Christian and Muslim Relations Addressed at Interfaith Gathering

Don Wagner

The third Evangelical Christian-Muslim Consultation was sponsored by North Park University and hosted by Fuller Theological Seminary

PASADENA, CA (April 19, 2009) – Fifty scholars, religious leaders, and others from a wide range of Evangelical Christian and Muslim institutions around the world gathered at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena from April 16–19 to address the theological and practical challenges of interfaith relations.

"We recognize the need for improved interfaith relations," said Mahmoud Ayoub, who organized the event with Donald Wagner, director of North Park University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Ayoub, a scholar in residence at Hartford Seminary, said that participants hoped that the relationships and understandings developed at the gathering "would lead to increased peace between the two communities and, eventually, increased peace in the world."

Participants came from 14 countries throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, and included Wagner’s North Park colleagues Mary Veeneman and Velda Love, as well as Seminary student Jeremy Bower. Wagner himself presented a paper at the event.

The Fuller gathering, the third in a series of conversations began in Chicago in 2006, was an intentional response to the "Common Word Between Us and You" document initiated by 138 Islamic leaders in 2006, and was in some ways a continuation of a dialogue last year at Yale University, according to Ayoub.

Presenters at the Pasadena event addressed such issues as the treatment of minorities under Muslim rule and Muslim minorities under Christian rule; the problem of terrorism and the experiences of American Muslims and Middle Eastern Christians; worship in the New Testament and the Quran; and how Islam is covered in Western media and Christianity is covered in Arab media.

The gathering included a strong contingent of women from both the Muslim and evangelical communities, according to Ghada Talhami of Lake Forest College (Illinois), and was a step in developing a "core of Christians and Muslims pledged to work together to come to practical solutions to the problems facing our communities."

Participants promised to continue the conversations, both in future conferences and in other less formal cooperative efforts, and thanked the World Islamic Call Society, the gathering’s cosponsor North Park University, and its host Fuller Seminary.

Photo: Professor of Middle Eastern Studies Donald Wagner