Christianity Today Published Articles Reconciliation

Muslims Join Evangelical Theology Conference

It is not often that a Muslim appears at an evangelical theological gathering.

Al Mohler invited three.

The trimmed-down 72nd annual conference of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), held virtually this week, usually welcomes up to 2,000 top scholars to present on the most salient issues facing evangelical scholarship.

This year’s theme: Islam and Christianity.

“We are called to truth, and to understanding the world around us more accurately and thoughtfully,” said Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), who also served as ETS program chair.

“That certainly includes our understanding of Islam, which has from the beginning represented an enormous challenge to Christian evangelism, apologetics, theology, and cultural engagement.”

Roughly 15 percent of the 130-plus events addressed these challenges, including the three official plenary sessions—in typical academic parlance:

  • “The Authority and Function of the Quran in Islam,” by Ayman Ibrahim of SBTS
  • “Through the Prism: The Trinity and the Islamic Metanarrative,” by Timothy Tennet of Asbury Theological Seminary
  • “American Christians and Islam: From the Colonial Era to the Post-9/11 World,” by Thomas Kidd of Baylor University

But it was the challenge of “cultural engagement” that led ETS to reach out to the Muslim panelists. Each was invited to share their view of evangelicals, and address the issues that concern them. It could “scarcely be more relevant and urgent,” said Mohler.

Three Christians joined them on the panel, focused on “Understanding Our Neighbor.” “We don’t resist the idea we must love Muslims,” said John Hartley, a research fellow at Yale, “but we…”

This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on November 20, 2020. Please click here to read the full article.

Christian Century Published Articles Reconciliation

The Redemption of Interfaith Dialogue

Image: Ozgurdonmaz / Getty / Ben White / Lightstock

The Egyptian delegation of Muslim sheikhs settled in for the opening session of the interfaith conference. Their mainline Protestant hosts welcomed them to the hallowed halls of a historic New York seminary with pleasantries and platitudes about shared humanity and common values.

Then the moderator startled the senior scholars from Al-Azhar University, the foremost center of learning in the Sunni Muslim world, with what sounded like an ultimatum: “Anyone who believes their religion is the only way is not welcome here.”

Quietly, the Muslim men rose to leave. Their impromptu translator, Joseph Cumming, a delegate from Fuller Theological Seminary, quickly intervened. “No, no, don’t be offended,” he told them. “He is not referring to you—he is speaking about us.”

Cumming is an American evangelical who has been ministering in the Islamic world since 1982. Many evangelicals, he explained to the Muslim guests, have been very critical of interfaith dialogue. They argue it cedes too much ground, reducing religion to the lowest common denominator and undermining any commitment to absolute truth. Peace is made too high a priority with so much focus on agreement, avoiding the crucial differences over salvation.

Yet Cumming was there anyway. Despite what the moderator said, he believed it was possible—even important—for evangelicals to participate in interfaith dialogue without losing any of their passionate commitment to the truth of the Bible.

The Muslim scholars, reassured, sat back down. And the conversation continued. It continues still. That conference was nearly two decades ago, and Cumming has remained engaged in interfaith dialogue. He has dedicated the second half of his Christian ministry to maintaining respectful dialogue with Muslims and overcoming stereotypes between Christians and Muslims while remaining as passionate as ever about bearing witness to his faith in Christ. Cumming didn’t always think this way. He had to be converted to the possibility of interfaith dialogue. At first he thought it was just…

This article was first published in the July/August print edition of Christianity Today. Please click here to read the full article.

Africa Arab West Report Middle East Published Articles Reconciliation

On Nigeria and Egypt: An Interview with the Imam and the Pastor

The Imam and the Pastor

The Imam and the Pastor, Mohamed Ashafa and James Wuye, are a Nigerian Muslim and Christian who have worked tirelessly for the sake of peace and reconciliation between their countrymen. Formerly bitter enemies in armed conflict, in which Wuye lost his hand and Ashafa’s spiritual mentor was murdered, they have now forgiven each other.  Furthermore, they use both their personal example and their Early Warning and Early Response monitoring system to limit the escalation of violence, as is sadly common in Nigeria.

Though their focus is at home, the Imam and the Pastor have traveled the world, helping to solve conflict and spread their message abroad. It was in this effort they were invited to Egypt by the Center for Arab West Understanding (CAWU), presenting two workshops in Alexandria and Cairo.

During the Alexandria workshop they were interviewed by Salwa Uthman of Alexandria Magazine, at which CAWU was also present. The following records an important glimpse into Nigerian society, the origins of conflict, and their view on the state of Egypt, post-revolution.

