The Sacred Nonviolent Struggle For Justice
- DAVE ANDREWS -
The Sacred Nonviolent Struggle For Justice
- DAVE ANDREWS -
Over the last few years I've been involved in some meaningful Christian-Muslim dialogue. And out of those conversations I have published two well-received books - one was on the 'Bismillah', in the Qur'an, celebrating the grace of God and the other was on 'Isa', reflecting on the grace of God celebrated in the life of Jesus according to the views common to the Qur'an and the Gospels.
Given continued distressing references to 'jihad' in newspaper, radio and tv headlines some of my friends, both Christian and Muslim, suggested I write a book about Jesus and 'jihad' and call it 'The Jihad of Jesus'. It was hoped the provocative title would get a lot of attention, and we could introduce Christians and Muslims to a Qur'anic reconstruction of the concept of 'jihad' in the light of the radical practical nonviolence of Jesus.
I have not written this book as an expert. I am not. I have not written this book as a specialist. I am not. I have simply written this book in conversation with Muslim friends, seeking to find a way we can struggle for love and justice that is true to the best in our faith traditions.
The Jihad of Jesus in Words
The Jihad of Jesus in Words
The recent disturbing events in Paris are the latest in a global series of religiously motivated terrorist acts. In his new book The Jihad of Jesus – the Sacred Nonviolent Struggle for Justice, writer and community worker for TEAR Australia, Dave Andrews, warns of the dangers of ‘closed set religion’. He spoke to Roland Ashby from The Melbourne Anglican, December 12 2015.
Dave Andrews experienced first-hand what happens when inter-religious tensions erupt into savage violence when he lived in India in the early ’80s. Following the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh body guards in 1984, Hindus were slaughtering Sikhs in their thousands in retaliation.
“Hearing the screams of a terrified young Sikh family on the roof of their home which was being attacked by an angry Hindu mob intent on murder, I and some neighbours decided to try to prevent them from entering.
“Amidst the chaos and terror we stood at the door with our hands together pleading with them not to hurt the family. The mob screamed and yelled and came closer and we knew that if they had begun to hit us, then it would have ended in us being cut to pieces. But we looked into their eyes, we begged them, we prayed desperately, and they hesitated… before running off in search of others. Then the Army arrived and the mob fled.”
This experience is one of the reasons, he explains, why he stands up for Muslims. “I know how quickly things can turn and how the mob mentality can take over; and how we can scapegoat people and end up slaughtering innocent people in the process.”
This human capacity and potential for violence, he says, has made him confront his own dark side, and develop a spiritual practice which allows him to be centred and focused in the midst of turmoil.
The heart of this practice, he says, is his own version of the Jesus prayer: “Jesus, Saviour, may I know your love and make it known.” “For me, the most important place for that prayer is in the nanosecond between action and reaction, where I try, rather than react and retaliate, to slow down, to create a space between action and reaction and in that place I critically reflect on myself and I pray that prayer.”
He repeats it silently during his time of prayer and meditation each morning and evening. “But what’s really important is that I learn it by heart and it becomes the prayer of my heart, and I can pray it without thinking, as a way of focusing and centring on the love of God revealed in Jesus.
“So entering that deeper place of love becomes the formative way of shaping the way I engage with the Muslim community and the conflict between Christians and Muslims. This is also to enter a place of humility, and of taking the log out of my own eye before I try to take the speck out of somebody else’s.”
In explaining his confrontational title for the book The Jihad of Jesus, he writes: “Jesus embodied the original Jihad of non-violent struggle for inspirational personal growth and transformational social change… [He] demonstrates a life of radical non-violent sacrificial compassion as the only way of life that can save us from destroying ourselves and our societies”.
He believes understanding the term ‘Jihad’ is critical for Christian/Muslim dialogue. “My Muslim friends say that the extremists have co-opted the word ‘Jihad’ and used it as a by-word for terror in a way that’s not true to the original understanding of Jihad in the Quranic text. They would say the words Jihad and Jihada are used 35 times in the Quran, and only four times is the word associated with violence. So they’d say the overwhelming emphasis of the idea of Jihad in the text itself affirms a non-violent struggle for justice.
