Diverse Mennonite Attitudes toward World Religions—Missioners, Professors, and Bridge-builders

(Initially requested to be written for a possible interfaith resource in Europe which never materialized.

Instead of full footnotes, page numbers of sources in the bibliography appear in parentheses.)

Through the centuries many Mennonites have presumed a traditional, evangelical stance toward other religions, promoting an exclusivist view that Jesus alone is the prime channel to wholeness or God’s salvation. Yet, views have both lingered and changed.

Content, names, and groups noted here are representative. A half-century ago Mennonite Brethren missioner Peter Hamm noted “typical” Christian approaches toward other religions as: radical displacement, fulfillment, synthesis, or disconnection. At a Christology conference linked with a Mennonite Church Assembly in 1989, George Brunk III presented a paper titled “The Exclusiveness of Jesus Christ.” Responses followed: Gary Harder (Canada) focused two issues: belief about the “uniqueness of Christ” and sharing that belief in a pluralistic society. Missiologist Wilbert Shenk (U.S.) created fourteen thesis statements. A Muslim observed that Christian emphasis is “more on Christ as God than on God in Christ”; that judgement characterizes many Mennonites.

Thomas Finger observes Mennonite views of religious pluralism. His 1993 article details “official” statements from five U.S. Mennonite mission agencies and MCC (Mennonite Central Committee). Future discussion might well engage a group like Mennonite World Conference. Agencies “stress social ministries, find values in other religions, share openness to work and dialogue with other adherents on certain levels, or regard Jesus Christ as the ultimate, fully saving revelation of God.” [36] Among speakers at the “first-ever (1994) Mennonite Colloquium on religious pluralism,” Finger distinguishes:

a. historic Anabaptist affirmations: Jesus’ Way as “ultimate norm for all”; Way of peace, sharing, and justice; Way that appeals to the oppressed; Way that Christianity perverts; and b. current Mennonite affirmations: Approach religions with openness and willingness to learn; emphasize and embody Jesus’ story and Way; stress witness and respectful, open relationships. [Heim, 73-81, Colloquium paper 5-11]

While some conservative and moderate editors, pastors, and institution leaders choose to limit vision for the majority, other Mennonites find hope in more visionary convictions. Committed to witness to Jesus’ focus on God’s Way, the latter welcome religious people of all nations and trust God alone to frame faithfulness or means of wholeness. They credit and learn from Wisdom inherent among all people of faith and pattern Jesus’ model of peace and justice. For them, to confess belief does not excuse negation of what others hold sacred. They choose genuine dialogue over debate and avoid replacing God through near-idolatry of Jesus. Further, they honor God’s universal covenants in creation and with Noah, a bonding not replaced by later promise with Sarah and Abraham, law within the heart (Jer. 31:31-34), or through Jesus the Christ. Not presuming to limit God by calling a way “final,” these Mennonites expect new expressions of Divine love, Jesus’ broad presence through the universal Spirit, and a human call to stress presence with others. Neither silent about confession of faith nor prone to presume that they alone have religious Truth to share or teach, they truly exchange. Whereas exclusivists often resist learning from other religions, those freed to value the Wisdom inherent in plural Ways find new hope.

A key source for Mennonite views toward world religions is reading or hearing from those who have lived among other faiths for extended periods of time. Knowledge from well-written sources enables insight, but living among those who claim different religious truths teaches in more profound ways, both about sacred content and useful methods. Whatever the context, distinct Truth matters alongside majority view. Interaction brings related questions or follow-up comments to the fore: “Why? What do you mean by that? or Let me better explain myself.” Direct engagement enables checking private interpretation and weakness in absolute opinion. Without a doubt, attitudes of Mennonites toward world religions vary.