Alexandria Magazine: Please give us an overview of Muslim-Christian conflict in Nigeria.

Wuye: During the 1980s the Israeli-Palestinian conflict greatly affected Nigeria, especially in the schools. This trend was amplified by religious leaders who would misrepresent their holy books, which then encouraged people to descend into conflict.

Recently, politicians have appropriated religion into their campaigns, asking people to elect them on the basis of their religious affiliation. Relations have been damaged, to the extent that over 100,000 people have lost their lives in this misunderstanding of religion. Most of these deaths have been among the poor.

AM: How did you get to know each other? Is it unusual for a Muslim and a Christian to cooperate in this way?

Wuye: It may be we are the only people in the world who used to fight each other but now are friends and work together for peace.

In 1995 we were both invited by the governor of our region to participate in a children’s immunization project sponsored by UNICEF. While there, a journalist who knew of our stories away from violence brought us together, made us to grasp hands, and encouraged us to work together for peace. At this point we began talking to each other.

AM: What is your view of sectarian conflict in Egypt?

Ashafa: To speak of Nigeria first: Our founding fathers were Muslims and Christians who worked together to build the nation, but a hurt developed between the colonialist British and the Muslims in the north. There, an Islamic system had been in place for centuries, but the colonialists replaced this with an English system.

Muslims then split into three groups. Some rejected the British queen altogether and moved to Sudan. Others separated themselves from the system and isolated from government contact. The third group decided to join the government and seek to use it to reestablish the glories of Islam.

Unfortunately, the colonial government employed this third group to exploit the non-Muslim populations in the south, using them as tax collectors. These animist peoples eventually became Christians and developed animosity toward the Muslims.

These pains have remained since Nigerian independence, and all problems can quickly take on religious dimensions. It is not unusual for a small conflict to develop into a big issue.

This colonial heritage is shared between Nigeria and Egypt. In Egypt, Muslims and Christians have lived together for centuries, but recently the relationship has been getting sour, as we saw in Imbaba.

Your problems are minor compared to ours, but we have seen our problems explode, and we don’t want to see your problems degenerate as ours have done. Overall, we are very proud of Egypt. Behind us, you are the 2nd most populous country in Africa.

AM: How do you describe your work, and why did you set it up?

Wuye: Our work is non-governmental, non-political, and focused on civil society. We set it up for three reasons: First, to prevent conflict from happening. Second, to mediate between those in conflict. Third, to build bridges and encourage forgiveness.

We do work with the government at the grassroots level if requested to help solve community problems. But we do not work for the government.

AM: Do you have support from the government?

Wuye: Moral support, yes. Financial support, no.

Ashafa: In terms of the community, people are divided. Some think that we betray each other’s particular religious group. Others believe we are compromisers, and benefit from the support of the West. Most people, though, the silent majority, believe we are doing the right thing.

AM: What is your organizational structure?

Wuye: We are composed only of Nigerians, aiming to be equal in number between Muslims and Christians. In our headquarters we are fourteen people, seven and seven. We have at least one Muslim and one Christian volunteer in 36 of the Nigerian states.

Ashafa: We also have worked in Sudan, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Burundi, South Africa, Bosnia, and Iraq. We have also presented our story in many other nations.

AM: What is the concept of religion in Nigeria?

Ashafa: According to the BBC World study in February 2003, Nigeria is the most religious nation in the world. And according to the Bettleman Foundation study in 2007, it has an 82% rating on religious sensitivity. Among the traditional Muslim and Christian communities in Nigeria are emerging Salafi and evangelical trends.

It is not possible to say that religion in Nigeria is moderate, since our great religious sensitivity can lead easily to explosions of violence, especially in the north. But, it is not proper to call it extremist either, though we do have radical movements that name themselves after Gaza, Kandahar, and the like.

AM: What word do you have for Muslims and Christians in Egypt?

Wuye: We know you are for peace. We watched during your revolution as Muslims and Christians protected each other during times of prayer. Continue this relation. God bless Egypt.

Ashafa: Egypt is the hope of the Arab world. You are going through a democratic process – make sure it is non-violent. We are proud of Egypt, and hope you can consolidate your gains in the September elections.


Arab West Report Middle East Published Articles Reconciliation

Social Reconciliation

The end of February was a very hectic time for us. The peacemaking project I have written about here from time to time was coming to and end and all reports were to be submitted by the 28th. (If only it was a Leap Year!) While many reports were done, several still required editing, and everything had to be put online. In the end we made it, and you can see the results at, if you click on the ZIVIC-Conflict Resolution tag on the left hand column.