“Where it is associated with violence, it is the sort of violence that in the West would be permitted according to the theory of just war: if, in a struggle for justice you need to use force, you should never be the aggressor, it should only be defensive; then in the conflict you should make sure that you protect other people of other traditions and religions, never destroy their holy places or property. You have to guard against the death of any innocent civilians, never use force to coerce people into conversion and if there’s any sign of a willingness to make peace, you make peace, even if you’re sceptical about whether people mean it or not because peace is what Allah wants”.
When interpreting the Bible or the Quran, Dave says context is crucial. “My Muslim friends would say even more than that; they would say if we are going to interpret the Quran fully and faithfully we need to recognise that every surah in the Quran except one begins with Bismillahir-Rahman ir-Rahim – in the name of God the most merciful and gracious and compassionate. And they say they wouldn’t see that as an invocation that they set aside and then do their interpretation; they say we should see that as a hermeneutic for interpretation. So when we invoke the mercy and grace and compassion of God, that should then be the hermeneutic for interpreting the text and any interpretation of the text that does not reflect the mercy and grace and compassion of God is not of God. Now, to me, that is profound as a hermeneutical way of engaging the text and I think it makes all the difference.”
In his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, he believes Jesus showed how to dialogue with people of other faiths.
“I believe that the relationship between Jesus and the Samaritans is analogous to the relationship between Christians and Muslims. I think what’s really interesting in Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman is that, first of all, he acknowledges the contribution of the Jews; and I think both Christians and Muslims both need to honour the Jewish tradition that we both derive from.
“The second thing is that then he is really clear that he doesn’t operate in the way that the disciples did in wanting to bring down fire on somebody else who is different.
“In the conversation the woman begins by pointing out that they’ve got very different traditions, but he doesn’t enter into a debate about that, he just acknowledges it and he accepts that those distinctions are there. What he affirms in the relationship is the universality, and that the fundamental call is to worship God in spirit and truth, regardless of what your tradition is.
“Then they have a conversation about the Messiah and I think it’s very intriguing that he actually, in the context of that conversation, affirms the importance of the Messiah in a way that she can relate to and can embrace, yet he doesn’t expect her to change her religion from Samaritan to Jew. In my engagement with my Muslim friends, I want to affirm who Jesus is as the Messiah or Masih – something that’s acknowledged by both the Quran and the Gospels. But I do not believe I am being called to convert Muslims to Christianity. I believe I am called as a follower of Jesus simply to witness to Jesus in what I say and do with my Muslim friends”.
Jesus’ dialogue with the woman is an example of “open set religion” he explains. “Jesus challenged religion as a closed set, which defines itself over against the other, is hard-hearted and has a closed mindset, with hard doctrinal differences competing with one another in a zero sum game.
“Jesus called people from different traditions to respond to the Spirit in an open set way, which is inherently non-violent.”
Despite the brutal acts of violence around the world he remains positive about the future. “I am inspired by such Muslims as Muhammad Ashafa and Christians such as James Wuye.
“Muhammad Ashafa was brought up in Nigeria in a very strict, austere Islamic tradition where his family taught him that his role was to aspire to the return of an Islamic Caliphate, and he was very attracted to that. He found himself in conflict with a pastor by the name of James Wuye and they formed militias fighting against each other. They killed one another’s families and in one of the conflicts, James Wuye’s arm was chopped off. So serious violence. But both of them were converted – not to one another’s religion – but to a God of mercy, grace and compassion. So open set rather than closed set. A God who was bigger than their religion, who encouraged them to reach out to one another. They forgave each other. They became friends. They established the Christian-Muslim Peace Centre and now they train teams of Pastors and Imams to go into conflict areas to negotiate peace.”
Although Dave was raised as a Baptist, he began attending St Andrew’s Anglican Church in South Brisbane after returning from India 30 years ago, and helped to establish a local network of residents called the Waiters’ Union, offering friendship and assistance to the most disadvantaged and marginalised in the community – including Aborigines, refugees and people with disabilities.