Mennonites as Missioners among Living Faiths

The “first genuine Mennonite Islamicist,” Roelf S. Kuitse was a Dutch Mennonite with a heritage of missionary endeavor from the early nineteenth century. Cooperating with a Baptist Missionary Society, some Dutch Mennonite families by then influenced banking, trading, and shipping. Not more or less pious than Mennonites elsewhere, resourceful Dutch, concerned for education, culture, and the spread of Christian faith, met other religions when linked to colonial efforts. After missioning in Indonesia and Ghana, Kuitse wrote as a faculty member from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries in the U.S. about Christians meeting Muslims. Aware that early twentieth century thought had naively presumed that other world religions would die out rather than know resurgence, Christians confronted their fears. They had negated Islam ever since presuming to “slay for God’s love” during the Crusades. [1981]

Kuitse explains three attitudes that people take toward Muslims: antithesis or negation of the other; synthesis in which Jewish, Christian, and Islamic ideas about history, prophets, and scripture merge, at times without due attention to distinct features; and dialogue which requires genuine listening, neighbor-love meeting, and honest seeking of truth together. Kuitse, through close attention to suras (Qur’an verses) and without projecting Christian concepts onto Qur’anic views, questions and explains Muslim understandings of prophets Mohammad and Jesus. He explains how Islam learns from, critiques, and interprets prior Jewish and Christian thought, religions that it presumes to correct and fulfill. [1992]

Russian Mennonite Brethren missioners first went to India in 1890. Others MB folk from the U.S. followed within the decade to the Hyderabad area where a few centuries earlier Sultan Quli Qutb Shah had governed. Family names like Pankratz, Hiebert, Neufeld and Wiebe mingled with Rao, Lemuel, Asheervadam, and Arnold. A fine book of Memoirs Sepia Prints reports on three generations of Wiebes via the middle voice of Viola Bergthold Wiebe. Her attitude of respect and acceptance avoids being driven to impose change on national folk. For example, Wiebe asked an Indian friend about her next visit to relatives. Without judging the woman’s consulting a priest or astrologer to learn her horoscope, Wiebe first learns about how a planet or star’s position might affect the woman’s travels. So also a retired son of Wiebe—sociologist and educator Paul—has done disciplined study of family, caste and other issues in order to comprehend church life. The “gospel is alive and well and being promoted” alongside thriving Hindu systems of belief and practice, he concludes.

Whereas ancient Indo-Aryans needed no word for “religion” because supernatural and natural worlds were not distinct, both Hinduism and Christianity now present more challenges. From early on, the MB church gained strength; it stressed “home missions” through the “understanding, acceptance, initiative, leadership, and effort of the local people.” [343]

Two early Mennonite Church missionaries—George J. Lapp and M. C. Lehman—wrote about connecting with Hinduism in central India. Arriving in Dhamtari in 1905, Lapp stayed almost forty years. He wrote extensively, to “enable future work in the country.” While he found little ennobling in Hindu religious holidays, he learned from Hindu “response in religious ways” to deities or spirits. He noted the “hold” that a heritage of spirit worship could retain for some Christian converts. Lapp’s study of “Strengths and Weakness of Hinduism” provides information without judgment on Hindu literature—deities, schools of philosophy, and aspects like devotion, superstition, festivals, and caste. Lapp believed that “no religion other than Hinduism needs to be so carefully studied by a missionary.” He valued understanding key points of contact between Christianity and Hinduism—bhakti (devotion) and moksha (liberation).

Some Mennonite missioners studied noted Indian men and themes. M.C. Lehman’s 1932 Yale University study—“The Religious Significance of the Writings of Harishchandra”—examines writer Harishchandra who lived from 1850 to 1885. Lehman’s interest centers in the religious concepts of Harishchandra’s work and the effect his 175 writings had on religious and secular life. Lehman spends considerable time with concepts of deity within Hinduism. Harishchandra’s orthodox stance finds divinity in all gods, but Krishna received his deepest devotion. Through bhakti, he offers his verse as sacrifice. As a bhakta, he cares little for the world but enjoys the Divine, addressed through adoration, not petition. As desired by all Hindus, Harishchandra longs to be free of samsara, to be absorbed into Eternal Brahma. Until that point, death and rebirth (transmigration) follow previous actions.

