You know how sometimes something really horribly grotesque somehow ends up having a positive, unintended byproduct?
Like when you see someone who has faced the worst kinds of abuse find their way out the other side. And they’re not just the same person they started out being. They’re stronger. They somehow turn the utter shit-that-should-never-have-happened situation into something that gives hope to others?
I think something of a similar ilk might be happening in the sphere of East-West relationships. Let me explain…
I think that most of us agree that ISIS/ISIL/داعش (DAESH) is not a good thing.
In fact, if we took a vote, we’d be close to unanimous in saying that they seem, much of the time, to incarnate evil. They behead, kill, rape, drown, burn, shock, force convert and displace people.
It’s very hard to imagine anything good coming from them.
But I’ve noticed a strange byproduct of their unholy rampage: people who didn’t used to talk to each other are starting to.
And it’s not just that they’re talking that’s interesting. It’s what they’re talking about.
There was a time not so long ago when Christians and Muslims didn’t have very much to do with each other. Especially Evangelical Christians.
At best, Christians pretended Muslims didn’t exist. At worst, they regarded Islam with deep suspicion.
In fact, back in the 80s and early 90s, it wouldn’t have been uncommon to come across Christians who, if you got them talking about the subject, would echo the sentiment of what Franklin Graham said just last month:
“We are under attack by Muslims at home and abroad…we should stop all immigration of Muslims to the US until this threat with Islam has been settled.”
But recently the church, or at least many within it, have begun asking “if we say we are following the teachings of Jesus, and he says ‘love your neighbour’, and even ‘love your enemies’, what should we do about our Muslim neighbours?”
And, at the same time, Muslims have started asking: “if our Holy Qu’ran teaches us to love and respect Christians, how can we practically do that?”
People are setting aside centuries of confusion and misunderstanding and are working together for the sake of peace.
And the thing that has added an urgency of life-or-death to this movement is the work of ISIS.
ISIS, in all their savagery, are polarising people. Some turn to violence (in the West against Muslims, in the East against Christians, Yazidis, Shi’a), but others turn to peace.
If you’re like me, this sounds like very good news.
It puts a smile on my face when I hear about Evangelical megachurch pastors standing up to Franklin Graham because he’s not being Jesus-like towards Muslims.
Not to mention when Muslims help to rebuild burned down churches.
And when I got to visit a mosque in the UK (in a city that has spawned several well-reported ISIS members) and I see Christians and Muslims sitting side-by-side, listening to each other attentively, answering questions in the spirit of peace, I feel optimistic that ISIS’ days are numbered.