“We called ourselves the Waiters’ Union because we wanted to wait on God and wait on our neighbours. Our main focus is on developing friendships, rather than providing services. We invite people into our homes and visit them in their homes. We picnic and barbeque together. We run support groups for people going through a crisis. We help settle refugees. We advocate for the marginalised.
“We see ourselves as a catalyst for transformation seeking to create community which reflects the radical compassion of God”.
Dave Andrews has set himself a formidable task: to build understanding and trust between Muslims and Christians when anti-Islamist sentiment is running high. But if the job is getting him down, it doesn't show as he bowls into the Mado cafe in Auburn, a stone's throw from the Gallipoli Mosque, Sydney's biggest Islamic place of worship.
Andrews, who has been a community worker for more than 40 years, looks the part with his long white hair, unruly beard and Mahatma Gandhi-style glasses.
Muslim friend reacting to Dave Andrews' The Jihad of Jesus
As we pick at a dipping plate of hummus, jajic, beetroot and yoghurt with Turkish bread, Andrews describes how a long involvement with marginalised people in Brisbane led to his work as an interfaith bridge builder. The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001 were a key moment.
"The religious identity of the marginalised people we worked with was never an issue until 9/11," he says. "Then all of a sudden these refugees we had related to as Hazara or Afghans, or whatever, became Muslims and we became Christians. We were confronted with how to bridge this chasm in this new game of identity politics."
Andrews knew he had to engage with this new, religious dimension to his life's work. In the days and months following 9/11 he spent time in mosques in Brisbane listening to the worshippers and praying with them. "I needed to look for Muslim counterparts who I could work with to rebuild some of the bridges that were being blown up. Not only by the terrorists, but by the reports of these events that terrified everyone including me."
Andrews then began organising meetings involving people from many faith traditions – Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus and those with no religious affiliation. The aim was to "get together, to listen to one another and to learn from one another".
Andrews is a devout Christian but has chosen to remain at the fringes of the organised church. In 1999 he published a book called Christi-Anarchy: Discovering a Radical Spirituality of Compassion. It asks how the history of the Christian religion could be littered with every kind of evil when Jesus Christ preached a gospel of love and peace with justice. He advocates a radical, subversive spirituality of compassion. Andrews has sometimes clashed publicly with church leaders including the former Anglican archbishop of Brisbane, Peter Hollingworth.
Life as an interfaith bridge builder in Australia can be tough. Andrews tells the story of when he and his friend Nora Amath, a Muslim scholar, were invited to a Sunshine Coast church to speak about how Muslims and Christians could live in harmony. They were met by a group of angry protesters outside the venue.
"There were hundreds of people there waving banners with words like 'Resist Islam', and the police were there to deal with the conflict," Andrews says. "It was terrible to see the way so many Christians express such hate for Muslims in their name of their faith. They were so blinded by their ideology."
Andrews' animated face darkens and his voice quivers as he recounts this experience. "By far the most animosity I face is from Christians," he says.
One outcome from Andrews' experience trying to build religious and cultural understanding is a provocative new book titled The Jihad of Jesus.
In it he draws on the teachings of Muslim scholars to recast jihad as a "sacred non-violent struggle for justice" rather than violent holy war. Andrews argues that the "strong-but-gentle" figure of Christ provides the ideal model for non-violent jihad.
"Jesus should not be seen as a poster boy for Christian's crusading against Muslims but as a messiah who brings Christians and Muslims together for a non-violent struggle for justice," he says. As a plate of steaming shish kebabs arrives at our table, Andrews tells me with a smile about the reaction of one Muslim friend after she read a draft manuscript of The Jihad of Jesus: "Dave, you're going to get shot."
Andrews' struggle for interfaith harmony builds on an extraordinary life of community work.
In a "fit of romantic, unrealistic idealism", he and wife Ange sold their house in Brisbane in the early 1970s, gave the money away and moved to Afghanistan to work with young people, especially travellers. The pair lived through the 1973 coup in Kabul before moving to India where they spent a decade doing community work with drug addicts, slum dwellers and others.