Although Mennonite Church missioner Weyburn Groff’s New York University PhD. was completed in 1963, it was not published until 2009. Titled Satyagraha and Nonresistance A Comparative Study of Gandhian and Mennonite Nonviolence, Groff sees faithfulness worked out in the context of multiple faiths. Hindu Gandhi valued Jesus’ nonviolent example alongside Hindu ahimsa, its relation to truth. Not passive non-killing, ahimsa requires “positive self-sacrificing love” to the point of appealing to the heart and mind of the opponent. Gandhi critiqued Christian lack of faithfulness to Jesus’ teachings and disliked missionary public berating of Hindu gods. Groff knows of no documents of Mennonite-Hindu understanding; most missioners and Indian Christians separated themselves from the fabric of Hindu culture.

After being a General Conference Mennonite hospital administrator for six years, Paul Dyck studied the prime Hindu loyalty to caste. His 1970 Master’s thesis titled “Emergence of New Castes in India” explains more than attitude toward world religions. It involves anthropology, cultural details, societal strata or privilege, labor patterns, regional tribal history, religious world view, Hindu Karma, power issues, and conversion of outcaste groups in rural India.

David W. Shenk grew up in Tanganyika. His journey with Muslims, like that for Eastern Mennonite Board missioners Calvin and Marie Shenk, covered four decades. Calvin emphasizes presence as the mode for relating with people of living faiths, as with Jews in Jerusalem. For ten years in Somalia, David knew primarily the broad, mainstream of conservative Sunni Islam. His writing often compares features or doctrines of Christianity and Islam.

Identified as dialogue, his book written with Muslim Badru D. Kateregga finds each one delve at length into major topics: There is no god but Allah/The Lord God is One; The Books of God/The Word or God; or The Prophets of Allah/The Prophets in History. Each writes a short response to the other’s chapters. However, noted Islamicist Kenneth Cragg wishes for the brief rejoinders to have been “either less predictable or more full.” [xiv] That 1980 book prompted Shenk to do further comparing, like Ishmael/Isaac, Prophet/Messiah, Qur’an/Bible, in his 2003 resource titled Journeys of the Muslim Nation and the Christian Church. While his Global Gods misses the complexity of a religion like Hinduism, his article about eschatology and mission explains well the Shai’a Mahdi (savior)’s return, his role with Jesus’ second coming to prepare the world for final judgment.

In October 2003 a Consultation took place at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. A resource followed titled Anabaptists Meeting Muslims. Facts and key issues noted at that event are worth noting.

Early on, Christendom was intolerant of pluralism. . . .At his trial before being executed, Anabaptist Michael Sattler called believers not to defend themselves against the Turks but to implore God to defend their resistance. . . . For every member of the Mennonite World Conference there are a thousand Muslims! . . . Where friendship and true respect exist—amidst social and political difference or in yearning by both parties to learn from the other’s sacred insight—dialogue about justice and reconciliation follows. . . . The Christian doctrine of Trinity prompts Islamic critique: They ask How one can be three? They confess that Allah cannot be compared with anything in creation.

Those who attended the Consultation discovered their best witness among Muslims to be presence. Presence means to identify with and listen, to confess to and learn from Muslims. . . . Presence means sharing people’s lives. Being Holy Spirit work, it demonstrates the gospel through being and doing. . . Living graciously with Muslims, with no intent to start churches or stress conversion often reveals God’s presence and invitation.

Historian John A. Lapp suggests that Christianse need to admit that Muslims define Christians as “bearers of the Crusades,” that Arabs are a minority within the Muslim community today. To engage with Muslims, Mennonites will explore how other Christians have related with them. From the nation with the largest Muslim population, Indonesian Mennonite leader Mesach Krisetya reminds all that missionary religions often pose a conquering strategy. Opponents for years, Christians feel threatened by Islam, and Muslims feel offended by former colonial powers, politics, and cultural arrogance. Krisetya urges pluralist sensitivity, aware that neither Muslims nor Christians lose identity through careful exchange.

