Our world earnestly seeks peace. But war and violence continue to destroy any fragile hope for a peaceful future. Prejudice and disunity constantly threaten our harmonious coexistence. Though everyone wants to live in harmony yet a large number of people, (including ourselves) either become an active cause for disunity or more often remain passive and decide not to contribute to initiate peace-building measures and thus support the other side. Christians and Muslims cultivate deep prejudices against one another or even clash with one another in the name of their religions. Both these attitudes destroy peaceful and harmonious coexistence between them.
However, it should be affirmed that a number of committed international initiatives have come from both Christians and Muslims to build peace among these two sets of believers as well as among all other peoples. One can mention “A Common Word” initiative from Muslim scholars and Assisi Peace Meeting organized by Rome as some of the best known examples for building peace. This short editorial article intends to point towards the source of peace in both these religions and the way, both these religions teach to achieve it.
Christian understanding of peace
Christian understanding of peace in general seems to be to be rooted in the Jewish Scriptures. The Hebrew word šhālōm derives from a root which designates the fact of being intact or complete. Biblical peace is defined according to the dictionary of Biblical Theology, ‘’the well being of daily existence, the state of the man who lives in harmony with nature, with himself, with God.’’ Peace brings both spiritual and material blessings to life. This well being that one enjoys in life is the fruit of justice. Thus peace and wellness of life are interrelated.
God gifts peace to those who trust God and follow the path of God. Human beings obtain peace through confident prayer and by working for justice. God calls men and women to work for justice. Yet the response from human beings often remains tainted with the element of sin. When God’s chosen leaders fail divine justice by promoting their own welfare, God inspired the prophets to speak against injustice and point the way to lasting peace. The Jewish scriptures teach, in the final analysis, that those who follow the path of God in their lives are in the hands of God and live in peace.
Though the Christian understanding of peace is founded on the Jewish scriptures, its culmination is reached in and through Christ. Christ brings to fulfillment all that is indicated in the Jewish scriptures. Thus for Christians peace is the gift from Jesus, the risen Lord, to humanity.
Muslim understanding of peace
The words: islam, muslim, and salaam come from a common root slm. The word islam means a perfect harmony the with God. God intends that human person along with the whole of creation live in harmony with God. In creation whatever is in perfect harmony with God is muslim. Salaam is the active power which brings about the state of islam. Trees and grass, animals and birds are all perfect and live in harmony with God. Nature represents and mirrors so powerfully the nature of God. They reflect the Mulim faith perspective. However, human beings are gifted with free will. They can obey God and become Muslim. Human being can also rebel and become non-Muslim.
Muhammad, the prophet of Islam called the people to realize that they were created muslim and have to consciously obey God and become one. In other words, a human being is created a muslim and becomes a Muslim by his/her effort to obey God’s commandments. The revelation provides the active power which brings about the state of islam (cf. Hewer, C.T.R. (2002) The Essence of Islam. Chawton: Many Rooms).
While the Christian traditions suggest that peace is God’s gift given to humanity in Christ, the Muslim tradition in general suggests that an active power brings about the perfect harmony with God. The Qur’an shows the way to achieve this harmony. In the Christian tradition, it is Christ who makes this harmony possible by his perfect obedience to God. However, as mentioned in the earlier paragraphs the Christian traditions in general also put a lot of emphasis on striving for justice as the way to achieve peace. Both Christianity and Islam in general have specific a understanding of peace. The pursuit of peace may have different orientations but the focus seems to be on fulfilling the will of God. It could be said with assurance that peace is feasible and could be carried forward by Muslims and Christians if they whole heartedly strive to do the will of God in their lives.