In response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, many members of Mennonite and Brethren in Christ congregations reached out to Muslims in their communities to support and encourage them. In the face of ever-increasing anti-Islam sentiment, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S. urges congregations to redouble those efforts.
MCC U.S. also called on the Florida church that has stated its intent to burn copies of the Quran on the anniversary of the attacks to abandon the plan and instead embrace Christ’s love for all. The pastor of the Dove World Outreach Centre, Terry Davis, has since called off his plan, claiming he has worked out a deal with New York City Muslims to move the proposed mosque to be built near Ground Zero to another location. Media reports could not verify the validity of that claim, however.
Anabaptist history provides a sobering reminder of the need to respect those with a different faith. During the 1500s in Europe, religious and political leaders persecuted Anabaptist believers, with thousands facing violence or death as a result of their beliefs. Because of this history, Anabaptists around the world have long advocated for freedom of religious expression for people of all faiths.
In the 20th century, some Anabaptist communities in Canada and the U.S. again were subject to stereotyping during the first and second World Wars, as a result of their German heritage. Experiences such as these should reinforce for all Christians, and especially Anabaptists, the dangers of assumptions and stereotypes about one’s beliefs.
Christians should take instead the example of Jesus, who reached out in love and respect to all who drew near to him. He recognized the human dignity and worth in every person, as created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). He challenged his followers to extend compassion without reservation (Matthew 22:34-40; 1 John 4:7-21).
MCC’s work around the world, including in predominantly Muslim countries, has shown us the importance of interfaith bridge-building. MCC is committed to continuing and strengthening this work in international contexts but encourages Anabaptists in the United States to also find ways to build these bridges in their own communities.