When Muslims come to the Jewish-Christian table

study-862994_1280-771x514(RNS) — I spent the 16th anniversary of 9/11 at the 16th annual meeting of the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations, held under the joint auspices of the Union and Jewish theological seminaries in New York City. Appropriately, the central question before the group was how best to expand long-standing Jewish-Christian interfaith encounters in America to include Muslims.

My assignment was to discuss the use of “Judeo-Christian” language to reinforce the idea of a clash of civilizations. As in when Tony Perkins said on the Family Research Council’s “Washington Watch” in 2014, “We are a nation that was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, that’s the foundation of our nation, not Islam, but the Judeo-Christian God.”

Or when, last year, retired Air Force Col. Tom Snodgrass, a contributor to a website called Right Side News, referred to “the overt and covert war being conducted by the political forces of Islam in order to subjugate the Judeo-Christian religions and their societies.”

A fellow panelist was Columbia’s distinguished Middle East historian Richard Bulliet, who spoke about his “Islamo-Christian” conception, first published in 2004 as “The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization.” Bulliet’s idea is that theologically, doctrinally, and historically, Islam and Christianity have far more in common than most adherents of either faith tradition realize.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGIOUS NEWS SERVICE 

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Can Christians and Muslims Pray Together?

CRS | Lobaye Prefecture Emergency Food Security Project | Lobaye | Central African RepublicThere are two versions of this question. One is often asked in academic or ‘official’ settings, the other is ‘can we pray together’. This second question arises where Christians and Muslims meet together. Indeed it was asked at the first leaders event that the Christian Muslim Forum organised. We included Christian and Muslim prayers separately on the programme (something we still do). But even when we pray together, we tend to ‘do’ our own prayers. So what of praying together?

 When people ask the question I don’t think they mean “Can we share in saying a prayer together” i.e. can we all say the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ together? Although the Lord’s Prayer probably works quite well for Muslims (except for the opening words, ‘Our Father’). Nor are people saying “Can Christians join in the salah?” (Muslim congregational prayer). They want to know if we can sit, or stand, together and pray as a community of the faithful. What could be better or more normal for people of prayer?

Unless we have an immediate ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response we should admit that we’re not ready for this question. One approach might be to ask whether we are worshipping the ‘same God’ – which is probably another discussion. I personally find that an odd question, with its potential associations of strange and other ‘gods’.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN MUSLIM FORUM 

 

Muslim and Christian Religious Leaders Rally Together to Support Christians in Middle East

kaiciid_konferenz_unitedReligious leaders at Athens meeting to propose projects to support citizenship rights and peaceful coexistence between Christians, other religious and ethnic groups and Muslims.

Religious leaders from Christian and Muslim communities in the Middle East will gather in Athens in September to discuss plans to better support the citizenship rights of Christian, other religious and ethnic groups in Iraq and Syria.

The meeting, which will take place from 2 to 3 September, is a joint initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Vienna-based KAICIID Dialogue Centre, with the support of the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The meeting will bring together Christian and Muslim religious leaders from across the Middle East, including representatives from the Armenian, Catholic, Evangelical, Rum (Greek) Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Sunni, Shi’a and Druze communities.

His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel, who is a member of the KAICIID Board of Directors, said the meeting will give Muslim and Christian religious leaders the chance to intensify their joint work to address the critical situation facing Christians, and other minority groups, in Iraq and Syria, where violence and political upheaval have placed long-established communities in jeopardy.

“Christian communities are integral parts of the diverse societies of the Middle East. It is essential for religious leaders from all faiths and denominations to speak with one voice, and address this current crisis to preserve the endangered communities. Christian communities have lived in this region for over 2,000 years and contribute to all aspects of Middle Eastern societies. Their loss would be a catastrophe for coexistence and the region as a whole,” he said.

The meeting will underline the role of religious leaders as active peacemakers, rather than passive observers of religious co-existence and conflict. The leaders will take stock of the existing situation, map out requirements, share best practices and develop concrete follow-up measures that can be implemented at the regional level.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGIOUS NEWS SERVICE 

The Genocide Initiative – When Islam and Christianity come together against radicalism

topicBy Catherine Shakdom

Terror has a face and it moves under the ominous black flag of ISIS. Under each of its denomination, whatever the language and whichever the angle, terror today, has found a powerful vessel in the ideology carried by Wahhabism – the fountainhead of radicalism and religious extremism.

An evil onto the world, ISIS miasms have darkened the skies of Arabia, threatening to engulf regions and continents in their deadly and godless embrace. Before ISIS, no communities can claim shelter, no faith stands immune and no man, woman or child can hope to survive.

At such a time when terror is being debated in the public squares, its ideology dissected and its methodology studied; as experts and world leaders have scrambled to make sense of the nonsensical and thus find means to combat a movement rooted in hatred and blood, men of faith have stepped out of the shadow to reclaim God and reclaim Religion.

It all started with one man and a universal message of peace.

In October 2013, Dr John Andrew Morrow published a book, “The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad and the Christians of the World.” Meant as both a testament and a witness to Islam’s commitment to interfaith solidarity, Dr Morrow’s book found a deep echo among Muslims and Christians.

A bridge in between communities and a reminder of sacred oaths spoken long ago, The Covenants Initiative was born under the impetus of men such as Dr Morrow and Charles Upton, a light shone forth against the darkness of radicalism, a shield against the evil of war.

