Moving Toward the Enemy: A Case for Missiological Engagement in Counter/Deradicalization

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Moving Toward the Enemy: A Case for Missiological Engagement in Counter/Deradicalization

Gustafson, Scott. “Moving Toward the Enemy: A Case for Missiological Engagement in Counter/Deradicalization.” Journal for Deradicalization, no. 25 (January 2021): 117–57.

Date Published: 1 January 2021
Author(s): Scott Gustafson


The church on mission, especially in the Middle East, has been a controversial topic with memories of the Crusades and colonialism burned deep in the psyche of the region. While much attention has been paid to the implications of Islamic Theology in conversations about extremism and radicalization in the Middle East, Christian Theology and Missiology, have been largely neglected. The great migratory people movements of the last few years, especially in the Middle East, have brought the church into more intimate contact with historic enemies and the results are arguably unprecedented. Unexpected stories of worldview change among former extremists and exponential church growth in the Levant are widespread. This paper illustrates the phenomenon with stories from Lebanon which provide an interesting laboratory for research into how the church has contributed to the deradicalization of Syrian Muslim refugees. Common ground between the fields of missiology and de/counter radicalization is explored and time is taken to orient those who may be new to missiology to the concepts of doing justice, loving neighbor and loving enemy as integral practices of the Christian faith. Finally, this paper attempts to demonstrate that the church may have a role to play in de/counter radicalization if it is given space to carry out its natural mission and intervene pragmatically in social ills that are often drivers of radicalization, ideological re-pluralization and the creation of spaces for societal belonging. The paper closes with some practical suggestions for both fields and suggest that in our increasingly pluriform and globalized society we cannot afford continued isolation and kinetic measures as the primary tactics for countering and preventing extremism.