Their first daughter, Evonne, was born while they were living in India and they adopted a second daughter, Navi, a Nepali orphan. Andrews was caught up in the deadly anti-Sikh riots that engulfed New Delhi in 1984 after Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. Amid the mass slaughter, he stood in the doorway of his Sikh neighbour's house and turned away a Hindu lynch mob.
Andrews and his family eventually returned to Brisbane where he founded the "Waiters Union", a community network serving marginalised people especially the disabled, refugees and Aborigines. Andrews has also worked as an educator for the overseas aid agency TEAR Australia for nearly 30 years. It was this involvement that eventually led him to try to build bridges between Muslims and non-Muslims.
"I never thought I'd find myself engaged in this Christian-Muslim dialogue because I didn't relate to Muslims as Muslims, I'd relate to them as friends," he says. "But after 9/11, identity politics came to define them as Muslims and the whole challenge became how do we overcome this chasm of suspicion and reach out to each other."
Andrews says it's a major problem that most Australians don't have any meaningful contact with Muslims because they make up only a little more than 2 per cent of the population.
"All they are going to do is derive their understanding of Muslims from the media which does not accurately represent them," he says. "So it's almost inevitable that people have very twisted and biased views." Andrews has found the best way to overcome the misunderstandings and prejudice is for Muslims and non-Muslims to meet face to face.
"It's only in that interaction that people have the opportunity to have their stereotypes challenged in the face or the humanity of the other," he says.
"We've seen many people change their negative attitude toward Muslims when they have had a face-to-face encounter," he says. "Although there are always some who still hold onto their stereotypes tightly."
As Turkish coffee arrives at our table, I ask Andrews if he's hopeful that greater religious harmony can be achieved.
"People sometimes say to me, 'This is a great dream, Dave, but it's an impossible dream'," he says. "I've got to admit it's really difficult but I won't concede it's impossible. I won't call it the impossible dream, I'll call it the improbable dream. The odds are against us but I still think it's possible. If we have leaders in our community that are genuinely committed to creating a culture of dignity and respect, affirming all people and helping people come together to deal with their problems I think it is possible."
Andrews reels off a list of examples where groups involved in religious conflict have found ways to build peace. "In some places in the world Christians and Muslims have come together in the midst of violence, in the midst of civil war, in the midst of slaughter to support each other and find ways forward," he says.
Andrews was heartened by the "I'll ride with you" campaign, the social media movement showing solidarity with Muslims following December's Martin Place siege. "It was something simple, something practical and a bit of a game changer," he says. "It can happen here when you least expect it."
Life and times:
1951 Born in London but grows up in Queensland, the son of a Baptist minister
1968 "Youth of the Year" for Far North Qld
1972 Marries Ange
1973 sells his family home, gives the money away and moves to Afghanistan to work with the marginalised
1974 moves into a rehab centre with 50 drug addicts in India
1978 begins work with slum communities in New Delhi
1979 adopts an orphaned girl in Nepal
1984 stands in the way of a Hindu lynch mob to save a Sikh family during riots in Delhi
1985 starts work with marginalised people in Brisbane
1999 publishes Christi-Anarchy a book critical of institutional religion
2001 runs dialogues between religious groups to build harmony and co-operation following 9/11
2015 trains Christians and Muslims in non-violent Jihad and publishes The Jihad of Jesus. The sacred non-violent struggle for justice.
The spread of Islamic militarism and the threat posed by Islamic State in the Middle East sparks an endless and circular debate.
Muslims need to acknowledge and loudly condemn the violence being waged in the name of Islam, say Western political leaders, notably Tony Abbott. Islam is a peaceful religion and Islamic State has nothing to do with us, comes the indignant reply from Muslims, who grow ever more weary at being expected to condemn the terrorism they abhor.
It is a polarised conversation that ultimately goes nowhere. To probe deeper — to question the construction of religion and to analyse faith, today and through the ages — is akin to walking through a field of landmines.
Brisbane-based author Dave Andrews is ready for the challenge. The devout Christian has just published a book, provocatively titled The Jihad of Jesus, which asks Muslims and Christians to examine their religion in practice, and to acknowledge the violence that lies at the heart of the construction of religion throughout history.
