I got this from one of my Mennonite Buddies, Phil Kniss.
I am so challenged by my Mennonite friends to live in more of a peaceful way.
I am learning more about what it means to love my enemies from them and maybe one day I will not watch Ultimate Fighting anymore🙂
Read through this press release and feel free to comment…
News release: Mennonite Scholars Participate in Iranian Conference on Muslim Doctrine
With much international attention to Iran’s policies and influence in the wider region of the Middle East, some observers are also taking note of religious dynamics. On September 6-7, three Mennonite scholars participated in a conference in Tehran, Iran, devoted to study of the “science of messianism,” also known in Shi’a Islam as “Mahdism Doctrine.” The Bright Future Institute, of Qom, Iran, organized and hosted the conference.
David W. Shenk, global consultant with Eastern Mennonite Missions, Salunga, Pa., Thomas N. Finger, independent scholar at Reba Place Church, Evanston, Il., and N. Gerald Shenk, professor of church and society at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Va., were invited as guests and contributors to continue a series of exchanges between Mennonite leaders and the religious leadership of Iran that stretches back for most of a decade. Those contacts, facilitated largely by the Mennonite Central Committee (Akron, PA), have included studies by Iranian scholars in Canada, Mennonite scholars resident in Iran and several theological dialogues and conferences.
The September gathering in Tehran drew more than 100 international participants and an estimated 4000 Iranians. Leading Ayatollahs and Iranian President Ahmadinejad were key speakers at the conference.
The figure of the Mahdi in Shi’a Islam is identified as the Twelfth Imam in succession after the Prophet Muhammad. In Mahdist doctrine this Imam is understood as being hidden but not dead for the past eleven centuries. After a lengthy period of injustice and immorality, he is expected to return to establish justice and restore righteousness on earth. Although not all Muslims, especially in majority Sunni branches, share this identification and hope, the doctrine is gaining substantial attention in Iran today. Allusions to Christian teaching are frequent, and in some versions the return of Jesus Christ and the expected Mahdi figure are linked. A display in the conference lobby prominently looped a video proclaiming: “Do you know—Jesus Christ is coming soon? And the Mahdi comes right after that!”
David Shenk was invited to present on “Messianic Hope in Biblical Eschatology” to a plenary session, drawing on his lengthy acquaintance with Islam in Africa and around the world. He began with a reference to Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s recent letter to U.S. President Bush (May 8, 2006). This letter also named this hope for the second coming of the Messiah. It read: “Will we be given a role to play in the promised world where justice will become universal and Jesus Christ (PBUH) [peace be upon him, traditional expression of respect] will be present? Will they [the prophets] even accept us?”
David Shenk’s paper and another presented by Tom Finger carefully outlined the characteristics of human society that is marked by God’s rule, expressed in the life of the early followers of Jesus as non-violence, equality and economic sharing. David Shenk further stated that Jesus the Messiah is the fullness of the presence of the kingdom of God. Finger’s review of biblical eschatology followed the opening addresses of the conference.
“The papers focused on righteousness and justice, as well as the Jubilee proclamations and Jesus’ beatitudes,” Gerald Shenk observed. “These helped to further illuminate the nature of God’s reign as revealed in a Messiah who exhibited suffering love and forgiveness.”
Gerald Shenk’s paper discussed the rise of messianic movements in the American context during the past two centuries. He also traced the same beliefs into movements of dispensationalist theology, which account for support by many contemporary Christians for the nation of Israel both before and after 1948.
Professor Muhammad Legenhausen of the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute in Qom commented on the significance of having Christian views presented within a religious conference in Iran. He said that in his sixteen years of observation, previous conferences have involved primarily Muslims speaking to Muslims, even if some incorporated Sunni/Shi’a differences.
He told Gerald Shenk that, “to have a Christian voice present without being antagonistic is tremendous!” Dr. Legenhausen has encouraged the numerous contacts that Mennonite scholars and leaders have pursued with their counterparts in Iran.
David Shenk, in direct conversation with President Ahmadinejad after his opening address, handed the president a copy of his well-known text, A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue (co-authored by Badru Kateregga). He also inquired about ways that Christian leaders might help to facilitate the ongoing dialogue Ahmadinejad’s May 2006 letter to President Bush invited.
In a further exchange, Finger said, “In my brief meeting with President Ahmadinejad, I told him that many Christians in the U.S. are praying for him and for the peace and welfare of Iran. He thanked me.”
Gerald Shenk said, “We had many opportunities to worship with local Christian groups. The local Christians were encouraged to see Christians participating as distinguished foreign guests in the wider dialogue of the Mahdism conference.”
He continued, “In the context of heightened international tensions, the courtesy extended across historic religious divides to welcome the witness of Christian scholars in the framework of new thinking about Islamic hopes and expectations was remarkable.” The inclusion of Christian scholars elicited numerous further interviews for Tehran’s television and newspapers.
The Mennonite delegates were also hosted for a full day of interactions with scholars at the Khomeini Institute in Qom. The two-day conference in Tehran elicited 260 scholarly papers, of which three volumes were published in Farsi in time for distribution at the conclusion of proceedings on September 7.
Professor at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Virginia
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