Mennonite Professors Address Issues of World Religions

Only a few Mennonite professors who engage with religions in the classroom will be noted here. Whether while teaching at Harvard Divinity School, presenting at a 1994 Mennonite Peace Theology Colloquium, or writing God, Mystery, Diversity Christian Theology in a Pluralistic World, theologian Gordon Kaufman provides helpful insight. He finds building community, rather than walls, with religions such as Buddhism to be the “most profound religious necessity of our time.” Theologian John Howard Yoder makes clear that the Christian schism with Judaism did not need to occur; an attitude of supersession harms both groups. A 1987 dissertation of Lawrence M. Yoder, who lived nine years in Indonesia returning often since, treated a process that scholars link with aboriginal religion called “javanization.” He recently team-taught a course there with a Muslim woman scholar. J. Stanley Friesen’s dissertation addressed missionary responses to tribal religions. David A. Shank filled a distinct role by teaching the Harrist group of African tribal peoples the wisdom of its own leader’s synthesis. Not nudging them to change loyalty, the intent was to better understand and more deeply claim their religious heritage brought by William Wade Harris. That pattern reflects Gandhi’s hope—rather than convert, members of traditions improve their own faithfulness. Marlin Jeschke’s focus on Islam gives attention to Middle East land issues. C. Norman Kraus offers solid biblical insight, like the Genesis creation story told as salvation, for “Relating to People of Other Faiths.”

Among noted anthropologist Paul Hiebert’s extensive writing appears discussion of conversion in both Hinduism and Buddhism. Primarily a Jewish, Christian, and Muslim term, conversion within Hinduism suggests beginning a pilgrimage toward a worldview that seeks God and good, truth and light. Conduct that relieves ignorance and moves toward enlightenment over time matters, not a sudden change of belief or deliverance from sin. [10-11] Within Hindu social order (caste) and via lifelong paths of duty, devotion, or wisdom, a person longs for oneness with Reality, with the universe. Hiebert encourages Christians to respect such basic aspects of religious people. Buddhist’ compassion for the world expresses followers’ living out noble, multi paths. Wholeness (salvation) from within or through self-discipline within community prompts release from attachments, notes Hiebert. Conversion follows different patterns among Theravada, Mahayana, Pure Land School, Zen, and Tibetan Buddhists. While small communities of monks and nuns model nonattachment, for most Buddhists, conversion or spiritual merit involves practices of devotion, belief, prayer, chanting texts, and acts of compassion.

Mennonite Brethren Ronald W. Neufeldt, professor of Religious Studies at the University of Calgary in Canada, teaches and writes knowingly about Hinduism. His dissertation is a study of Hindu’s Rig-Veda text in the work and thought of F. Max Muller, German scholar noted for comparative religions. Neufeldt urges Mennonites to be rid of a hostile, bigoted response to non-western religious traditions, to honestly “question the exclusivist (arrogant attitude) of evangelical Christians.” [1983, 5] He wishes for Mennonites, who value adult voluntary confession of faith, to comprehend religious pluralism, to claim the Bible’s universalistic message. In the Ramakrishna Mission’s view of religious pluralism, other swamis and Ramakrishna go deeper than assert that “all religions are true,” Neufeldt says. Intent to counter dogmas like “my religion alone is true,” they point to Advaita’s higher wisdom. All paths or understandings prepare for realizing Truth, “that God is all.” A single-minded, loving devotion to God (bhakti) will also counter attachments, they purport.

Having grown up in India’s General Conference Mennonite mission context, Joyce Burkhalter Flueckiger, professor of Religion at Emory University, Atlanta, GA, has pursued remarkable research with rural folk lore (India’s Chhattisgarh region), Muslim healing (Amma in Hyderabad), and village goddess protection (Gangamma in Tirupati, Tamil Nadu). Through deep relations among ordinary people, Flueckiger becomes well-informed: of Hindu village perceptions and implications from religious boundaries and social identity through song; of the diverse religious landscape (Hindu and Christian in addition to Muslim) of spiritual power within a healing room; of how the land or human community may be protected from illness or drought. People loyal to different religions will be devoted (have bhakti) or know energy (shakti or spirit), value water for sacred rituals, or pray “Ram” in puja, “Rahim Rahim” in namaz, or “Spirit of God.”