The atrocities committed in the name of religion are undeniable. They stretch from the Christian holy wars that began towards the end of the Roman Empire, and continue through history right up to the present-day threat of Islamic extremism. But there is a process of minimisation at play that must be acknowledged, Andrews argues. It’s an almost unconscious discounting, or a shifting of emphasis, that seeks to justify or underplay the violence that has been waged during holy wars for centuries.
“This brings us face to face with the life and death question, at the very heart of the matter, that we desperately need to answer,” Andrews says in his book, launched this week.
“Are the atrocities that are done in the name of Christianity or Islam true indicators of the nature of Christianity or Islam, or not?
“If the answer to this question is that these atrocities are not a true indicator but mere aberrations, then we have nothing to fear from the continued expansion of Christianity or Islam. But if the answer to this question is, as I suspect, that these cruelties are true indicators — and inevitable consequences — of the way we have constructed our religions, then we have everything to fear from Christianity or Islam in the coming millennium.”
It is a thesis that cuts to the heart of the present debate raging around the extent to which Islam must confront the extremism waged in its name. But for Andrews, who has lived years of his adult life in the Middle East and South Asia, responsibility cuts both ways. Holy wars were being waged by Christians for centuries before the present flashpoint in religious warfare in Iraq and Syria, and overall, he concludes, “in the conflicts between Christians and Muslims, there have been more devastating wars among Christian states fighting each other than between Christian and Muslim states; and predominantly Christian states have killed more Jews and Muslims than predominantly Muslim states have killed Christians or Jews.”
It is a macabre balance sheet, but it’s all part of a process of introspection that Andrews says is critical if there is to be a lasting peace, in which Christians and Muslims can join together in a non-violent struggle for justice.
The author’s determination to broker peace began at home in the suburbs of Brisbane in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US in 2001. Andrews had lived for many years in Afghanistan during the 1970s and 80s and on his return to Australia he undertook voluntary work helping to settle Afghan refugees here. He had a large number of Muslim friends. Andrews was appalled by the scale of the 9/11 atrocity but was also deeply disturbed by the political response that culminated in the invasion of Iraq.
“I never expected that we’d need to engage in this dialogue across such a chasm of division and suspicion,” Andrews tells The Australian. “After 9/11 we were defined as against each other, as Christians and Muslims, and then the major challenge was to build bridges across the chasm.”
When Andrews first sought out Nora Amath, a Muslim woman active in the organisation Australian Muslim Advocates for the Rights of All Humanity, the graduate of a sociology doctorate was burned out. She assumed that like so many other devout Christians who used interfaith dialogue as a smokescreen to recruit Muslims to their own cause, Andrews was just another evangelist Christian.
“From about 2002 until about 2007 I was doing, I guess, what you’d almost call a one-woman campaign to go out there, meet people and confront prejudice,” Amath says.
“I just decided I’m going to put myself out there and answer any questions. But by 2007 I was pretty jarred by the whole experience. There were some wonderful moments of understanding and openness and grace from people, but at the same time there were quite a lot of incidents of bigotry that I just couldn’t break down. I said, ‘I can’t keep doing this.’ It was just really taking a toll on me.
“It was very frustrating being constantly expected to condemn terrorism. These people don’t represent me, why did I have to condemn something that I’m not really a part of? It’s exhausting. And I just decided I wasn’t going to do any more. I was just so disillusioned, really, by the whole process.”
So Amath initially rebuffed Andrews, who was keen to develop relationships with Muslims as part of his quest to establish a common ethic among religious traditions that could be used to counter violence waged in the name of God, or Allah.
“Some of my worst experiences of bigotry came from Christians who simply wanted to bash Islam, have a debate, and then convert me to Christianity,” Amath says. “I just thought, this is just going to be another evangelist. I really wasn’t interested.”
Eventually, Amath relented and met Andrews, and so began a series of conversations that have culminated in The Jihad of Jesus. “Reading The Jihad of Jesus was like walking down memory lane,” Amath writes in her preface to the book. “Dave embodies that ‘Australian soul’ which will better facilitate harmonious coexistence and understanding in our multi-religious, multicultural society.”
