Magazine Article

Navigating the Complex Landscape of Global Relations

Building bridges with the children of Ishmael in today’s world

Petras Bahadur
Navigating the Complex Landscape of Global Relations
Photo by Muhammad Adil on Unsplash

In a world marked by diversity and an intricate tapestry of cultures and faiths, it is imperative that we seek to understand, relate to, and build connections with one another. The Global Center for Adventist-Muslim Relations (GCAMR), an initiative under the Adventist Mission Office of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, is dedicated to this very cause. GCAMR’s primary vision is to raise awareness within the Adventist community, fostering an opportunity to share the love of God with Muslims by understanding their culture, religion, and worldview. We endeavor to dismantle the barriers of prejudice and separation by ultimately promoting peace through respectful engagement.

For centuries differences between Christianity and Islam have fueled tensions, focusing on such matters as the divine revelation, the final prophet, and the “ultimate faith.” These disagreements have erected walls of prejudice and separation between adherents of both religions, often leading to suspicion and distrust, especially in areas in which one faith predominates.

Common Ground

What many Muslims may not realize is the existence of a group among Christians known as Adventists, who encourage refraining from consuming what is considered unclean (such as pork), avoid intoxicants (such as alcohol), and are dedicated to preparing the world for the second coming of Jesus and the final day of judgment. These shared values offer common ground and facilitate understanding between the two communities. By acknowledging these commonalities, we can further break down walls of separation, promote peace, and strengthen cooperation for improved relationships.

Adventists have generally considered themselves to be the people of the Book (faithful in adhering to the Scriptures), and Muslim sources acknowledge the existence of such Christians who are faithful to their Scriptures.1 When Adventists identify themselves as “people of the Book,” it provides an opportunity for bridging the gap. Moreover, the alignment of present world events with biblical prophecy, as seen in the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14, compels us to prepare “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6) for the imminent return of Jesus the Messiah and the day of judgment. While Muslims may differ regarding the purpose of Jesus’ second coming, sharing the message of His return remains a bridge between the two faiths.

Understanding Others and Avoiding Misconceptions

In our diverse world it is essential to approach others by understanding their culture, beliefs, and practices and avoid imposing our views without regard for their worldview. Within Islam there are various nuanced expressions, including folk Islam, orthodox Islam, and mystical Islam. Just as in any faith, there exist both fundamentalist and moderate perspectives. Therefore, it is crucial to approach different worldviews with sensitivity and respect.

We can foster better relations with Muslims by realizing that the following issues may be the cause of hindrance to our interaction:

1. Lack of Knowledge: A lack of understanding of Islamic beliefs and culture can deter relationships, while knowledge about them can promote connections.

2. Fear: The fear of extremism may discourage Adventists from engaging with Muslims, but the majority of Muslims strive to live peaceful lives.

3. Cultural Barriers: Perceptions that it is difficult to understand those operating from a Near Eastern cultural paradigm can hinder relationships, but hospitality cuts across cultural barriers.

4. Difficult Conversations: Many find it challenging to discuss religious matters with Muslims and hope to avoid difficult conversations, but Islamic sources have many positive associations to the Bible and Jesus.

5. Confrontational Approach: An aggressive approach that labels people to be wrong and denounces their religion or belief system can hinder the development of friendships and mutual understanding. If there is no bridge of friendship, then there is no opportunity of crossing it.

Despite these challenges, it’s important to recognize that Adventist-Muslim Relations (AMR) is not limited to experts or specific individuals. It’s an opportunity for all Adventists, irrespective of age, gender, profession, or knowledge level. Basic cultural and religious understanding can pave the way for meaningful relationships. Please contact your Adventist Mission, Personal Ministries, or AMR leader for further support.

AMR is not confined to regions with a Muslim majority. Adventists worldwide can participate through prayer, financial support, and moral encouragement. You don’t have to be an expert. Hospitality and friendship transcend cultural and societal boundaries.

Contrary to misconceptions, AMR does not undermine the importance of the Bible. Instead, it seeks to find redemptive connections and links to biblical truths within other cultures and faith systems, much as the apostle Paul did. We recognize that God’s footprints are already present in other cultures and faith systems.

Christ’s Method Alone

Getting involved in Adventist-Muslim Relations should follow the principles of “Christ’s method alone.” It’s essential to follow the example of Jesus, who mingled, sympathized, met the needs, and built trust before extending the invitation “Follow Me.”2 Jesus’ teachings emphasize loving others as we love ourselves, which stands as a universal message regardless of one’s faith.

In a world often polarized by current events, let us strive to be grounded in the teachings of Jesus by sharing His love through genuine, empathetic engagement. We should embrace the opportunity to meet the needs of others and share hope. This hope is the good news about Jesus to all, since only He can bring peace in this world. He is the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6) and offers us His peace by saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27, NIV). Let us embark on a journey that can usher us into a world of peace and understanding by following the example of loving others as Jesus did.3

1 Qur’an, Surah Al-Imran 3:110, 113-115.

2 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905), p. 143.

3 For further information, please contact [email protected].

Petras Bahadur

Petras Bahadur is the director of the Global Center for Adventist-Muslim Relations.