Everyday, sacred experience matters also to professor Chad Bauman, world religions professor at Baylor University. His dissertation study titled Christian Identity and Dalit Religion in Hindu India, 1868-1947 reveals how culture, one aspect of which is religion, lives. Attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors might have been imposed or adopted in a region like Chhattisgarh where missioners appeared long before Mennonites. People on the “far side of the river Indus” had much earlier been given the generalized name Hindu by colonial agents, despite their diverse beliefs and practices. Bauman perceives that, in the context of great traditions like puja (worship) and prasad (food offered to gods), most rural Hindus in India resonate with festivals and attend to many “small-time gods and local goddesses.” [37] In rural settings, thought-worlds of Muslim, Christians, and other non-Hindus pervade. Hindus can think that conversion from majority to minority faiths, especially to Christianity, is “tantamount to sedition.” A missioner can be “reproof” to another’s way of thinking, to the other’s view of the world or claim to community, notes Bauman. [71-75] Western Mennonites who think that Jesus alone answers all people’s spiritual needs may fail to understand such issues, even while caring deeply for people’s physical or spiritual well-being, this writer suggests.

Mennonite Jon Hoover’s walk with Islam has occurred in different locations. When a student of Coptic Christianity in Egypt in 1994, he listed foundations for dialogue with Islam: Christians will regard Muslims as created in God’s image and endowed with God’s Spirit. While both groups claim dialogue as God’s gift and expressive of God’s love, Christians find Christ’s resurrection power to sustain and deepen it. Hoover’s PhD from the University of Birmingham in 2002 addressed “An Islamic Theodicy: Ibn Taymiyya on the Wise Purpose of God, Human Agency, and Problems of Evil and Justice.” Medieval Ibn Taymiyya’s philosophical theodicy regarding the best-of-all-possible-worlds attracted later Sunni Muslims. While Christians and Muslims believe differently about God’s dealing with evil, they share challenges when facing senselessness and tragedy. After teaching in Beirut, Hoover and his wife Jacqueline located in Nottingham, England where he teaches at the University and she continues a teaching ministry in Christian-Muslim relations. Jon’s non-polemical response to the 2007 Muslim initiative titled “A Common Word between Us and You” explains issues more fully than responses sent by ‘official’ Mennonite Church national bodies. “A Common Word,” sent from Jordan and signed by 138 Muslim leaders, welcomes Christians and Muslims (together, 55% of world population) to build peace, despite particular differences about what else matters. Peace may emerge through common threads of the Unity of God, need for total devotion to God, and love of neighbor.

Retired seminary professor Gayle Gerber Koontz has represented Mennonites with Faith and Order of the U.S. National Council of Churches. Although Mennonites are nonmembers of NCC, the ecumenical group addresses theological and church concerns. At the 1994 Peace Theology Colloquium, Gerber Koontz presented theologian John Howard Yoder’s confessional motivation for interreligious exchange. Committed to the lordship of Christ—through servanthood, radical vulnerability, humble truth seeking—Yoder’s criteria for dialogue involve respect for the dignity of those who differ, including the dialogue partner, and openness to new truth. While God engages in self-revelation in multiple ways other than Judeo-Christian history, Jesus serves as the norm for Christians, confesses Yoder. He calls us to exchange with neighbors in love, solidarity, and justice, so that others “might see Jesus.” Near the end of the paper, Gerber Koontz describes Yoder as expecting to hear and learn from the other. She explains three features of exclusiveness—definitional, attitudinal, and sociological—that emerge in Christocentric theology. She finds Yoder’s Christocentric correcting of self-righteousness to be through following Jesus more fully—pro poor, anti-powerful living—whereas Christian theocentrism corrects through admitting human limits to knowing God’s fullness. She writes of Yoder’s openness to discover “nonessential but valuable truth or insight” from those of other religious traditions. Potentially arrogant if “nonessential” describes dimensions that do not promote “Jesus’ lordship”; using it may offend what other people of faith find to be part of God’s design, their bond with Essence.

