The Challenge of the Islamic State and A Response Founded on Christ’s Call to the Work of Peace

The rise of the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq in 2014 seemed to take the world by surprise. With swift military advances and brutal tactics, this militant group displaced hundreds of thousands of people in its path. Western powers rushed to take action to slow down the Islamic State’s advances and to protect their interests in the region, with responses heavily weighted towards the use of military force.

Sadly, little has been heard by way of commentary on these policies from churches in the United States, whose silence has seemed to imply an endorsement of yet another military action in the Middle East. In what follows below, we provide a brief review of events that led to the rise of the Islamic State, recognizing the many conflicting interests at play there, including the increasingly important role of the U.S. government. 

As U.S. Christians, we call for a rejection of current policies of our government, which are based heavily on military power. We offer in its place an alternative approach, firmly rooted in Christ’s gospel of peace and implemented through non-violent actions in the hard work of peace, reconciliation and restorative justice. We recognize that the approach suggested here will require further elaboration. Furthermore, it will be of little use unless it is translated into action. Yet we firmly believe this is the direction in which God is calling the church to go.

This document was initiated by the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and provides the basis for the organization's future work in the Middle East.  Seven people contributed in significant ways to the drafting of this paper: Amgad Beblawi, Len Bjorkman, Pauline Coffman, Tom Driver, David Maxwell and Elmarie Parker, with Donald Mead, who served as principal facilitator.  Several of these people participated in this endeavor in their individual capacity, not as representatives of other organizations with which they are affiliated. Thanks are due to each for their participation.

Going forward, we hope to be able to work with others from across the church in this endeavor.  We also hope that this initiative will result in one or more overtures to the 2016 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), so as to become part of the official policy of our denomination.

Read the two sections of our response below:

I. The Islamic State and the events that have brought us to this point

II. What, then, is the Church in the United States to do?