An Evangelical Man of Peace
by Andy Larsen
Every week I receive a standardized email from Jawad, inviting me to featured events relevant to Muslims in the greater Seattle area. He also includes specific programs in his mosque, a schedule from their center’s website to help everybody keep track of what’s going on. The regular email is a nice way to keep in rhythm with the Muslim community I’m building relationships with as a follower of Christ. It’s an invitation to visit. I have an open door in Jawad’s mosque.
Here are some of their activities: There is a philosophy study circle. I’ve been to that. On Fridays before the evening program and Isha prayers there is a Qur’anic Arabic class. I’ve been to that too and have been invited to contribute to discussions following the text in the Qur’an. On Thursdays, there is a ladies yoga class. I’ve missed that one for some reason. They also have a Sunday School program on, you guessed it, Sunday mornings. That’s mostly for children and youth. Last Friday, I witnessed the entire SS, class by class from kindergarten through high school, feature a program celebrating the birth of Muhammad in 570 AD. That was fascinating. I learned about the year of the Elephant, sura 105, and how a Christian tribe from Yemen tried to overtake the Kaaba in the year of Muhammad’s birth. I also heard “insha’allah” probably a hundred times by the program director as he sought to control the enthusiasm of the children while they waited to perform in front of the packed house. It felt like the year end Sunday School programs I used to participate in growing up in my home church.
Several weeks ago, the standardized email caught my eye. Jawad was inviting those on his list to a special lecture by Tariq Ramadan. [see an interview on KCTS, the local PBS station]. If you don’t know who that is, you should do some research. He is an important voice today, a Muslim many consider to be the Martin Luther of Islam, a reformer asking tough questions of both Islam and the postmodern, secular, post-Christian West, especially in Europe where he lives when not traveling. I read the invitation while sitting in worship at the Covenant MidWinter conference in Chicago, wondering if we would escape Chicago’s 3rd worst blizzard in history. I was told the lecture would be in Seattle the following Saturday. Jawad was hosting Tariq.
Immediately I wrote Jawad and said I’d try to be there. Saturday came, I made it out of Chicago, Carol and I went to the lecture, and we were spellbound for about an hour as we heard cutting-edge thinking on what it means to live with “the other” - the religiously different, the atheist, agnostic, etc. as a person of faith in our modern world. As I went up to greet Jawad, he leaped up to greet me and proceeded to introduce me to Tariq. “This is Andy Larsen, blah, blah, blah.” Then I heard Jawad say something that about knocked me off my feet. He called me an “evangelical man of peace!”
I hope I’m not bragging. Too much. I just have to say that Jawad’s comments meant a lot to me. I want to be a man of peace. That’s my goal. I believe that is what we are called to by Christ. It is needed today in our world perhaps more than ever, across all relationships and communities. Muslims and Christians need that in each other when we interact. That’s what I look for when I visit a mosque. I seem to be finding them a lot these days, by the way. I hope that’s what Muslims see in us.
Luke 10:5-7 - “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.”