How to Undermine Extremism, Reduce Persecution and Make Peace
What will it take to undermine violent extremism, reduce religious persecution, and make peace? To work toward those very goals, four hundred Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders from around the world gathered in Washington, DC on February 5-7.
I was blessed to be part of this historic gathering, called “The Alliance of Virtue for the Common Good.” The premise was simple: we differ in doctrine but not in deeds. Our respective faiths all call us to seek the common good – to love our neighbors and work for justice. In fact, our faiths compel us to work together for the sake of peace.
At first I thought this might be just a “kumbaya” gathering, but I soon realized that God has been orchestrating something big.
One of the most prominent Muslim leaders in the world, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, convened this conference, and Sam Brownback, the newly appointed U.S. Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, gave his first speech as Ambassador at this event.
What was unique about this conference was the number of evangelicals who attended. My good friend Bob Roberts Jr., a Southern Baptist Pastor of a megachurch in Texas, mobilized a number of fellow pastors to attend and spoke on a few panels. Bishop Efraim Tendero, Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), a global network of more than 600 million evangelicals, was another prominent voice up front, as was Deborah Fikes, a permanent representative for WEA at the United Nations.
The conference concluded with The Washington Declaration. Two quotes capture the essence of the four-page Declaration:
"Though mindful of our differences, we are called by the ethical values we hold in common to embark on a new course informed by old wisdom, a journey that begins with the knowledge that all humans come from a single origin, that each is endowed by our Creator with intrinsic human dignity and related inalienable rights, and that we cannot love and serve God if we fail also to love our neighbors – including the strangers in our midst."
"We are determined to deepen our solidarity and thereby ensure that religion is a force for reconciliation and harmony. We pledge to work across confessional divides in support of values that are central to each of our faith traditions, including peace, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, justice and truth."
At the end of the conference I talked with Josh Prather, who has partnered with Peace Catalyst since 2010. “Josh, remember the early days of PCI, when just a handful of us gathered in our office? Little did we know that God was doing a much bigger thing. This conference proves it!”
The different streams of God’s global peacemaking movement merged at this event with massive potential for good. Leaders from the three Abrahamic faiths partnering together for the common good could be a game-changer. Together we can be a powerful force undermining violent extremism, reducing religious persecution, and making peace in our broken, bleeding and beautiful world.