A Ministry of Reconciliation

Your support means MAF can share Christ’s peace in the midst of turmoil.

An element of MAF’s work—one that is often overshadowed by stories of medical evacuations, Bible translation flight support, disaster relief efforts, and many other exciting ministries—is the way MAF helps spread the peace of Christ simply by being there and diligently serving.

In many places, MAF is either the only Christian presence or among just a few ex-pat believers or a fledgling local church. As MAF field staff stroll through noisy markets, sit on crowded buses, and go about their daily lives, they might be the only followers of Jesus the people they pass ever encounter.

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At times, MAF airplanes are called upon to serve as a bridge to peace …

Tensions flare

Indonesia is spread out over nearly 20,000 islands that span an area roughly the size of the continental U.S. The country is a complex mixture of religions—many areas are predominately Muslim, others are heavily influenced by Buddhism and animism, while some places have a Christian majority. MAF works in various provinces within the country that include some or all of the above.

This faith blend inevitably leads to tensions—tensions that occasionally spill over into destruction and violence. Which gives MAF a unique opportunity to share Christ’s love in the midst of discord.

In 2015, in a region that is 98 percent Muslim, angry members of a community burned down a church. Tensions rose—resulting in armed protests and violence—and government officials needed to reach the area to calm the situation.

The state officials relied on MAF to get them there, despite MAF being an openly Christian organization. The help that MAF staff provided in the wake of a terrible tsunami a decade earlier has allowed MAF to be seen as a trusted group—even by Islamic government officials. Flying these officials, as well as MAF’s presence in the community, is helping to bridge relationships between members of the two faiths in the region.

Hope follows retribution

Sadly, acts of destruction and violence are perpetrated by adherents of both Islam and Christianity. In Papua, another region that MAF serves—one that is predominately Christian—there was an incident in which Christians lashed out at the Muslims among them.

A Papuan church was holding a youth rally that coincided with the Idul Fitri—the Islamic holiday at the end of Ramadan. Prior to the rally, the church went to the local Muslim leaders and asked them to refrain from broadcasting the call to prayer over the mosque’s speakers. The very request built tension between the groups.

When the youth rally began, the call to prayer played over the speakers and a crowd of Christians, and some others from the community, went to confront the Muslims. The situation escalated and a man was shot. The shooter fled into a row of buildings which had an Islamic prayer room attached to it and an angry mob formed and burned down the structure in their attempts to bring him to justice.

In an inverse parallel of the earlier instance of the church’s destruction at the hands of Muslims elsewhere, MAF was again called upon to play a part in resolving the situation.

“MAF was approached by the staff of a Jakarta-based Christian businessman who is building Christian schools throughout Papua, to fly a contingent of Jakarta-based politicians into the village to negotiate a peace deal between the Christians and Muslims following the event,” said David Holsten, MAF regional director of Indonesia. “That group’s visit did indeed lead to a decrease of local tensions.”

Bridging the gap

Western missionaries find themselves in an interesting position. While they can be perceived as outsiders, they are often in a position to be more trusted by different groups. This gives MAF staff, and other missionaries, the opportunity to bridge differences in communities by portraying the peace and love of Christ.

“I would say that MAF is seen as being a trusted source of safe transportation for everyone who is living and working in Papua. We do not discriminate when it comes to passengers who are in need of help—like medical care or emergency flights. So, it is not unheard of for Christians and Muslims to be on the same flight together in one of our aircraft,” said David. “I think it shows us as a trusted party to both groups.”

Because of your partnership with MAF, field staff are able to not only support the work of many other organizations and churches through flight services but also facilitate peace and reconciliation between rival groups.

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” – 2 Corinthians 5:18-19

 

Story appeared in FlightWatch. Read the full issue here:

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