Giving Peace a Chance
Misunderstanding and conflict between Muslims and Christians are rampant and sadly growing. This is part of today’s story but not the entire picture. In our effort to lovingly engage our Muslim friends, and develop relationships of trust, we’ve found a common desire for peace across our communities and around the globe. Of course, we see the same bad news that you read but truth be told, it is often exacerbated by a large megaphone grabbed by those who set fires of misunderstanding and prejudice, “othering” as they promote more conflict instead of seeking truth and making peace. Extremists in all quarters of the globe seek to hijack the message of faithful adherents who find God calling us to peacemaking instead of living in enmity and fear of each other.
In both mosques and churches, we are finding many just have simple questions about the other faith community, are curious, and would like to reach across the divide. But it seems to be posted with a “no trespassing” sign. Identities of exclusion, and fear of our “enemy other” (which are also found in religious communities), seem to define our response to one another instead of openness, learning, and genuine encounter. Many want to trust the goodwill of others but have doubts. That’s where our ministry comes in.
Peacemaking in the way of Jesus is what we follow. We’ve discovered on this journey that the best in both Islam and Christianity (as well as many other religions) calls us to be peacemakers. As we follow that call, we work hard at building bridges of understanding and trust that can bear the weight of truth. From there we can work to find how humanity can be reconciled, regardless of our histories and differences. In my own tradition, I believe I can be a card-carrying Christ follower AND fully love my Muslim neighbors. Jesus taught and modeled this over and over in the Gospels (Matthew 5:9).
I work as a consultant and player-coach with many churches and organizations seeking to understand the “other” and empower peacemaking initiatives. I’m a public speaker and preacher but also come alongside as a teacher and mentor to help groups engage each other. I utilize relationship-building between communities, often using photography and storytelling through a growing network of relationships across the country in both churches and mosques. I align in ministry with Peace Catalyst International but collaborate broadly with churches and other NGOs. I help advance this kind of ministry through multiple program ideas we’ve perfected over the years including peace feasts, multi-faith dialogue events, “cultural listening” events, visits to each other’s community, and many other community-building activities.
Additionally, I work in peacemaking and storytelling in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, completing two documentary films called, “Blessed Are the Peacemakers: One Man’s Journey to the Heart of Palestine” and just recently finishing another movie, “Make Hummus, Not Walls.” I am available to screen either of these movies with your group and engage in conversation around peacemaking. For more information about these movies go to the dedicated page on this blog.
To see what others have said about my ministry check out “the buzz.” See some comments and reviews immediately below the video.
Contact me directly at [email protected]org to inquire about coming to speak and help your community engage your “other.” Let’s put your event on my calendar.
Through personal storytelling, biblical preaching, and literally getting us out of the church and into a mosque, Andy walked alongside our church with the question, “Compelled by God’s love, what does it mean to love our Muslim neighbor?” Wise, gentle, and prophetic, Andy doesn’t just talk about peacemaking–he lives it.”
Ted BurrowsLocal Church Pastor
“We recognize you as an agent of change for reconciliation and an influential community leader. We’d like to invite you to influence the next generation of community leaders here at Seattle Pacific University.”
Dr. Brenda Salter McNeilProfessor of Reconciliation Studies at SPU
“Andy spent a weekend at our church recently speaking about his bridge building relationships with Muslims. This approach resonates in contrast with so much media attention to extremists. It was a new message for a lot of our members, but they seemed willing to listen and be open because of Andy’s gentle and non-threatening presence. Now we can discuss this topic more freely and see our Muslim neighbors in a new light, building friendships as God leads.”
Linda HowellLocal Church Lay Leader
“Andy Larsen recently gave a presentation and engaged our congregation around the question, “Who is our neighbor?” His knowledge and experience as a bridge-builder and peacemaker was evident as he encouraged us to look outside our normal circles of friendships. Andy is well-suited for this ministry as he travels effortlessly between Muslim and Christian communities and invites us to do the same.”
Rev. Bradley BergfalkPastor