Muslims, Mennonites, act together, for peace

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Mennonitea-Muslims Act for PeaceA five year long effort recently resulted in an evening of making placards and posters for “A Joint Muslim- Christian Public Prayer for Peace,” to be held on April 16 in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Muslims and Christians stood together to pray for peace in the nations of the Middle East. About 100 Mennonites and Muslims got together for dinner and poster making at Peace Mennonite Church on April 9.

In 2005, Tim Kuepfer, pastor of Peace Mennonite, got to know Imam Esmail through the church’s English language classes, where the imam and his wife studied for several years.

As Kuepfer became good friends with Esmail, a tiny seed began to germinate in both their hearts to do something to bring their communities together to work for peace and understanding.

In attendance were Muslim friends from Vancouver, Richmond and Surrey, who had come to Canada from such countries as Pakistan, Singapore, Iran, Yemen and India.

Esmail and Erwin Cornelson, a retired Mennonite pastor, offered a blessing for the food and the evening. While the group ate, Mennonites listened to their Muslim tablemates share about their lives and their faith. The Mennonites, in turn, shared about their faith and what it means to live as a follower of Jesus (Isa in Arabic).

Both communities were equally represented at each table, with a facilitator encouraging
tablemates to engage in dialogue by asking questions such as, “What was it like to grow up in your particular Muslim/ Christian community/family/culture?"

“What does your faith mean to you?”
“What are some regular practices that are a part of your faith as a community and/or individually?”

Members of both faith communities brought dishes to share. In keeping with Muslim dietary laws, the dishes were divided into halal [permissible food for Muslim consumption], vegetarian and non-halal.

The leaders of the various Muslim organizations spoke of building mutual understanding, friendship and peace. They spoke of the person of Jesus, who is of great significance in both Islam and Christianity.

Mennonite pastors included Ingrid Schultz of First United Mennonite, Vancouver; Henry Krause of Langley Mennonite Fellowship; Kuepfer and Cornelson. They each spoke about Christ and his message of love and peace

- by Mona Chin, adapted from Canadian Mennonite, May 2, 2011; photo by Paul Chin