On Sept. 8, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. sent an open pastoral letter to Anabaptist churches. The letter calls for congregations to "redouble" efforts in reaching out to Muslims in their communities "amid increasing anti-Islam sentiment." Here is the letter:
"In response to the attacks of Sept. 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 calls 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.
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 twentieth 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.
The Bible tells us to extend hospitality (Hebrews 13:1-2; 1 Peter 4:8-10). Sharing in meals and conversation can be a radical act, and a powerful counteraction to violence. Let us follow Jesus by showing hospitality to neighbors near and far."