Thursday, February 25, 2010

Global Conversation on Muslim-Christian Dialogue

Christianity Today and the Lausanne movement have been conducting Global Conversation on certain important global issues recently. In March 2010, the Conversation is on

How should Christians who have a passion for evangelization relate to Islam? For North Americans, the question took on new urgency in the wake of September 11. But Christians in Muslim-majority societies have dealt with the question far longer.

Chawkat Moucarry, World Vision International's director of interfaith relations describes his commitment and mission in A Lifelong Journey with Islam.

I have never understood why some people look at dialogue and mission in either-or terms. In my experience, these words belong so much to each other that they should never be divorced. Evangelical Christians (whose theology I share) have shown an unwarranted suspicion of dialogue, simply because some have used it as a substitute for mission. Not only are the two words compatible, but they must shape each other.

more here.

David Shenks has this to contribute "My life motto as I engage in dialogue with Muslims is the same that Moucarry has highlighted (1 Pet. 3:15): Be clear in my confession of faith—Jesus is Lord. Give account of this reality to all who ask. Bear witness with gentleness and respect." more here in Experiencing Dialogue.

While dialogue seems to be the way to go, there are concerns. Evelyne A. Reisacher who had served for over 20 years as the associate director of a church-based organization in France called l'AMI, dedicated to facilitate Christian-Muslim encounters and assist Muslim Background Believers. She is assistant professor of Islamic studies and Intercultural Relations at Fuller Theological Seminary has this to say in Dialogue Shaping Mission Shaping Dialogue.
In conclusion: Has my perception of dialogue changed? Yes and no. The questions I raised prior to my first experience of dialogue in 2003 are still relevant and must be revisited each time I engage in dialogue. My commitment to Jesus Christ and the gospel has not changed. But dialogue is a constant reminder of the human face of mission: It helps us encounter Muslims as equal interlocutors worthy of being listened to and with whom we should respectfully share our beliefs.
How then does this dialogue translate to realpolitik?

Dr Ng Kam Weng, director of Kairos Research Centre in Kuala Lumpur shares about the situation in Malaysia "to explain the ambivalence of Christian minority groups toward Christian-Muslim dialogue" as a response in Building a Common Society.

Dialogue beneath the Gothic arches of Western universities should be welcomed, but surely genuine dialogue would gain more credence if it took place at the ground level, especially in countries where Islamic authorities do not feel the need to modulate their power so as to present an acceptable face, as they would when dealing with their Western counterparts. If indeed dialogue takes place, the Islamic authorities typically set the terms of engagement, reducing it to social rituals to confirm the dominance of Islam rather than to promote mutual understanding and respect. Naturally, local Christians lose enthusiasm for "dialogue."

It is not often so cut and dry about inter-faith dialogue in Muslim-majority countries as has been pointed out by Dr Ng. Read more here.

Nigeria is another country where is there had been violence between Muslims and Christians. Sunday Agang who is dean of the School of Theology and Ethics, JETS Theological Seminary in Jos, Nigeria comments on The Audacity of Dialogue.


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