A Deadly Misunderstanding: “Miracle In The Sahara” - Bridges To Common Ground

Chapter 5

"Miracle In The Sahara"

“It is a miracle,” he said, and I had to agree.

“What happened next seemed almost like a dream. We sat together and talked about the Qur’an and the Bible, about the teachings of Jesus/Isa and the real spirit of “submission” and “surrender” that was meant by the words later translated as “convert,” about the linguistic unity of Allah and Alaha and Elohim, about the gulf of suspicion and misunderstanding between the civilizations of East and West.And then, a little ways into our dinner, I surprised myself again by saying, “Look, I have a suggestion. Why don’t you stop fighting the Moroccans?”

Just as it had before, all conversation at the table stopped again. The warrior president looked at me and said, “How? What can we do? How would we go about doing this?”

“Why don’t you just . . . stop?” I replied. “Instead of fighting, let’s pray. Your people and my people believe in the same God, right? Let’s pray. Tell you what, let’s commit to pray together for the next six months. Our beliefs may be different, but they’re not so different. We both believe in the power of the unseen world. We can pray together, whether it’s through the Isa of the Qur’an or the Jesus of the Injil, or to God or Allah. And if nothing has happened after six months, then you can start fighting again, and I’ll be the first one to support you.”

Then he nodded thoughtfully and smiled. “All right. I’ll do it.”

“The next day, Muhammad Abdelaziz stopped fighting and called for a cessation of all hostilities. In May, a meeting of experts convened at the Norwegian embassy in Washington to assess the feasibility of the plan. Among them was the former U.S. secretary of state, James A. Baker III, who became so involved in the issue that several years later he was appointed the United Nations’ special envoy to the Western Sahara. The wheels of peace negotiation were suddenly turning—in high gear.”“Years later, when I had the chance to meet with Jim Baker, I asked him, “What made you get involved in the Sahara? Of all the conflicts in the world, of all the possibilities for brokering peace, what in the world made you choose this relatively out-of-the-way place in the desert of western Africa?”

He thought about it for a moment, shrugged, and said, “To tell you the truth, I really don’t know. I just felt compelled.”

That fall, President Abdelaziz traveled to the United States and on his visit he had the chance to sit down with me in a private meeting in Virginia. He shared what had transpired during the previous six months and shook his head, grinning from ear to ear.

“It is a miracle,” he said, and I had to agree. “El-hmdulellah!”

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Congressman Mark Siljander recounts his spiritual odyssey from an anti-Muslim Christian conservative to a pioneer in discovering ground-breaking common roots between Islam and Christianity, while trailblazing a unique diplomatic path for bringing the two communities together on the principles of Jesus.

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