Behind the Scenes in D.C., Three Reasons for Peacemakers to Rejoice
by Rick Love
Abdel Azim Elsiddig and Ali Ahmed Karti (on my left)
When most people think about the U.S. government, things like polarization, gridlock in Congress, and uncivil discourse come to mind. I confess I have tended to be critical about our government. But I just spent ten days in Washington D.C. and witnessed first-hand some positive things the U.S. government does that give me hope.
I attended the National Prayer Breakfast for my tenth year in a row. The National Prayer Breakfast started with President Dwight Eisenhower and has grown to become an international event — with heads of state, ambassadors, politicians, businessmen, and religious leaders from around the world attending — over 3,000 guests from over 100 nations.
There is no other event in the world like this. Because it is led by political leaders from the U.S. and held in Washington D.C., people of all stripes are motivated to attend. Because it focuses on the Great Commandments and Jesus, there is a strong foundation for peacemaking.
Lots of informal diplomacy and peacemaking take place in small groups and over meals… like my meeting with Ali Ahmed Karti, the Minister of Foreign Affairs from Sudan. His team shot a video of me sharing what Peace Catalyst International does to work for peace between Christians and Muslims. He also invited me to a peace conference in Sudan in March.
I had a number of important meetings outside of the National Prayer Breakfast as well. I met with Qazi Abdul Qadeer Khamosh – a Muslim peacemaker from Pakistan – at the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy. Together with a small group, we then went to the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom. They wanted to hear what Qazi is doing and what is happening on the ground in Pakistan regarding religious freedom. It was beautiful to see this kind of interaction between the State Department and a non-government organization (NGO).
Meeting with Qazi Abdul Qadeer Khamosh (on my left)
I met with Mae Cannon (World Vision), Doug Johnston (The International Center for Religion and Diplomacy), and Chris Seiple (Institute of Global Engagement). All three of them serve on committees in the State Department focusing on interfaith engagement and foreign policy. The State Department is partnering with these NGOs for the sake of peace.
Finally, I met with Bryan Hedrick, a military chaplain. Bryan informed me that chaplains are beginning to do more than just pastor their own personnel; they are also functioning as bridge-builders with Muslim Imams in conflict zones.
For example, on one occasion a highly respected Imam entered the room to meet with military officers. But when there was no religious leader present, he walked out of the meeting. He wanted to meet his counterpart. Which is where Bryan comes in. Bryan shared how his meetings with Imams in Afghanistan have both helped deliver a village from the Taliban and ended mortar attack on U.S. troops.
The government really is God's servant for our good (Romans 13:4). The National Prayer Breakfast, the State Department’s partnership with NGOs, and military chaplains serving as peacemakers are praiseworthy examples. Three reasons to rejoice!