Mennonites as Bridge-builders with people loyal to World Religions

As this content reflects, Mennonite women have written about and engaged less than men with world religions. Wishing that fact to change, I welcome other women to add their voices to my 2010 Multifaith Musing: Essays and Exchanges. Through essays and imagined dialogue between people of similar or different living faiths, I seek to inform about religions, be loyal in confession, and inspire interfaith openness.

In 2001 MCC worker Marian E. Hostetler prepared a booklet titled “What is Islam? Who are the Muslims?” useful for youth. Two years later she wrote Algeria Where Mennonites and Muslims Met 1955-1978. The twenty-three year story of “Mennonite encounter with a Muslim Culture” describes the aftermath of earthquake and war years, shifts in understanding Algerian people, why “Christian presence” matters, and ways to avoid polemics and western culture.

Other women linked with Islam to note: Bertha Beachy valued a public bookstore manager role while missioning for decades among Muslims of Somalia, with many former nomads. Her speaking ministry in U.S. churches after retiring reveals knowledge of and deep respect for Islamic traditions. A distinct MCC role for volunteer Keziah Conrad transpired with the Pontanima Interreligious Choir—part of Face to Face organized during Bosnia’s war. As members of Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim, and Jewish traditions fought, others joined to sing each other’s religious songs together. Sonia Weaver, who lived a decade among Arabs and Muslims in Palestine, tells about garments worn by women under their public Islamic garb and their involvement in religious tasks, except for public prayer. Graduate student Susan Kennel Harrison writes about: Shi’a Muslim and Christian spirituality, the Society for Scriptural Reasoning which gathers Jews, Christians, and Muslims for “respectful disagreement,” and a conference in the conservative city of Qom, Iran.

MCC workers have engaged religious and cultural issues in the Middle East since the 1940s; mission agencies placed workers there during the ‘50s. Aware of resurgence within Islam, John A. Lapp encouraged Mennonites to “take more seriously the authenticity of other people and the reality of their faith.” [1980, 67] While Alain Epp Weaver says, “Working with people of other faiths is simply an unavoidable condition of the church’s mission in a multi-faith globe,” [161] he cautions against labeling the Palestinian-Israeli conflict interfaith. Rather, it is a settler-colonial movement seeking control over an indigenous people who resist that power. A group formed at Eastern Mennonite University (VA) called Abraham’s Tent brought together “a synergy of academics and action.” (Might including Sarah and Hagar in the group title that honors Jews, Christians, and Muslims matter?) Anabaptist nonviolence, service, and justice values prompt Center members to listen and learn, discover common ground, and show hospitality toward strangers and difference. Two noted speakers were Muslims from Iran.

Among others, Ed Martin describes the service-based, interfaith bridge-building that MCC has pursued with the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute in Qom, Iran. As two students (with families) from Iran pursue graduate degrees at Toronto School of Theology in Canada, Mennonite couples named Hange, Shellenberger, and Pierce spent three years each studying Shi’a Islam and related topics at IKERI while living with Muslims. In addition, MCC has engaged around twenty scholars at several academic-style conferences in the two locations. Both distrust and trust surface. The minority Shi’a (14% of Islam) and Mennonites “sharpen their own faith and expand their understanding of God, while increasing their understanding of ‘the other’ as they build friendships.” [2] Roy Hange notes events titled “The Challenges of Modernity” and “Revelation and Authority,” discussions that brought dignity and awareness. Although Hange differs on elements of faith, he honors the faithfulness and worship of Allah displayed in Muslim friends. As participants reveal conviction to the point of wishing the other might choose their faith, each honors the other’s choice.

Other resources of Mennonite writing about world religions deserve mention. Brice Balmer’s Meeting Our Multifaith Neighbors is based in lived experience with the Interfaith Grand River group of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Issues of isolation, hostility, and power are faced. Not conversion-driven, interfaith members draw on Henri Nouwen’s vision for seeking openness to God’s presence along with concern for all people. They dialogue and witness to truth without arrogance; they learn from Others’ unique experience with the Divine to enhance their own faithfulness and solidarity.