In the meanwhile, I thought it would be interesting to share the lessons we learned with everyone. Not only will this give a good picture about what we have done in Egypt since arrival, it will also give a thorough introduction into conflict in Egypt, of which a fair proportion is religiously based. In this spirit we will try over the next few weeks to provide the most interesting reports, and where applicable, give you the link to the full paper which was written. For faithful followers of Julie’s posts, don’t worry, we will intersperse these as well.

Today will begin this effort, and the text which follows is the abstract of the comprehensive paper summarizing our experiences over the last six months. The full paper length is about forty pages, so take care to download it when you have a moment to spare, or else save it for future reading, say, your summer vacation at the beach. For those interested, it will be a one way mind meld between me and you, as I tried to include almost everything I have learned since arrival in Egypt. I hope you enjoy; your comments are welcome.

In all nations of the world, conflict is normal, and Egypt is no exception. Violent conflict in Egypt, however, is not. Though the Egyptian population has always been a peaceful people, many are noticing the increasing violence exhibited throughout society, much of which is along religious lines. There is a growing religiosity that imbues both Muslims and Christians with a powerful sense of identity to their community of faith. While only in the rarest of cases does this push either group towards violence, it does contribute to an unfortunate culture of sectarian analysis, which interprets these events along religious lines. This tends often to deepen the sense of religious division, cultivating further cyclical patterns of aggression, sometime passive, against the other, be it physical in outright attack, or psychological, in accusations of disloyalty or persecution. Reporting styles of the media, with all its variety, generally tends to fuel this established pattern by either labeling an incident a sectarian event or else denying the religious dimension completely. Balanced and objective journalism disappears in the process.

This paper recognizes that these are the witnessed features of conflict in Egypt, but many other factors lie beneath the surface. Underreported are the population pressures and economic difficulties which push normal disputes over resource allocation past the threshold of traditional resolution mechanisms into the pursuit of violence. One of these traditional mechanisms is the ‘reconciliation session’, which in principle restores community harmony but in practice often complicates the situation. Whether in land registration, church building policy, or an overwhelmed judiciary the law of government is applied weakly in many parts of Egypt. This tends to an overreliance upon ‘reconciliation sessions’, which are often conducted with a lack of transparency mirroring other aspects of the state. Security practices, though naturally present following an outbreak of violence, are but another example. Any mistakes made or weaknesses perceived are denied, and these therefore un-admitted factors combine with underreported demographic changes to produce the painfully visible instances of violence which torment the Egyptian consciousness.

This paper explores these issues in more depth, but also seeks a way out. Using Johan Galtung’s methodology of conflict resolution following medical practice of diagnosis, prognosis, and therapy, this peacemaking project suggests better practices. The diagnosis is explained above. Prognosis involves proscribing corrective changes to the major sections of Egyptian society: Government, Church, Local Leadership, the Media, and Non-Governmental Organizations. Therapy then posits a procedure to lead into social reconciliation following conflict. First, root causes and contextual studies must be determined and addressed. Second, community leaders from all sectors must be identified and supplied with information. Third, these are then encouraged into dialogue through a mediator who both knows the area and is accepted therein. Fourth, pending these discussions to be focused on just negotiation and relational unity, supportive projects can be considered to assist in community reintegration. It is hoped that this will be a predominantly Egyptian initiative, for local problems demand local solutions. Yet the eyes of outsiders, Cairene or otherwise, may be helpful.

This paper is submitted for review by all, but a selected number of advisors have written their critique and added their observations. These are also presented for further evaluation, and the reader is welcomed to offer both constructive criticism and proposals. For such an endeavor a network is necessary; to the degree you are willing we invite you to join.

Click here for the full paper.

Personal Reconciliation


Back when I was in high school my dad would take us boys on occasion to watch Rutgers University soccer games. They were always fun—for soccer aficionados we even saw Alexi Lalas play—though I was often troubled by the degree to which fans in the stands would berate the referees. Perhaps back then I had a sensitive conscience, but there was always an air of tension surrounding the game. Rutgers was good back then—I have no idea if they are good now—but they often won and everyone went home happy.

