God’s people.”
Jeremiah writes, “I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare (shalom) and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:10-11).
— Find the full 1991 Annual Conference statement on peacemaking at www.brethren.org/ac/statements/1991peacemaking.html .