Andrews’s thesis is built on a concept of jihad that can be embraced by Muslims and Christians, jointly committed to a “radical, practical, non-violent struggle” to defeat extremism. “At the moment jihad is a byword for terror,” Andrews says. “So when people think of jihad they think of atrocities.
“But if you go back to the Koran, the word jihad is not the word for war. The word for war in the Koran is qital. The word jihad actually means struggle. The overwhelming emphasis of the word jihad in the Koran is non-violence. If you take that as a Koranic framework for jihad it just shows that everything that most of these jihadists are involved with is totally unacceptable in Koranic terms.
“So rather than taking the anti-jihad stand, which won’t succeed because jihad is such an important view in the Koran, we’re saying let’s reclaim it from the extremists, reframe it as a nonviolent struggle for justice; and if both Christians and Muslims believe Jesus is the Mesih or the Messiah, which they do, let’s look at Jesus as a role model for non-violent jihad and see whether, in fact, rather than see Jesus as a poster boy to legitimate crusading against Muslims, we see Jesus as a Messiah who can bring Muslims and Christians together, to work together non-violently.”
But achieving common ground it is not as simple as condemning violence, Andrews says.
It involves a critical reflection of the way religions have been constructed.
In 1978, a professor of anthropology based at Fuller Theological Seminary in California, Paul Hiebert, raised the alarm at the dangerous implications of what he defined as “bounded set” religion in an essay, Conversion, Culture and Cognitive Categories . Fixed ideas of orthodoxy or behaviour define religion via boundaries that theologian Robert Brinsmead has said draw “lines of demarcation through the human race”.
“I think in order to understand the violence of religion we have to understand that it’s a way of defining religion as a closed set, where you’ve got people who are in the right, people who are in the wrong,” Andrews says.
“Therefore the people who believe they are right feel they have the responsibility to impose their views on others non-violently, or if necessary, violently.
“And you can see examples of Christians and Muslims who operate like that. However, there is, within both traditions, an open-set mindset that doesn’t think that it’s got a monopoly on God, or a franchise on the truth, and includes the other in a way that is empathic and respectful and doesn’t lead to violence but instead leads to non-violent resolution of conflicts.”
There is much common ground in the Abrahamic faiths, Amath says. “I remember I was at a speaking engagement with Dave and somebody asked me about Jesus, and if I believed in Jesus,” she says. “I said emphatically yes, of course, as Muslims we have to believe in Jesus. He is one of the revered prophets, and in fact he is mentioned more times in the Koran than Mohamed is mentioned. And so he does play a pivotal role in the basis of Islam.
“And so as Muslims, it’s obligatory for us to believe in him, to believe in his life. We have the same understanding of the immaculate conception of Jesus from the Lady Mary, and in fact the Lady Mary has a passage devoted to her. And so these are two very revered figures in Islamic history. And so of course Muslims need to believe in Jesus, that’s part of their creed.
“However, I would say probably in the past three years, through my conversations with Dave, I realised I really didn’t know enough about Jesus.
“And so over these years I’ve learnt more and more, and as a practising Muslim I can now say yes, Jesus is an embodiment of non-violent struggle, and that’s an example I can follow.”
Andrews and Amath are hopeful that conversations across faiths can unfold throughout the community in the same way their own friendship has evolved. But the challenge of navigating such terrain is difficult amid a highly charged political environment.
“There’s a thousand years of conflict between our communities,” Andrews says. “So you’ve got this strong paranoia and this great underlying fear of one another that has erupted again since 9/11 in explicit and graphic and catastrophic ways. We have this incredible fear of one another, and it’s trying to reach out to the other that we are frightened of. That is the challenge.”
'This book is awesome!
If your group is looking for a book to study, this is the one!
It's language is accessible, the length and format digestible, and each historical citations entreats you to find out more. All this, combined with the invitation to examine our own psychology, congealed mental paradigms, and social relationship to power, politics and religion make this a critical read for anyone hoping to do coherent Muslim-Christian interfaith organizing for effective and profound nonviolent social change in the coming years.