One afternoon, however, they lost. Grumbling was expected and the referees were lambasted, but on our way back to the car in an open space of grass behind the playing field two people were yapping back and forth very vehemently. I can only imagine they were opposing fans, perhaps one a student at the rival college, but my memory is that they were both adults, however young. Their raised voices attracted a lot of attention, and the attendees paused in their descent to the parking lot and duly circled around them. There was no “fight, fight!” chanting like you might have with boys on a playground, but the yapping had escalated in the meanwhile and the two had come to blows. Like rubbernecking at an accident it is impossible to look away, but Dad quickly pushed us along and we went our way home.

Before leaving though my conscience had another message. I was struck not only by the wrongness of what was going on, but also by the feeling that something should be done about it. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” is fine to recite, but hard to act upon. Yet I had the urge that I should do something about it. Sometimes in such cases you can imagine yourself the hero; I had no such picture in my head. The only images that came were wandering, alone, into the scuffle, and getting caught in the crossfire, thrown to the ground, and doing no good whatsoever. Perhaps there was a scenario in which this broke the tunnel vision of their rage, but even so the price to pay was the chief element in my mind. I put up no resistance to Dad’s motioning.

That day within me something was either born or died. I’m not sure which. Since then I have been filled with the idealism that calls us to put our lives nonviolently in the line of fire for the sake of ending conflict, even if it is fruitless and painful. I watched with admiration as the people of Christian Peacemaker Teams went to Iraq and, as their motto states, looked to “get in the way.” There story is told here on Wikipedia.Yet the world soon cast their scorn as they were captured by the very Iraqis they went to protect, and then heroically, yet ironically, rescued by the American soldiers they were seeking to obstruct. It says much about our military, but what does it say about them?

Such a group is prepared to pay the same cost in nonviolence that a soldier is prepared to pay in violence. They believe peacemaking calls for sacrifice, commitment, and strategy. In their ordeal the American member of their team died. Another of their group was 74 years old. Yet what is remembered of them? That they put the lives of American soldiers in danger. That they put their noses where they did not belong. They played the part of the fool in the drama which justified the war. What good came from their idealism? Was there any impact in Iraq? Was there any impact anywhere?

Perhaps it could be said that these thoughts here represent growth from the birth of the original experience. Yet if instead the focus is on life, and not thought, it may better be described as death. I have never intervened to bring peace to a situation. I have often nodded in that direction, but never once have I risked suffering in order to reconcile others. I have stood with others around the incident, felt the ping of conscience, and moved on.


Coming home late one evening the other day I was riding the metro and the sensation returned. The car was not overly crowded though there was a small but sizeable group of youth—high school to college—joking around, jostling, drawing attention to themselves but not quite crossing the line in the manner of which their age is so adept. Someone, though, took offense. He was about the same age, but was standing in the corner with a young lady covered in a head scarf. I have no idea what came between them, but before too long one of the group in particular and he were locked in the level of raised voices that precedes a conflict. As per custom, and perhaps per wisdom, I slinked backwards a few steps.

The outcome itself is perhaps not surprising, though it is different. The two became more and more animated, displaying their bravado in closer and closer proximity. Immediately others stepped in. Older men sitting around them reached out to grab the near-combatants by the arm, speaking words of calm. The group of young men rallied around their member, but to pull him back. The yapping continued for a little while, but eventually dissipated as each side separated, and they young men exited at the next stop. Crisis averted.

Having lived in the Arab World for some time now, I knew exactly how this scenario would play out. In this respect my withdrawal was not from cowardice but simply from allowing those who knew how to diffuse tension to play their role. Yet I will not excuse myself from cowardice; I, after all, knew the playbook, and chose not to participate. Still the criticism is not quite fair; though I have seen and could plausibly imitate the role I had seen so many times before, no one else was playing a role.

No one thought, “I should get involved.” The older men did not think, “This word of caution would be appropriate.” They all simply acted, and they acted as one group with one mind. Whereas the mentality back at Rutgers was to circle around and let them fight, the mentality here was to intervene. Whereas the one with a sensitive conscience in America wonders what he might do to change a bad situation, the one here does not exist—the group conscience decidedly takes over.

What does it mean to be a peacemaker?


It is written about Arab culture that conflict is a normal and accepted fact of life, but that group mechanisms exist to keep conflict from spiraling out of control. The sense of being his brother’s keeper is ingrained in Arab thought, and there is no need to romanticize this. It is not driven by a profound sense of morality but rather a consciousness that protects the group in ever-larger concentric circles. There is an Arab proverb which states, “Me against my brother. My brother and I against my cousins.  My cousins and I against the world.” Conflict is allowed and expected, but at a certain level it must cease.

