Interfaith events excellent way to thwart senseless violence

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Guest columnist Zohaib Zafar is a graduate student at Cleveland State University and a member of the Muslim Writers Guild of America.

A few weeks ago, in the Portland train attacks, three people were stabbed after they tried protecting two teenage girls from a terrorist named Jeremy Christian. One of the two girls was Muslim and wore the hijab. Christian told the girls they were nothing and that they should kill themselves, and he also reportedly said, “Muslims should die.”

It took three days for any condemnation of this terrorist attack to be displayed on President Trump’s social media. Furthermore, Trump’s response was tweeted using the Twitter account that he inherited from President Obama and not his own account, thus he did not reach many of his supporters.

Trump is very quick to condemn terrorist attacks that Muslims perpetrate in the West, but when they are perpetrated by those who are not Muslim, the response is not immediate, and often there is no response at all. If Trump continues to do this, he will leave a legacy in which he was more committed to serving his political interests than the safety of Americans.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CLEVELAND.COM

Peace will require leaders, Christian and Muslim, to address real grievances

Afghans perform prayers at the funeral for the victims killed by an air strike called in to protect Afghan and U.S. forces during a raid on suspected Taliban militants, in Kunduz(RNS) We are living through dangerous times. Christians and Muslims cannot afford more misunderstanding.

The challenges our world is facing are profound: The U.S. has forces engaged in armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, among other places. We have global poverty and starvation, threatening several places such as Yemen and East Africa.

The more wars the U.S. is fighting in Muslim lands, the more grievances Muslims will have. You would think that after decades of fighting these unwinnable wars we would have learned that negotiations will bring better results. But no, we are still expanding our engagement; it seems war is our default position.

In the meantime, organizations with warped ideas about Islam, like ISIS, keep finding new recruits as long as they can claim that Islam is under attack from the U.S. and its allies and that the future of Islam is in grave danger.

Intellectuals of goodwill, both Christian and Muslim, thought peace would begin if we could only identify convincing common ground for adherents of the two religions. They launched the Common Word Initiative. But this was not enough.

People on both sides have grievances and they need to feel their grievances are recognized and properly addressed.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS

Interfaith event sparks misunderstanding, goes viral

news_interfaith_johnson_web-1-696x275Portland State hosted a panel of six students from different religious backgrounds titled “Unpacking Misconceptions” on Wednesday, April 26, 2017 in the basement of Smith Memorial Student Union. A Muslim student who organized the interfaith event and spoke on the panel said he intended it to be an opportunity to convene with people from diverse religious backgrounds, humanize these varying perspectives and educate one another through mutual understanding.

“On a daily basis you interact with people of different religions,” the event organizer said.* “You say hi to them, but instead of asking those people about their religions and beliefs, we rely on the media to teach us about what these people we work with believe. The interfaith event was designed to be a place to share, not debate, personal beliefs with others from different backgrounds. People have misconceptions about what other people believe, and this event was intended to be a productive place to unpack those ideas with fellow students.”

The student organizer made several remarks while on the panel, though a specific comment in response to an audience question has been widely shared on social media and later criticized by far-right media outlet Breitbart.

In spite of outside misconception, faiths unite against killing

During a question and answer portion of the event, the event organizer responded to a question.

A Christian member of the audience asked the organizer to clarify a specific part of the Quran that states killing an innocent person is like killing all of humanity. The audience member wanted to know how the organizer, a Muslim, would respond to rumors that this message refers to Muslims killing Muslims and that non-Muslims, “I suppose the term would be infidels,” were not included in the innocents mentioned.

“So, I can confidently tell you, when the Quran says an innocent life, it means an innocent life, regardless of the faith, the race, like, whatever you can think about as a characteristic,” the organizer stated. “And some, this, that you’re referring to, killing non-Muslims, that is only considered a crime when the country’s law, the country is based on Quranic law—that means there is no other law than the Quran. In that case, you’re given the liberty to leave the country, you can go in a different country, I’m not gonna sugarcoat it. So you can on a different country, but in a Muslim country, in a country based on the Quranic laws, disbelieving, or being an infidel, is not allowed so you will be given the choice.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM PORTLAND STATE VANGUARD 

‘Watu Wote’ film showcases Muslims’ love for Christians

31134-christian-muslim-facebook.800w.tnPeople from different faiths can extend kindness, show respect to one another, and forge friendships, and this is what the new film “Watu Wote,” which means “All of Us,” seeks to prove.

The film, which is set to premiere next month, will share the ordeals faced by a group of Muslims who went out of their way to protect Christians from the al-Shabaab militants, according to Christian Daily.

 The Christian bus passengers were ambushed in Mandera, Kenya in December 2015. Kenya’s northeastern region chief administrator Mohamud Saleh told Al Jazeera that the militants tried to flag the bus down. When the driver refused to stop, they fired shots at it, instantly killing two passengers and injuring several others.

When the militants got inside the bus, they asked the 62 Muslims on board to point out the Christian passengers. However, the Muslims refused to do so. Even though the militants threatened to kill or harm them should they refuse to cooperate, the Muslim passengers bravely protected the Christians and stood their ground.