This book came out of years of intentional conversation with his neighbours; it has brought me closer to mine.'
‘I can think of no book ever written anywhere - popular or scholarly - that so effectively does three things: 1) Recounts the dark side of both Christianity and Islam, 2) Explores the positive potential for peace in Christianity and Islam, and 3) Shows how the teachings of the Christian savior and Muslim prophet Jesus can make a difference in today's world.
I wish we could buy a copy of this book for every Christian and Muslim young person in the world - not to mention their parents and grandparents.’
I turned on the television the other day to hear a Christian American say: "Our enemy is Islam and our enemies are Muslims!" Disturbed by his tone, I shifted to my computer, where I opened the Internet only to see an equally alarming message from a British Muslim: "Islam must crush Christianity, the false religion!" These men are from different religions, but their motives are strikingly similar: oppress those who do not think as they do; use violence, if necessary, to put down other faith groups; and never consider the beliefs and practices of other religious communities to be valid or useful to society. Needed now more than ever is a new manual for Christian-Muslim relations which does not resort to name-calling, exclusion, and violence.
"The Jihad of Jesus: The Sacred Nonviolent Struggle for Justice" (Wipf & Stock, 2015) is a compelling new book which calls on Christians and Muslims to embrace the peaceful example of Jesus and unite in a strong yet nonviolent movement to counter bigotry and violence. Dave Andrews, the author, is a peace activist, community organizer, theologian, and facilitator of harmonious coexistence among human beings. He is a Christian in the purest sense. Andrews believes "all people are loved, equally, by God, regardless of color, class, caste, or creed." It is this egalitarian spirit which oozes out of the "The Jihad of Jesus."
While Andrews acknowledges the theological differences between Christians and Muslims, he intentionally tries to "focus on those beliefs about [Christ] that Christians and Muslims have in common as the place for [them] to start [their] conversations." Andrews sees "'common ground' not as suspect compromise, but as 'sacred ground' on which [they] can stand and speak to one another." The common ground on which he wants Christians and Muslims to meet is one based on justice, love, and peace. He requests that Christians move away from their arrogance and aggression and Muslims to embody the compassionate and merciful spirit of Islam as exhibited in thebismillah, the Arabic phrase meaning "In the name of God, the merciful and compassionate." Andrews posits that Christians and Muslims must reflect the kindness and humility of Christ, who they should follow "with every beat of [their] hearts, through every vein in [their] head, and [their] hands, and [their] feet."
"The Jihad of Jesus" is anchored in the theory that Christians and Muslims erect impenetrable boundaries around their communities in order to exclude people who they perceive as being different from their co-religionists. Andrews argues that by constructing these barriers, Christians and Muslims show symptoms of hatred and fear. This kind of "closed perspective" towards religion, he claims, is harmful because narrow-minded people tend to be dogmatic, judgmental, and intolerant of dissent. Andrews challenges "religious fundamentalists" to open their hearts and minds and turn away from their "unchanging and unchangeable" ideologies, which leave no room for diversity, disagreement, and interfaith encounters.
Following the example of Jesus, Andrews prefers an "open perspective" towards Christian-Muslim relations because it replaces cold-heartedness and hard-headedness with warmth and compassion. According to him, the "open perspective" fosters inspirational personal growth and transformational social change by opening people up to positive elements of other religious traditions. In doing so, Christians and Muslims leave behind the "ideology of religious supremacy," and acknowledge the "mercy of God," which clears the way for Christians and Muslims to heed Jesus' call of tearing up prejudices and trashing stereotypes of others.
Upon finishing "The Jihad of Jesus," I realized how important it is for Christians and Muslims to continue building bridges of understanding and goodwill. Andrews makes an excellent point:
... it is absolutely vital for the future welfare of the human family that [Christians and Muslims] examine [their] frequent utter disregard for human rights, diabolical persecution of unorthodox traditions and heterodox religions, and total destruction of "infidels" in genocidal "Holy Wars" waged in the name of our "great God."