The system, however, is moral. In the West our sense of personal responsibility will not permit the Arab individual any credit for automatic participation in group think, and we are blind to the structural morality that binds them together. Yet we then in opposite fashion suffer the intense burden of the individual peacemaker and are blind to our own structural immorality. Furthermore, since we know the individual can do no good on his own, we are left in despair, immobilized against undertaking any good.

When some, like the brave yet naïve (?) souls of Christian Peacemaker Teams can finally commit themselves to mobilization, everything is marshaled toward their failure. It is no conspiracy theory; it is a reflection of the fact that the world is organized around the principles of power. If power is threatened by power the rules are clear and the victor presides. Morality determines to what degree the labels of “good” or “evil” are applied, and a preference exists, of course, for good. If power, however, is threatened by nonviolence, it puts everyone ill at ease, for both good and evil in this system depend upon it.

This is the way the world works, and the Arabs are no better. They often receive the “evil” label in our classification scheme, but for us this is a label of convenience. We are the possessors of power in the world today, and like all in this position we are loathe to give it up. They from their group mentality at times will reach the end of their concentric circles, and lash out – we are quick to retaliate in kind. Yet it is the same game and the same struggle. Yet the Arab World is worthy of more praise than it receives, for their circles can expand to include humanity at large. For the past two hundred years they have been under the world order of the West, and they have largely played nicely. Even so, our thumb is strong.

What then can be the place of the individual with a sensitive conscience anywhere, but especially in the West? To what degree are we condemned to act alone? Culture cannot be easily changed, but can the principles of peacemaking become generalized? Can a group mentality emerge which curbs conflict before it escalates beyond repair? Can this be applied to our foreign policy? Can it be applied at a soccer game?

It is here where I run out of vision, though perhaps it is more correct that I am scared of the vision. Until now I have been reluctant to speak of Christianity, for these principles have been practiced, albeit rarely by anyone, by non-Christians around the world. We should learn their lessons and hear their rebuke. Yet our primary example, which we are called to imitate, is profoundly individual. Suffering a sensitive conscience aware of the deep division between man and God, Jesus gave up all power and preached a message of love. He gathered others around him, but in the end the powers that be chose him alone for execution. His mission, noble as it was, ended in failure. Looking to intercede between man and God, he was caught in the crossfire, and put to death by both. Yet he was no victim, for he chose his fate, drinking deeply from the cup he was given. Paradox of all paradoxes, it was from his failure that victory emerged. Salvation can be preached to the world, peace can be extended to all, because one man was trampled upon trying to make a difference.

Can we do any differently?


From the Heart the Mouth Speaks

To properly describe the peacemaking work we are trying to undertake here in Egypt would require much background information and many blog posts. It is our hope that over time we can give a proper picture of the many nuances and subtleties which inform our work, but we apologize that this will come piecemeal, and that in our effort to inform we may only further confuse. If this is so, please understand that we ourselves have a lot to learn, and we expect it may be many years until we develop the cultural eyes to appreciate situations as an Egyptian would. Until then, we will stumble along together.

Conflict does not take place in a vacuum. There are many social realities which contribute to a single incident that then is exasperated into a sectarian conflict. Among these is the general poverty of the Egyptian countryside. It has been recommended to us that in seeking to address what may properly be understood as improper mindsets and behaviors, it does little good to simply go to the area and hold a workshop on understanding the other. If such a message is to be delivered with any hope of success, it would be well to wrap it into a project that delivers some social benefit to the area, preferably one which addresses the realities which led to the conflict in the first place.

The benefit of a project in an area in which tension has developed between Muslims and Christians is that it can bring together these communities which, now at odds, have separated themselves. It is a general rule, or at least belief, that people will set aside differences when it comes to the mutual benefit of making money, or educating their children, or securing good health services, etc. Moreover, as people interact they discover their commonalities, realizing the demonized other is not so bad after all, and not so different from myself. Within a project, the message takes hold.

Undertaking the project, however, is difficult, for how are we to know what projects are beneficial to a community so distant from our own. Even our Egyptian partners and advisors do not understand their needs, for they are educated city people, far removed from the issues of the countryside. Given this, it has also been recommended to us that we actively seek to involve the non-governmental organizations, agencies, charities, and associations which are currently working in the area. They know the situation, and even if they are not currently involved in the village at hand, they are familiar with its context. To date, we have found one such organization which has a very good reputation in the area among both Muslims and Christians, having served many communities with both skill and tact.

