MUSLIMS SPLIT ON INTERFAITH TALKS
Speaking of interfaith dialogue, as I will be below, an all-Muslim conference on that subject opened in Saudi Arabia yesterday, but this report suggests that it exposed some internal Muslim rifts on the subject. This Saudi conference, attended by King Abdullah, is supposed to be a forerunner of a later conference involving Muslims, Christians and Jews. I trust no on is shocked that there are divisions among Muslims on this subject, just as there are divisions among Christians and among Jews. Such differences of opinion are just one reason this work so is difficult. By the way, to read the report on this Muslim gathering from the Arab News, an English-language Saudi paper,click here.
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A WISE WORD OF INTERFAITH CAUTION
I have said here, in columns and in various speeches that interfaith dialogue is difficult if it's done right. If it's easy, it means the participants aren't being as forthright as is needed for everyone to understand everyone else.
It requires honesty coupled with respect.
I was glad to hear a similar message the other evening from someone else. I attended "The Abrahamic Faiths" awards banquet sponsored by Al-Inshirah Islamic Center, a mosque near 36th and Troost whose congregation is made up predomininatly of African-Americans.
One of the award winners was the Rev. Wallace S. Hartsfield (pictured here), who retired late last year from the senior pastorate of Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, which he had served for several decades.
Wallace said that he has shared his Christian faith with non-Christians and has sat at the feet of non-Christians who shared their faith with him: "I am the richer because of it," he said.
But then, in response to the announcement that area Muslims, Christians and Jews have committed to build a second Habitat for Humanity house together, he gave people an important caution:
"There's some things ahead of us that will bring about great tensions. Let us not be afraid of tension. Out of that creative tension will come newness."
Representatives of those three Abrahamic faiths last year built a Habitat house (called "The House that Abraham Builds) that I wrote a column about, and everyone found it a great experience and a chance to learn to value people of other faiths. A symposium of representatives of those faiths that was held before the dinner last week resulted in a commitment to build at least one more such house next year.
But Wallace Hartsfield was right to note that any time people of different faiths work or talk together there is the chance that tensions will arise. Being prepared for them will help, but so will knowing that working through such tensions can lead to even stronger relations among the faiths -- without any member of a particular religion having to give up his or the theology.
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P.S.: Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners Magazine and author of God's Politics and The Great Awakening, will speak in Kansas City this Sunday evening. For information on how to attend, click here.
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ANOTHER P.S.: The National Religious Campaign Against Torture today is launching a campaign to get congregations across the country to display anti-torture banners. Is your congregation joining this effort? You can check by clicking here for the so-far list.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.