“Watu Wote” director Katja Benrath, who studies at the Hamburg Media School in Germany, is simply astounded by the kindness and bravery shown by these Muslims to Christians on that fateful day. For her, their actions only prove that there is hope for humanity.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN TODAY 

Reading Scripture Across Interfaith Lines

This article appeared some time ago in Christian Century.  It offers a suggestion as to how Christians and Muslims and Jews can get together in positive ways to reflect on each other’s sacred texts and the lives that are shaped by them.  Such projects are sorely needed in the current political climate in the West. 

by Jeffrey W. Bailey

Jeffrey W Bailey is a Ph.D. candidate in political theology at the University of Cambridge. This article appeared in The Christian Century, September 5, 2006 pp. 36-42. Copyright by the Christian Century Foundation; used by permission. Current articles and subscriptions information can be found at www.christiancentury.org. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


On a blustery Wednesday evening in central London, about a dozen people from different parts of the city made their way to St. Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace. They included an attorney from a large London law firm, a political lobbyist, a corporate consultant, a Muslim college chaplain, a university professor, a female rabbi and a research scientist. After pouring cups of coffee, the group began a two-hour discussion marked by moments of intense debate as well as laughter. Conversation veered from economics to the nature of citizenship to London politics.

One might think this was a meeting of a neighborhood council or Chamber of Commerce, except for one thing: in front of each participant were selections from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Qur’an.

After finishing its discussion of a passage from the Hebrew Bible, the group began focusing on a passage from Matthew’s Gospel in which Jesus instructs his questioners to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”

“I thought most Christians read this as justification for supporting their government’s policies,” said a Muslim participant, looking up from his text. “I was taught that in my church growing up, actually,” said one woman, a bit sheepishly.

“I wonder if Jesus isn’t saying something a bit more subversive than ‘be a good citizen,”’ suggested a Jewish participant. “Perhaps Jesus is actually making a larger point about an alternative economic system.”

This looks like a Bible study. But St. Ethelburga’s is a public space, not a church or temple, and the participants are Jewish, Christian and Muslim. Profound religious differences emerge over the course of conversation.

But the participants share one important conviction: they believe that the resolution of religiously rooted political tensions will be attained not by avoiding religion in public, but by initiating more and better religious conversations in public.

Participants in this practice, known as scriptural reasoning, are part of a movement that wants to protect religiously plural societies while simultaneously encouraging religious people to enter more deeply into public discourse. Such aims might appear paradoxical to those who were taught that the emergence in the 17th century of secular liberalism, with its privatization of faith, rescued the West from “wars of religion.” Voices on all sides of the religious and political spectrum have begun to recognize — not least because of the increased presence of Islam in Western societies — that a purely secular, liberal approach to public discourse is not sustainable in a world increasingly shaped by religions.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION ONLINE 

 

 

I’m a Christian and an Interfaith Educator. America Needs Islam.

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Elizabeth is a Presbyterian-Quaker serving as Interfaith Engagement Fellow at Davidson College in North Carolina. 

 

I am a Christian who was raised, and now choose, to profess Christ as Lord and Savior. I was born into a white middle-class family in suburban Maryland. I was part of the majority of Americans who received little education on Islam. I didn’t know that, in addition to sharing a common humanity, we also shared core teachings of our faith. It was not until I left home, at age 17 that I even met anyone who identified as Muslim.

Now I work at Davidson College in the Chaplain’s Office, as an interfaith educator. My job includes supporting students who live faithfully according to the practice and teachings of Islam. Every day, I find that students who identify as Muslim teach me to be a better Christian and a better citizen.

Islam deeply values humility. The Arabic word Muslim means “one who submits [to God].” Submission takes many forms, including daily time for prayer and bowing oneself before God, offering hospitality to one’s family and neighbors, and cherishing peace. I learn from practitioners of Islam the teaching of Jesus that “those who humble themselves will be exalted,” for they place God before all else (Matthew 23:12). Without humility, we destroy our own social fabric.

FULL ARTICLE FROM SOJOURNER’S MAGAZINE 

 

 

Ohio, Where Muslim and Christian Refugees Form ‘Impossible’ Friendships

lead_960Stepping out of an apartment complex into a warm Ohio night, Nashwaan Saddoon got into an old minivan and drove through Toledo to a hookah joint called Rocket Lounge. Sitting beside him was his friend, Amjad Arafeh. The two men had met only five months earlier, but they lived in the same building and already they were very close, despite their different backgrounds. Saddoon, an Iraqi Christian refugee, had been kidnapped and held hostage by Islamic State militants a few years before. Arafeh, a Syrian Muslim refugee, had escaped shelling and bombing in Damascus.

When the minivan pulled up to Rocket Lounge, Saddoon and Arafeh joined the group of Arabs and Midwesterners assembled outside for their monthly Sawa gathering. Sawa, which means “together” in Arabic, is a community initiative designed to introduce refugees to Americans and to each other

At this particular gathering, someone needed a letter from the Lucas County Department of Jobs and Family Services translated from English into Arabic. He passed the paper around to get advice from the other men, including a refugee from Sudan, a Syrian American who had arrived four years earlier, a Toledo resident named Jake, and a case manager from a local refugee assistance organization.

Amid the serious business, men cracked jokes and took jabs at one another. Some seemed eager to have a guys’ night out, while others, in their silence, were harder to gauge. Saddoon and Arafeh sat side by side, chatting and laughing.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ATLANTIC