Also, in Borders & Bridges Mennonite Witness in a Religiously Diverse World, accounts reveal interfaith and intra-Christian relationships. Accounts reveal that unity of truth requires living identity deeply and fully, without denial of difference. . . . Islamic consolidation of power, colonialism, and Christian missions all affected later ethno-religious conflict in Nigeria, calling for transformation. . . . Nonviolence includes refusal of aggressive or deceptive evangelism. . . . United Mission to Nepal director Ed Metzler, when called on to lead a memorial service for many killed in a Thai Airways flight that crashed in Kathmandu, included prayers and readings from sacred texts of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Zoroastrians, and both Catholics and Protestants. . . . Responding to human need gains precedence over doctrinal difference.

A final Mennonite to name, one with extensive engagement with people loyal to living faiths, is Doug Hostetter. His first MCC assignment in Vietnam during the American war was in Tam Ky, a village amidst heavy combat 150 miles below the Demilitarized Zone. He asked what the local people most wanted. On learning that education for their children had priority, Hostetter explored with Christian groups in the area. The Protestant pastor’s priority was “to win souls for Christ,” not help with literacy. The Catholic priest agreed, as long as the youth group worked with Catholic children—an option that would neglect Buddhist children (90%). When Hostetter asked the monk in charge of Buddhist youth to help, he agreed, without reservation—a striking learning for the Mennonite. On leaving three years later, a good friend ended a long poem for Hostetter with: “Your life has been like a tear in the eye of Buddha, crying for the suffering of the people of Tam Ky.” [“God,” 6]

During the 1990s’ major conflict in Bosnia, Hostetter became involved with a Fellowship of Reconciliation program to bring Muslim or inter-ethnic young people to the U.S. for school. Families of Jewish, Muslim, or Christian faiths, open to tolerance and pluralism, needed to be willing to care for traumatized youth of several faiths from a socialist state. Responding to another American war, Hostetter joined several NGOs to take food and blankets (worth $130,000) into northern Afghanistan. He saw other NGO efforts that rebuilt homes, homes destroyed by U.S. tax dollars. He has also been to the Islamic Republic of Iran, meeting with professors and Shi’a Muslims in places where, as is typical, minority religions have diminished rights. Recently retired from being director of the MCC United Nations Liaison Office, Hostetter works at bridge-building, hosting formal and informal meetings, learning from international speakers and staff. His project for multi-faith dialogue links the World Council of Churches UN Liaison Office, the US Federation for Middle East Peace, and International Society for Iranian Culture. Not surprising, Hostetter’s marriage is with a Jew.


Balmer, Brice H. Meeting Our Multifaith Neighbors. Scottdale, PA: Herald Pr., 2006.

Bauman, Chad M Christian Identity and Dalit Religion in Hindu India, 1868-1947. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008

Brunk, George III. “The Exclusiveness of Jesus Christ,” in Jesus Christ and the Mission of the Church Contemporary Anabaptist Perspectives. Erland Waltner, ed. Newton, KS: Faith & Life Pr,, 1990.

Dula, Peter and Alain Epp Weaver. Borders & Bridges Mennonite Witness in a Religiously Diverse World. Telford, PA: Cascadia Pub House, co-published with Herald Pr., Scottdale, PA, 2007.

Dyck, Paul I. Emergence of New Castes in India. Master of Arts Thesis, Univ. of Manitoba, June 1970.

Finger, Thomas. “A Mennonite Theology for Interfaith Relations,” in Grounds for Understanding ecumenical resources for responses to religious pluralism. S. Mark Heim, ed., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998, 69-92. [Also, his 1994 MCC Peace Theology Colloquium speech, xeroxed 33 pp.]

Finger, Thomas. “Waiting for the Mahdi,” Christian Century, June 17, 2008, 27-8.

Finger, Thomas N. “What are Mennonites Saying about Religious Pluralism?” Mission Focus, vol. 1, 1993, 33-37.

Flueckiger, Joyce Burkhalter. Gender and Genre in the Folklore of Middle India. Delhi: Oxford Univ Pr., 1996.

Flueckiger, Joyce Burkhalter. In Amma’s Healing Room Gender and Vernacular Islam in South India. Bloomington: Indiana Univ Pr., 2006.

