I was thrilled to see Qazi as he and his son, Ameer, walked into the Middle Eastern suite at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.
Qazi and I had recently met in Nepal at the Interfaith Leaders Network only two weeks earlier, where we sat together during meetings and enjoyed some deep conversations.
Pakistan needs more peacemakers; it’s one of the largest Muslim countries in the world and a well-known haven for terrorists, including al-Qaida and the Taliban.
It has a stockpile of more than 100 nuclear weapons, positioning Pakistan to be either a deterrent to or a supplier of terrorism.
Global security depends on Pakistan’s response to peacemaking efforts like Qazi’s and the International Leaders Network.
Qazi courageously speaks out against Islamic extremism and protects the rights of persecuted Christians in Pakistan.
He literally risks his life for peace. But in a globalized world, risk is everywhere.
Actually, they came because Somali refugees invited them. Why?
Because these refugees fear the recruiting efforts of the terrorist organization Al Shaabab – the group that attacked the Westgate Mall in Kenya on Sept. 21, 2013.
As one Somali woman told Martin at the Peace Feast, “Our young men disappear [from here in America], and several months later we hear that they are back in Somalia. The recruiters for Al Shaabab prey on our children.”
“They tell them they don’t belong in the U.S. They tell the young men that they will always be outsiders here and need to help their brothers in Somalia,” she said.
By reaching out in love to Somali refugees, we show them that they belong in the U.S. We show them a better way – the way of peace through Jesus.
Thomas Davis, PCI’s southeast regional director and global peacemaking coach, recently represented our organization in Washington, D.C., at a Shoulder-to-Shoulder gathering.
Shoulder-to-Shoulder is an initiative hosted by the Islamic Society of North America and focused on defeating extremism around the world, including Islamophobia in the U.S.
Thomas was reminded of the global tentacles of terrorism at this meeting. Attorney Rashad Hussain, a White House special envoy serving as an ambassador-at-large for the Muslim world, addressed the group.
Hussain thanked us for the peacemaking, bridge-building work that we do at PCI and reminded us that our work has a “very important foreign policy and national security function.”
Our primary focus is breaking down barriers between Christians and Muslims and building bridges of love.
So we are passionate about protecting persecuted Christians in Pakistan and condemning Islamophobia in the U.S.
But we are starting to realize that our work of promoting religious freedom has far-reaching consequences. In fact, it undermines terrorism.
A few days after meeting Qazi at the National Prayer Breakfast, I was encouraged by President Obama’s message, which focused on freedom of religion and national security.
“History shows that nations that uphold the rights of their people, including the freedom of religion, are ultimately more just and more peaceful and more successful. Nations that do not uphold these rights sow the bitter seeds of instability and violence and extremism. So freedom of religion matters to our national security … promoting religious freedom is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy,” Obama said.
The president reminds us that the work we do is not a “feel good” effort. It isn’t about warm relationships – as vital as they are from Jesus’ perspective.
Rather, we are following Jesus and waging peace. One relationship at a time. One cup of tea at a time. One Peace Feast at a time. One conversation at a time.
In doing so, we find that part of our long-term impact reduces terrorism, strengthens national security and addresses real issues in a violent world.
Rick Love is the president of Peace Catalyst International and serves as associate director of the World Evangelical Alliance peace and reconciliation initiative. A version of this article first appeared on his website and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter: @drricklove.
Editor’s note: “Different Books, Common Word” shares positive stories about Baptists and Muslims in the United States who have sought and found common ground: the common word in both traditions to love God and love neighbor. Sayyid Syeed, national director of the Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances at the Islamic Society of North America, was featured in the film.
Rick Love serves as president of Peace Catalyst International. He has lectured or consulted in more than 40 countries in the last 35 years and has published five books, including “Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Our Families, Organizations and Communities.”