Overcoming a Volatile Tension

by Rebecca Brown


Begmurad makes a mean cup of fancy Turkish tea, and he listens carefully when his five-year-old son has something to share.

Fatima playfully jokes and speaks with authority when she gets comfortable. She wears a purple hijab to special occasions and writes poetry about justice, love, and hate.

Omar graciously articulates his pragmatic perspective on Islam and has been translating the Quran into plain English, “So that a trucker today can understand it like it was understood during the Prophet’s time.”

Tavis mothers confidently in a nation not her own and a language not her own. She champions intercultural experience through patience and hospitality.

Each of these people - Begmurad, Fatima, Omar, and Tavis - are Muslims I have connected with over the past year. They are kind and generous. They are new friends and people I enjoy. Sometimes when I spend time with my Muslim friends, it seems so very easy, nearly effortless. I forget that by sitting around the table together we are peacemakers.

At this moment you may rightfully ask, “How is a pleasant meal shared between Muslims and Christians peacemaking?” It’s an important question to be answered, especially since Peace Catalyst so often facilitates such events.

When Muslims and Christians - even nice Muslims and Christians - spend time together, we are actively overcoming a very powerful tension that reaches beyond language or culture. A tension with a volatile potential to end in violence, prejudice, hate, and fear. This tension is a tension of belief. Belief tension is more powerful than cultural or language tension because belief is a core that shapes our understanding of truth, existence, and right action.

Being in relationship with Muslims like Begmurad, Fatima, Omar, and Tavis is an ongoing dance with the realization that there is tension because of our connectedness under God and in this world. So each time we spend time together, we actively choose to acknowledge this reality of connectedness. We choose to be in the same place and to share conversation, food, heartache, and laughter.

In those moments we try to do what Jesus teaches us—to be loving in the midst of tension. To listen instead of demand, to speak gently instead of bitterly. It's in these moments of tension that we practice taking Jesus’s ultimate command to “love one another” most seriously.