Here Andrews offers practical and spiritual guidance by reminding Christians and Muslims to engage in the ever-important process of self-reflection. The time is ripe for Christians and Muslims to find their "inner-Jesus" and accept the call of non-violent revolution. As Christians and Muslims continue to encounter each other in the future, it is crucial for them to remember that God does not favor any particular group of people simply because they call themselves "Christians" or "Muslims." All of us need to move away from the idea of our religious tradition having a monopoly on the truth. This is one of the key messages of Andrews' philosophy.
"The Jihad of Jesus" will inspire you to work alongside your Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters in the struggle for mutual understanding and genuine peace.
After all, this is our shared jihad.
‘The Jihad of Jesus is a manual for waging jihad. And make no mistake; Dave Andrews wants you to wage jihad. Not the violent jihad of extremists; but a ‘strong yet gentle nonviolent struggle’.
Dave's model for this is Jesus: the jihad of Jesus. Drawing on the teachings of both Christian and Muslim scholars and faith examples from both traditions he presents Jesus as the supreme example of jihad. This is challenging stuff. Dave does not shy away from the litany of horror perpetrated in religions name. But just as you want to turn away and scream ‘enough!’ Dave leads the reader towards a deeply compassionate and nonviolent reading of jihad, teachings which are found in the Qur’an as well as the Bible.
This is a book that proceeds with that rare combination of care and urgency. With Jesus as his guide Dave argues that the meaning of jihad is to transform ourselves into living examples of love and to fight injustice with the tools of nonviolent action. This is the jihad that threatens tyrants and empires of all stripes. This is the jihad we need.’
'I have been involved in interfaith work for eighteen years now, and one thing I have learnt along this journey is that, in order to build genuine coexistence, inter-faith must go beyond merely speaking politely to one another or simply leaning about one another’s faith - it must involve compassion. Compassion is a “higher conscious-ness” humanising the “other”. It is truly wanting for our brothers and sisters what we would want for ourselves.
'My good friend, Dave, embodies that ”Australian soul” which will better facilitate harmonious coexistence and understanding in our multi-religious, multi-cultural society. Reading The Jihad Of Jesus was like walking down memory lane – seven years of patchwork discussions were woven seamlessly together into this beautiful manuscript. I found it a thoroughly-engaging, thought-provoking, well-researched, critical-but-balanced, fair-yet-courageous piece of work.'
"Jihad is a much abused term but most Muslims know that the greater Jihad is not to use force but to use what Gandhi called 'Soul force' to resist temptation and evil. In The Jihad of Jesus, Dave Andrews gives us some important and tested observations on the sources of violence and both the reason and the means for resistance, and he does so by drawing on the wisdom of both Muslim and Christian scholarship and experience. Dave Andrews books come from the heart but also from open and hard-working hands: from his own experiments in compassionate resistance to the violence of this age. For purposeful interfaith engagement with the world as it is I very much recommend this book."
“This book pulls no punches. It explains clearly some of the difficult history of violence carried out in the name of Christianity and Islam throughout the centuries. It should be read by all those who want to dedicate themselves to the path of peace.”
IONA Conference, USA
6-9 November 2015
COBO Center, Detroit, MI, USA
11 November 2015
Islamic Center, Wayland, MA, USA
13 November 2015
Apex Mosque, Apex, NC, USA
14 November 2015
Peace Catalyst Group
16 November 2015
Peace Catalyst Group
17 November 2015
Seattle Mennonite Church
22 November 2015
Westside Vineyard, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Greenbelt Festival, UK
28-31 August 2015
The Bright Field, Bought House nr Kettering, UK
Saturday 18 Sep 2015
Hope's Cafe, Clayton Wesley Uniting Church, Adelaide, SA
Thursday 30 July 2015
Avid Reader: 193 Boundary St, West End, QLD
Tuesday 4 August 2015 6:00 - 8:00pm
Gleebooks: 49 Glebe Point Road, Glebe, NSW
Monday 10 August 2015 6:00 - 8:00pm
Readings: 309 Lygon Sreet, Carlton, VIC
Saturday 25 July 08:30 - 10:30am
Lifestream Christian Church: Murray St, Como, WA
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