Peace is the most expensive commodity in the world today. The popular saying that social and economic development can only thrive in an atmosphere of peace underscores the indispensable place of peace in society. For The People of the Book, peace is a sine qua non for righteous living. In Islamic thought, Ahl al-Kitāb in Arabic stands for the Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians and Sabians who possess the divine books namely, the Torah, Gospel, Psalms, and Avesta. Islam views them as “possessors of monotheistic scriptures and occasionally pays tribute to the religious and moral virtues of communities that have received earlier revelations, calling on Muhammad to ask them for information” (Vajda, 2012).
No doubt, Islam stands for Peace and Total Submission. Drawing from the Patriarch Abraham, Muslims emulate the obedience of this Father of the Faith. It is this peace and submission that sets the parameters for the vision and mission of Islam. Little wonder, at any reference to the Holy Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (SAW), Muslim adherents often add: “Peace be upon him.” What is more, the Holy Quran demands that Muslims should live in peace with all people especially The People of the Book.
To be sure, the first verse of the Holy Quran, Suratul Fatiha breathes the spirit of peace. It says: “In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate…” (Quran 1:1-5). This verse is repeated in the Quran no less than 114 times. It talks about the ways of peace (Quran 5:16) and describes reconciliation as the best policy (Quran 4:128) while stating that God abhors any disturbance of peace (Quran 2:205). Also, the Koran states thus: “O You who believe! Enter absolutely into peace (Islam)…” (Quran 2:208). In another chapter and verse, it says: “And if they incline to peace, then incline to it [also] and rely upon Allah. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing (Quran 8:61).
In this article, the writer wants to demonstrate that although Islam prides itself as the Religion of Peace as evident in the Quran, Christians too have genuine claims to Peace since they too are sons and daughters of Abraham and heirs of God’s kingdom established by Christ, Our Peace (Ephesians 2:14). To this end, it is the opinion of this piece that Christians also have bragging rights to the peace of Islam. The reasons are not farfetched:
First, the word Peace has used a total of 429 times in the bible. Theologically, the Hebrew word for peace is Shalom which indicates a realm where war, social strife or chaos is not allowed to violate God’s covenant with his people.
Second, because long before the Holy Prophet of Islam (Peace Be Upon Him) and Islam were born in 570 and the 7th century respectively, Jesus, whom Christians regard as God was born in Bethlehem amidst the song of peace by angles. What this means is that the first message associated with his birth was “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace to people of goodwill” (Luke 2:14).
Third, Jesus lived and exemplified peace. This is why for instance upon sending his disciples out, he said: “Whatever house you enter, begin by saying, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you” (Luke 10:5-6).
Fourth, it might interest the reader to note that the discussion between Jesus and His disciples in anticipation of His death and the promise of the Holy Spirit were words of peace. It reads: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid…I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart” (John 14:27).
Fifth, the first words of Jesus to his apostles upon his resurrection were: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). These few biblical citations point to the theology of peaceful coexistence and the fact that Jesus, whom Christians refer to as “the author and the finisher of [their] faith” (Hebrews 12:2) ordered Christians to have peace as their creed. This further gives us insight into how the Christian faith like Islam holds peaceful coexistence and living in a pluralistic society in high esteem.
Surprising, as one who has lived in Northern Nigeria for the past 4 decades, the “Peace be upon you” that Muslims greet each other seems to be an exclusive reserve for Muslims. Truth is, most Muslims would not respond to the greeting in Arabic “As-salāmu ʿalaykum- Peace be upon you” from a Christian. What is more, even Christians who have the divine mandate to spread the “Shalom – Peace” greeting are shy to do so perhaps because they feel that it is an Islamic way of salutation.
If we want to live and work peacefully in a multi-cultural and multi-religious society like ours, we need to carefully study the religious ethos of others and respect the same. We also need to inoculate ourselves with the timeless values of mutual respect for the religious sensibilities of others. It is hoped that Peace Practitioners and other Critical Stakeholders in Nigeria especially Imams and Pastors of souls would further prompt the citizenry to galvanize support towards promoting peace-mediation and faith-based interventions towards fulfilling the mandate of the event of World Peace Day which is celebrated yearly on 21st September. In talking Muslim-Christian dialogue, Christians too have bragging rights to the peace of Islam. God bless Nigeria!
Fr. Justine Dyikuk is a Catholic Priest and Researcher who combines being the Editor of Bauchi Caritas Catholic Newspaper, Communication’s Director of Bauchi Diocese with his job as a Lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Nigeria. He can be reached through – firstname.lastname@example.org.