National Muslim-Christian Initiative meets in Los Angeles
The National Muslim-Christian Initiative met in Los Angeles on Wednesday, February 24, 2010. It was the first meeting of the Initiative in 2010. The group typically meets twice a year, and its last meeting was Sept. 30-Oct. 1, 2009. The Initiative brings together participation from the Islamic Society of North America, the Islamic Circle of North America, and other Muslims, some representing local and regional Islamic centers, as well as member churches of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, among them the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Church of the Brethren, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ. The Initiative’s leadership includes Mohamed Elsanousi (ISNA), Naeem Baig (ICNA), the Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord (Episcopal Church USA), and the Rev. Dr. Michael Trice (ELCA).
This week’s meeting was hosted by the Islamic Center of Southern California, and enjoyed the engagement of the Los Angeles-based Christian-Muslim Consultative Group for an evening program highlighting the work of the CMCG.
With a full agenda, the group spent time sharing institutional updates and was welcomed by the Islamic Center of Southern California’s Director of Religious Affairs, Mr. Jihad Turk. It proceeded to approve is mission statement, as follows:
We, from various streams of Muslim and Christian communities, seek to enhance mutual understanding, respect, appreciation and support of what is sacred for each other through dialogue, education and sustained visible encounters that foster and nurture relationships.
1. Foster capacity for continued dialogue of national religious leadership;
2. Ensure that visible representatives from each other’s communities are invited to local, regional and national organizational meetings;
3. Model to our communities shared examples of best dialogue and engagement practices;
4. Respond with due diligence to critical issues and situations in ways that uphold the inherent worthiness, dignity, and integrity of our two communities;
5. Create a speakers bureau of Christian and Muslim leaders around the country who are available for consultation, workshops, and general presentations; and
6. Pair congregations and mosques for the purpose of building relationships, through educational materials and other means.
The bulk of the time was spent on the topic of local Muslim-Christian engagement and how the Initiative can better serve local mosques and congregations in their dialogue and cooperation. Efforts will be made in the coming months to pair mosques and congregations, with a special focus on the Muslim invitation to dialogue, A Common Word Between Us and You, including the development of a jointly created study guide. Collective memory of history, and current issues that sometimes take on a sectarian flavor have been impediments to constructive dialogue and healing, and have contributed to suspicion and fear of the other, the Initiative members recognized, but suggested that episodes of conflict are the fodder for learning, and efforts can be made to move beyond them if they are discussed and understood from a variety of perspectives.
Those in attendance agreed on next topics of discussion, including the phenomenon of Islamophobia, and efforts to overcome it, in the North American context, as well as continuing focus on A Common Word. The next meeting of the Initiative will take place in Washington, DC, in September.