Jihad Invited me to Baghdad. Really?
Dear friends, take a seat for a moment and thank God with me. Then pray like you mean it. For those who've been tracking this story through my last two newsletters, here's a quick update. I've found myself in the middle of an emerging story, based on some new relationships that began at an important meeting I attended at the United Nations in early October. It's a story I've only dreamed about--going to an important Muslim majority country as a guest of Muslim friends. But going as a Christian leader, in the mode of a peacemaker, a Christ follower, and friend of Muslims interested in bridge building. Lord willing, this will happen in the first quater of this next year. We're still talking about a general itinerary but will probably have a chance to engage Muslim clerics at their seminary as well as observe one of their important pilgrimages.
By the way, as way of education for those who are curious, one of my new friend's name is indeed Jihad. This word is often brandished as a negative concept, as religious aggression waged by Muslims in the mode of a "holy war." That's not really a fair or complete characterization of this important word. The more important concept which escapes most is this--jihad is a personal struggle in devotion to Islam especially involving spiritual discipline. Its a bit like the concept of sanctification in the Christian journey, where one seeks to be transformed into that characteristics of a disciple who is devoted to Jesus Christ. To learn more about this you can read John Esposito's book, "What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam." He has a great exposition of the word on p. 117 of this book. Or you can invite me to come speak to your church :-). This is what I do. Help faith communities build bridges of understanding and engagement across divisions. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Jihad is my friend. He's also an instructor at the Holy Najaf Seminary and believes in peacemaking. And he's invited me to come visit.