Flueckiger, Joyce Burkhalter. When the World Becomes Female Guises of a South Indian Goddess. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Pr.,

[Written after this article: Flueckiger, Joyce Burkhalter. Everyday Hinduism. West Sussex: Wiley/Blackwell, 2015.]

Groff, Weyburn W. Groff. Satyagraha and nonresistance A comparative study of Gandhian and Mennonite nonviolence. Elkhart, IN: Institute of Mennonite Studies, co-published with Herald Pr, 2009.

Hamm, Peter M. “A Reappraisal of Christianity’s Confrontation with Other Religions,” in The Church in Mission. A. J. Klassen, ed. Fresno, CA: Bd. of Christian Lit., MB Church, 1967, 222-50.

Hiebert, Paul G. “Conversion in Hinduism and Buddhism,” in Handbook of Religious Conversion. H. Newton Malony & Samuel Southard, eds., Birmingham, AL: Religious Ed. Pr., 1992, 9-21. See also his 2008 Transforming Worldviews An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Hostetler, Marian E. Algeria Where Mennonites and Muslims Met 1955-1978. Elkhart, IN: self pub, 2003. Also Hostetler’s booklet: “What is Islam? Who are the Muslims?” Elkhart: self pub, 2001, 25 pp.

Hostetter, Doug. “A time to heal A time to rebuild,” The Mennonite, Nov 19, 2002, 14-16.

Hostetter, Doug. “God is Bigger than You Think, My God was too Small,” 9 pp. [given by author]

Hoover, Jon. A Common Word “More positive and open, yet mainstream and orthodox,” Theological Review, XXX 2009, 50-77.

Hoover, Jon. “A Typology of Responses to the Philosophical Problem of Evil in the Islamic and Christian Traditions,” The Conrad Grebel Review, 21/3, Fall 2003, 81-95.

Hoover, Jon. “Theological Foundations for Dialogue with Islam,” MCC Peace Office Newsletter, Sept-Oct 1994, 1-2.

Kateregga, Badru D. and David W. Shenk. Islam and Christianity A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue. Nairobi, Kenya, Uzima Pr., 1980.

Kaufman, Gordon D. God, Mystery, Diversity Christian Theology in a Pluralistic World. Mnpls.: Fortress Pr., 1996.

Kaufman, Gordon D. “Mennonite Peace Theology in a Religiously Plural World,” The Conrad Grebel Review, 14/1, Winter 1996, 33-47, Response by Scott Holland, 48-56. [Other Colloquium speeches also appear here.]

Koontz, Gayle Gerber. “Evangelical Peace Theology and Religious Pluralism: Particularity in Perspective,” The Conrad Grebel Review, 14/1, Winter 1996, 57-85, Response by A. James Reimer, 86-89.

Krabill, James R., David W. Shenk, and Linford Stutzman, eds. Anabaptists Meeting Muslims A Calling for Presence in the Way of Christ. Scottdale, PA: Herald Pr., 2005.

Kuitse, Roelf S. “Christology in the Qur’an,” Missiology: An International Review, XX/3, July 1992, 355-69.

Kuitse, Roelf S. “When Christians and Muslims Meet,” Mission Focus, 9/1, Mar 1981, 1-4.

Kraus, C. Norman. “Relating to People of Other Faiths,” in Intrusive Gospel? Christian Mission in the Postmodern World. C. Norman Kraus. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Pr., 1998, 111-41.

Lapp, George J. “Strengths and Weaknesses of Hinduism,” Mennonite Archives, George Lapp, Box 4, within “Historical Development of Hindu Society,” Goshen College, Goshen, IN.

Lapp, John A. The View from East Jerusalem. Scottdale, PA: Herald Pr., 1980.

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[Written after this article: Nyce, Dorothy Yoder. Mennonites Encounter Hinduism An Annotated Bibliography. Elkhart, IN: Duly Pr., Self-published, 2015.]

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[Written after this article: Wiebe, Paul D., Compiler. Minnesota Farm Boy Missionary to India, John A. Wiebe in His Diaries & Personal Correspondence. 2018.]

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