Missions in Contexts of Violence

by Keith E. Eitel, ed.

A collection of instructive essays and case studies.

William Carey Library, 1605 E. Elizabeth Street, Pasadena, CA 91104, 2007, 415 pages, $14.99.

Reviewed by James R. Krabill, senior executive for global ministries, Mennonite Mission Network, Elkhart, Indiana.

This book could not come at a better time. Religious tensions are on the rise in many parts of the world. There are increased reports of cultural and ethnic clashes, flagrant cases of economic disparity, and unprecedented numbers of international wars and regional armed conflicts, estimated at nearly two hundred in the last half century alone. Missionaries—God’s “ambassadors of reconciliation”—find themselves in many of these violent situations. And that is why this collection of instructive essays is so important.

Keith E. Eitel, dean of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, is the compiler and editor of the nineteen presentations offered in this volume. The book begins with two chapters reflecting on the history and global scope of missions in contexts of violence. The second and third sections focus respectively on “biblical and theological foundations” and “lifestyles, strategies, and practices.” The concluding section provides a wide range of case studies from times and places as diverse as Ethiopia, fifth and sixth-century Europe, Rwanda, Romania, Zimbabwe, the Middle East, and various inter-ethnic settings.

Christian witness in Islamic contexts receives the most attention here—almost half of the chapters. Other essays describe persecution at the hands of first-century Jewish authorities, tribal traditionalists, colonial governments, paranoid politicians, and Nazi and Communist regimes. A few disturbing accounts portray the Church experiencing threats, even torture and death, from other fellow Christians in Ethiopia, Romania, Rwanda, etc. Missing from this collection are stories from the Church’s struggles in China, in Hindu and Buddhist contexts, and in settings where urban violence prevails.

Readers of this volume are reminded of the complex nature and causes of violence, sometimes religious, other times economic, political, historical, or psychological. One chapter focuses on the cosmic origins of “spiritual warfare.” Another expounds on divine suffering (“the pain of God”) as demonstrated on the cross. Another warns Western Christians to avoid violent words (“vilifying Islam”) that will distance them from “those who Jesus … admonished them to love” (p. 199).

The book is a bit uneven in presentation. Essays range in style from quite popular to more academic. The shortest chapter is five pages in length; the longest is fifty-four. Some authors include numerous endnotes and robust bibliographies; others have none at all. Nonetheless, the volume is of great value and should be used widely in missionary training and in conversations with ministry partners around the world.

Check these titles:
Miller, Donald E., Scott Holland, Lon Fendall, and Dean Johnson, eds. 2007. Seeking Peace in Africa: Stories from African Peacemakers. Telford, Pa.: Cascadia Publishing House.

Nickel, Gordon. 1999. Peaceable Witness among Muslims. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press.

Swartley, Willard M. 2006. Covenant of Peace. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.

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Copyright © 2008 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.


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