By Jørgen Skov Sørensen, Secretary General, Danmission.
SOME TIME AGO, I met Amer Ghantous, a young Christian medical doctor from Syria, who has extensive experience in the field of Christian-Muslim dialogue in the Middle East. Amer was in Denmark to speak to Danish Christians and Muslims about belonging to a religious minority in one’s home country. Amer´s message was that it is not easy. It requires a lot from him. And from those he encounters. Especially in Syria during these years. “When there is a war, dialogue and coexistence cannot be considered a luxury issue. These are basic prerequisites for life”, as he puts it.
It is characteristic of many of Danmission’s church partners globally that they belong to religious minorities in their own countries. If they aim to be part of and contribute to the society they belong to, they are regularly challenged to engage in dialogue with individuals who are non-Christian. We call it – using a rather technical expression – coexistence. Sometimes it works out well, and fruitful relationships are formed. Sometimes it does not work out well.
Coexistence requires conversation. We know that from our Danish society. In our case, a long tradition of democracy in church, school and civil society at large has taught us that conversation promotes understanding between people – that dialogue strengthens cohesion in society. We have learned that while we are far from agreeing, we can participate in discussions, establishing what are our different views and attitudes while listening attentively to our discussion partner. Conversation does not erode our views and convictions. Quite the opposite. We exchange opinions with passion. This is arguably one of the most important values we have in Denmark.
DANMISSION IS FOUNDED on this tradition. Together with our partners around the world we aim to establish and maintain room, space and opportunities for conversation and dialogue between individuals and peoples. Inter-religious dialogue is a powerful tool, both in working with church development and poverty reduction. “But how is that related to Christian mission?” I am sometimes asked. “Is proclamation completely abandoned?”. “By no means”, is my answer.
In Danmission dialogue and proclamation are not contradictory. They are two parts of a comprehensive understanding of mission. We are not ashamed of God’s liberating manifestation through Jesus Christ claiming unconditionally the value of every human being. The Word of God must be made available everywhere always. However, it must always be in the form of dialogue: Proclamation with the same unconditional freedom. As Christians, we have been given freedom. Proclamation is to pass on this freedom. Not to deny it to others.
Committed to Christian freedom, we cannot but point to Jesus Christ – crucial to us. With boldness in words and deeds we cannot but testify to God’s love flowing through the world despite human failure and deprivation. With boldness in words and deeds we cannot but bear witness that the Holy Spirit gives hope to the hope-less, faith to the faith-less and life to the life-less.