As words quickly spread and as more gathered around the Covenants Initiative, a plan began to form – one which would see men of all faiths come come together against takfirism.

Today, under the impetus of the Covenants Initiative and thanks to the courage of countless Muslims and Christians, a movement is being born – one which will fight evil with what is better, one which will answer violence with solidarity and unshakable resolve.

Today Muslims and Christians have said to be ready to break ISIS where it stands and denounce its deeds for what they are: religious genocide.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AHUL AL BAYT NEWS AGENCY 

Christians Join Muslims in Fasting for Ramadan

Like 1.6 billion Muslims around the world fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, Jeff Cook has been rising before dawn each morning to have breakfast. He doesn’t eat again until breaking his fast with dinner.

But Mr. Cook isn’t Muslim, doesn’t have close Muslims friends, and has never been inside a mosque. The Christian pastor from Greeley, Colo., is fasting for the 30 days of Ramadan, which ends Friday, as part of a nascent effort among American Christians to better understand and support Muslims.

Jeff Cook Published Credit: Kelly Cook

Muslims make up less than 2% of the U.S. population, and are expected to remain a small minority in the U.S. for decades, even as Islam grows rapidly in other parts of the world. Still, aggressive recruiting efforts by Islamic extremists in the West and calls for attacks from within has affected the larger Muslim community here, and colored many Americans’ views of them.

According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, Americans have more negative feelings toward Muslims than any other religious group.

“I’m fasting to remind myself there’s people all over the world that matter to God who embrace Islam,” Mr. Cook said recently. “I want to remind myself and my culture that we can have a different posture in our hearts toward those who embrace Islam.”

His fasting has been tested daily, most severely by a bag of Corn Nuts his family munched on during a five-hour road trip to South Dakota. His wife and two small sons support him, but aren’t fasting themselves.

He remembers thinking, “Those Corn Nuts look like filet mignon right now.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WALL STREET TIMES 

Islam in the Christian College?

imagesThe conference mentioned below in this previous post has been funded and will take place on the campus of Gordon College on September 21, 2015. For more information, write to cfi@gordon.edu or go to http://www.gordon.edu/islamintheclassroom)

In a post 9/11 world, engaging Islam in the college classroom is more important than ever. Unfortunately, too many evangelical schools are ill-equipped to meet the challenge. For that reason, I am working on a grant application presently titled “Islam in the Western Classroom: Challenges and Opportunities of Teaching about Islam in a post-9/11 World.” If successful, the grant would bring a conference to Gordon College, where I teach, at some point in the academic year 2014-15 or 2015-16. Below is the shape of my thinking so far. I’d welcome comments and questions from readers.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the complexities of the “Arab Spring,” and ongoing unrest in countries such as Syria and Egypt have brought the informed American citizen into almost daily media contact with events in countries with a predominantly Muslim citizenry. Since most of the coverage focuses on politics, foreign policy, and the immediate roots of violence, it is easy to ignore the deeper cultural and religious currents in the countries being covered. What is more, because of longstanding prejudice against and misinformation about Islam in the United States and other Western countries, it is all the more easy today for even the reflective student to associate Islam with violence and its extremist manifestations—which is, of course, not to say that those extremist manifestations are any less troubling! How then does one develop more nuanced, accurate knowledge?

I think evangelical/Christian colleges possess both assets and liabilities to answer this question. As church-related schools, they instinctively take religion seriously as a category of analysis in human affairs. They are not beholden to reductionist notions of “secularization” as the inevitable march of modern times nor are they given to explain religious behavior exclusively as manifestations of “deeper” socio-economic or political motivations. However, since many Christian colleges are more homogenous in their student and faculty make-up than larger public universities, they often have few or no practicing Muslims on their campuses. What is more, some schools are rooted in traditions whose past adherents (and, alas, some present ones) were more eager to refute or caricature before bothering to understand the religious Other—as fellow blogger Thomas Kidd has made clear in his excellent American Christians and Islam: Evangelical Culture and Muslims from the Colonial Period to the Age of Terrorism, a book, I am proud to say, that began in part as a lecture at Gordon College.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS 

Nigerian Christians Reach Out to Muslim Inmates Ahead of Ramadan

nigeriaKADUNA, NIGERIA— Christian clerics in Kaduna, Nigeria, this past week distributed food items to prisoners and underprivileged people to mark the start of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. Leaders said this was part of an effort to promote peace between the two main religions in the region.

For the last couple of years, members of the Peace, Revival and Reconciliation Foundation have visited prisoners in Kaduna to distribute food, soap and other items to Muslim inmates and pay fines for those serving short sentences. Ismail Saidu, who received donations recently on behalf of the Kaduna Central Prison, expressed his thanks, “and definitely, what they have given us, we are going to use it judicially.”

Pastor Yohanna Buru, who established the foundation, said the donations were being made to try to foster peace between Muslims and Christians “for mutual understanding, so that they may break their fast this evening and pray for our nation, pray for peace for this country, pray for peace in northern Nigeria, peace in Kaduna state and peace across the world.”

Buru said his organization wants to break the boundaries that divide groups along religious and ethnic lines and bring them together.

He also said that as he’s done for the past four years, he had secured the release of four inmates who were incarcerated for lesser crimes. “We don’t want to break the tradition. … Every year we are releasing Muslim prisoners for Ramadan fasting,” he said.

The pastor noted that some inmates were not guilty of any offense but were in jail because of failures in the country’s judicial system.

FULL ARTICLE FROM VOA NEWS