Thursday, January 28, 2010

Brethren group visits Muslim school destroyed by Christians.

Imagine a Muslim school destroyed by people bearing the name of Christ--the students and faculty should reasonably be wary and distrustful of Christians. Yet, a recent visit proved the contrary and showed that people can overcome the fear caused by conflict and violence.

During the Nov. 2008 violent conflict in Jos (or "crisis") following elections, rioting Christians destroyed Al-Bayan Islamic Secondary School (high school), killing six students in the process.

Under the leadership of Markus Gamache we were able to visit Al-Bayan Islamic Secondary School in order to extend words and gestures of peace to the school. Gamache is a staff member of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and liaison between the Church of the Brethren and EYN. We were joined by Roger and Mim Eberly, Church of the Brethren members from Milford, Ind., who are in Nigeria for three weeks on a learning tour with EYN.

This visit to Al-Bayan was under the context of regaining the trust of those who were harmed by Christians, as trust-building is an integral part of peacebuilding.

For years, when American guests from the Church of the Brethren would visit Nigeria, they would be taken to a Christian school and presented gifts of books and school supplies. On Jan. 12, for the first time, Church of the Brethren guests visited a solely Islamic school to bring gifts to extend friendship, goodwill, and peace. The Eberlys brought with them books, pencils, and other school items and these were presented in the name of interfaith peace advancement.

Our group met with administration and faculty of the school. We also greeted a senior secondary school class, where greetings were given from students in both Arabic and English.

The visit occurred in the name of an interfaith project in development, not under the umbrella of the EYN church. In order to create the atmosphere for peace, Markus Gamache has envisioned an interfaith microfinance project, where Muslims and Christians would work together and create groups for microloans and economic development at the grassroots level. While he is an EYN member and staff, and while EYN may be involved, this project will not be launched under the umbrella of EYN in order to assure people that the project is not evangelism in disguise.

While evangelism is important for Christians in Nigeria, there are some contexts where it cannot occur due to the nature of the conflict, past violence, and the intense mistrust and abuse that has occurred between groups. Christians who engage and build relationships with Muslims in interfaith situations (like the interfaith microfinance project) help repair the damage done to the name of Jesus and his followers. Only after such relationships are repaired can any message of the love of Jesus be shared.

-- Nathan and Jennifer Hosler are Church of the Brethren mission workers serving with EYN.

Source: 1/28/2010 Newsline

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