There is only one problem, and though it is inconsequential for them, it may be a issue for us. This organization is Christian in its formation. It has been recommended to us that because of the sensitivities of foreigners working in religiously-related matters that we are seen as absolutely neutral in our orientation. It matters little our intentions, or even our behaviors; what counts is our appearance. This organization has a mixed Muslim-Christian board of trustees, and employs only Muslims as its field workers. The office staff, however, is entirely Christian, and they would admit themselves that though they deliver their services irrespective of religion, their motivation and orientation is Christian, and the organization is designed to stay that way. Though they are not connected to the church, they would be seen as Christian. Our advisors have not recommended we distance ourselves, though, for they are clearly capable and enjoy wide local support among all. They recommend simply that we work in addition with an organization that is Islamic in its orientation. This will provide the balance that is necessary for our own proper appearance as neutral. Otherwise, our ability to work in these areas may be compromised.

We have been negotiating a project with this organization, even taking a trip to the area to speak with them directly. The other day they were in Cairo and visited us to continue the conversation, and after many positive signals we explained to them the above, asking their recommendation for a similarly oriented Muslim group with which we could also partner. Now, it is granted that such a question could be seen as a threat, not religiously, but professionally. Projects require funding, and surely based on our negotiations so far they could be expecting our contributions, however limited. With the addition of another partner, their share, their influence, and their involvement would naturally decrease. Though not expecting their resistance to our question—they know the other area organizations, work in conjunction if not together, and recognize the value of partnership across religious lines—for the above reason the resistance could be explained. What was evidenced, however, went far deeper.

Up until this time, their representatives were jovial, full of mirth, life, and spiritual commitment. Nearly instantaneously, facial expressions changed, cheeks flushed, arms folded, and when extended ended in a finger pointing in exclamation, “I swear by the Messiah that there is not one Islamic organization that also takes care of the Christians!” They were accused of hypocrisy, speaking kindly to your face only to adopt their own priorities upon receipt of the donation. It was unfortunate in addition that both we and they had a subsequent appointment approaching which forced the rapid communication of ideas. Had we more time such sentiments could have been expressed with more nuance and explanation. While our partnership was not threatened—we ended with agreement to continue our planning—we were warned about seeking out a Muslim group.

It should be reiterated, this is a group that works closely with Muslims; it employs them and trusts them as influential advisors. They serve Muslims without any question of religious affiliation. Yet our question touched a nerve that, though our (Caspers’) experience is limited, seems to be indicative of many Christians here. They can and generally do have beneficial relationships with the Muslim majority. When it concerns the question of Islam, or Muslims as Muslims, however, the hardened heart becomes evident. There is a mistrust and a frustration that prevents genuine charity, both in its contemporary understanding and its original usage as ‘love’. While this organization is serving all, including Muslims, in a commendable manner, it appears that it is for the objective of creating a viable civil society that is inclusive of all, Muslims and Christians as fellow citizens. This is a noble objective, though it is true that some Muslims oppose it, believing Christians to properly be protected, second-class citizens in the Islamic order. This organization serves Muslims in the hope, at least in part, that they will demonstrate their own good will and valuation of communal life. They hope to win for themselves a secure place in society. As admirable as these goals are, and the means by which they hope to achieve them, are they motivated by love, by true Christian charity? Sad as it may seem, are they destined only to be a resounding gong?

Perspective is necessary. Though in Cairo there are many Muslims who share the ideals of civil society and citizenship rights for both Muslims and Christians, perhaps these are far fewer in the countryside. They may be correct; there may not be any Islamic organizations which also serve Christians. They may have tried to partner with some and been burned in the process. They themselves are affected by the perceived rising of religious tensions, and the rhetoric of some Muslims is downright offensive to Christian sensibilities. They must be commended for rising above their predispositions to serve as ably as they do. Surely we from the West cannot comprehend the difficulty of their position.

Perhaps also I am way off base; after all, I am judging from one response from only our second conversation. It is at times like this the foreigner must remember he does not belong, and therefore does not understand.

But I cannot budge from the ideal that God calls us to more than an overcoming of our predispositions against the other. He calls us to do good, as they are doing, but he also gives us a new heart. Lacking this new heart in its full expression, a condition from which we all suffer, our friends invoked the name of Christ in vain. Yet my words expressed here are no better, for they come not from a new heart, but from a new set of ideals. Though these ideals may come from Christ, they will be proved true only when issued from a heart of love that has experienced also the suffering they perceive. May God spare us all from any suffering, but may he preserve, renew, and employ us whenever it occurs.