Yes – Christians & Muslims can Pro-exist!

So claimed Toby Keva, Uniting Church student minister who grew up in Indonesia. Toby was one of two key note speakers at this afternoon’s interfaith dialogue Can Christians and Muslims Co-exist in the Modern World. Toby contended that his own experience answered this question where, even in the face of sporadic violence in his home country, it was more the norm for Christians and Muslims to live peacefully together.  “Pro-existence”, Toby encouraged, takes a further step in mutual active support for each other. While Toby gave many instances of this happening in practical and tangible ways around the globe, he believes, from the Christian perspective, that more work needs to be done on intelligent articulation of doctrinal reasons for doing so, particularly where the exclusive and inclusive claims of the gospel seem to be in conflict. He reminded us that every theology is derived from a specific historical context and that dogma needed to be understood and reinterpreted in this light.

In response, Mehmet Ozalp,  author of 101 Questions You Asked About Islam and representing the Australian Muslim initiative Intercultural Harmony Society, concurred, adding that history is replete with epochs of Christians, Muslims and Jews living mutually and peacefully together –  for example, Spain before the 15th century expulsion of non Christians, Jerusalem prior to the mid 20th century and the interfaith House of Wisdom project in medieval Baghdad.  Mehmet proposed education as a key principle for harmonious community living. This involved:

  • raising a golden generation – where the “science of the mind” and “knowledge of the heart”  enjoyed balanced proportion
  • promotion of the values that promoted harmony, ie
    • tolerance (as a starting point)
    • a view of all humans as equal
    • a belief that diversity leads to greater opportunity for mutual education rather than conflict.

This could be achieved by dialogue – listening with the intention to understand and competing in virtue (thus promoting constructiveness in mutual achievement).

Question time revealed that the 100 strong audience had been attentive listeners. One question arose that has often been asked of me, “If Islam is a religion of peace, why do its proponents not publicly oppose the destructive acts of its extremists.”

The answer?

“We put out a press release in response to every reported incident. The frustration is that major media outlets are more interested in whatever is sensational. Our most effective work is with community meetings and schools.”

I think I know where he’s coming from. Christian extremists also get the lion’s share of media attention, but the most effective learning comes through mutually respectful one to one listening anyway.

The gathering was jointly sponsored by Intercultural Harmony Society the Uniting Church in Australia National Assembly Working Group on Relations with Other Faiths.

Published by wonderingpilgrim

Not really retired but reshaped and reshaping. Now a pilgrim at large ready to engage with what each day brings.

2 thoughts on “Yes – Christians & Muslims can Pro-exist!

  1. As an atheist, I feel I can get along with people of all kinds of faiths. I may not agree with their beliefs, but that doesn’t matter.

    As a Christian though, do you believe in hell? Do believe that anyone “worshiping false gods” is going to that hell? Do you believe that Muslims are going to hell, where they will be tortured forever?

    If so, how can you not spend every minute of conversation with Muslims trying to save them from that fate? And conversely, how can they not do the same with you?


  2. And how could I not spend every waking moment trying to convince atheists of the same? 🙂
    Nup, no belief in the hell conjured by medieval and fundamentalist theologies! My understanding is that the hell described by Jesus was Gehenna, a burning dump in a quarry outside the walls of Jerusalem, a metaphoric place of abandonment and separation – the opposite to shalom (and in Arabic “salaam”), the condition of harmonious relationship with self, neighbour, God and creation. As a Christian, I seek to follow the way of Jesus towards the claim of shalom (described in the New Testament as the kingdom of God/heaven). I understand that a Muslim seeks to achieve salaam by following the tenets of Islam. Here is a meeting point for conversation. In my opinion,neither Christianity nor Islam, at their best, are closed systems in terms of growth and understanding.


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