All of us, Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike, are God’s chosen people. So why on earth can’t all of us—sisters and brothers in one big, not-so-happy Abrahamic family—just get along?
Tackling that question during the Interfaith Dialogue component of the Wednesday evening conversations, five panelists proved that the three faiths indeed can get along—at least at an intellectual level.
Ellen Davis turned to the familiar story of Joseph and his brothers. Gifted and favored, the young man misinterprets his role and winds up estranged from his family, coming to grips with God’s plan for him only after much spiritual growth.
“This long and beautifully crafted story…aims to remind us that ‘vigilant humility’ is the only appropriate posture for those who know themselves, however justly, to be the elect of God,” concluded Davis, author and Duke Divinity School professor.
Lucinda Mosher, theology professor and chair of the Episcopal-Muslim Relations Committee of the Diocese of New York listed several events presented by many concerned groups – from occasional dinners and classes to far-reaching programs such as the Network for Interfaith Concerns of the Anglican Communion (NIFCON).
To the 65 people in the audience, she urged human relationship basics: Know your own faith well, dig for the truth about other religions rather than relying on hearsay, and stay open and sensitive to styles of interaction.
“Tone of voice and body language are very important. We have a lot to say to each other and we need to be present to each other.”
Artist Jessica Stammen, who shepherded artwork at St. Paul’s Church at Ground Zero, post-9/11, concurred: “It’s when we begin to know each other that we will find God’s word to be true.”
Fatima Shama, a staffer for Muslims Against Terrorism, recounted how, after the World Trade Center disaster, some young Muslims in New York gathered to create an active, peace-seeking group to counter the negative image terrorism had cast on their religion. “You can argue with someone else,” Shama said. “Not us.”
Leonard Schoolman, a rabbi and director of the Center for Religious Inquiry at St. Bartholomew’s Church, New York, runs a program dedicated to educating New Yorkers about their neighbors’ religions. His practical suggestions included working to improve life for others.
“You can do things in your own community,” Schoolman said. “You can educate others, work together, and break down barriers.”
During a question and answer session, panelists learned of Resolution D020, a proposal for the Episcopal Church to oppose certain aspects of Muslim Sharia law, applications of which have led to grave human rights violations in other countries.
Brows furrowed, the panelists once again agreed. They warned against treading into areas about which Christians know too little to pass judgment.
“We’re in a poor position to be lecturing,” Mosher said.