The Arab Group for Christian Muslim Dialogue
Background and Context
Inter-communal tension is not a novelty in the Middle East or any other multi-faith, culturally pluralistic community around the world. Some may attribute these tensions to ideological reasons while others look at them as the normal byproduct of human interaction at any level. Add to that the fact that inter-communal anxiety is often compounded by structural cause such as minority/majority conditions, economic depravity, political oppression, and general social angst because of a lack of faith in a peaceful, prosperous future.
In May 1995 a number of Arab Muslims and Christians – intellectuals, clergy, and people in public life – met together in Beirut to discuss the present situation and the future of Muslim-Christian relations in the Arab World. As a result of this meeting the “Arab Group for Muslim-Christian Dialogue” was established. It included members from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates. The Arab Group launched a series of initiatives addressing issues of coexistence, citizenship, and the bolstering of amicable ties and mutual understanding between Muslims and Christians in the Arab World and the world at large.
The tensions that resulted in riots and attacks on churches in Alexandria, Egypt, in September/October 2005 should not be surprising; however, it is the high level of tension and violence, the escalation in rhetoric against the ‘other’ community, and the frequency of these incidents that should sound the alarms. The Danish cartoon, and what followed later as protests especially in the Arab World, had a great effect on Christian-Muslim relations and led to high tensions in several Arab countries.
The lecture of Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 added to the tension in Christian-Muslim relations and made the situation of dialogue tense and difficult. Whatever criticism to Islam that takes place in the West affects Christian-Muslim relations in the Arab world.
It is noteworthy that the Arab Group for Christian-Muslim Dialogue and the Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue conducted a team visit to Cairo to meet with several individuals and institutions to assess the situation in Cairo and discuss the most effective methods of dealing with this rise in religious tension. The team met with church leaders as well as activities from civil societies, Muslim and Christian, and concluded the visit with a half-day seminar that took place at the Cairo University Program on Dialogue and Civilizations of the Political Science Department. The topic of the seminar was “The Role of Religion in conflict Resolution.”
Following the university event, a special workshop took place in 2006, on how to deal with religious tensions. More that 50 participants from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and the United Arab Emirates attended, joined by participants from Denmark and the U.S. The participants presented their assessments of the present Arab reality from different viewpoints, focusing on Iraq, Palestine, Sudan, Lebanon and Egypt. Discussions centered around encouraging citizenship, in theory and in practice, and overcoming the obstacles on the way to a deeper understanding of citizenship. Participants concluded that there was a need to establish rules based on mutual respect between the people of the two religions, Christianity and Islam.
In March 2007 the Arab Group held a regional workshop which presented five case studies on actual situations of Dialogue and what affects it in Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq. Based on the studies presented, a paper on mutual respect between Muslims and Christians was presented. The draft focused on the need to establish rules based on mutual respect between people of different religions.
Youth Involvement in Dialogues
In Lebanon, where the Arab Group of Muslim-Christian Dialogue is headquartered, the July 2006 war and its ensuing devastation left Lebanese youth isolated geographically, emotionally, and socially. The war came at a time when positive interaction between youth from different Arab Countries, Muslim and Christian, had been strengthening through processes of exchange, workshops, and region/international work-camps. The political conflict following the July war among the different parties in Lebanon has led to serious division in society and to high tension among youth and in Lebanese society, creating the critical need for education for peace for Lebanese youth.
The Arab Group for Muslim-Christian Dialogue aims to focus on the younger generation and bring together 25 young people from different countries in the Middle East to support the Lebanese effort to deal with the consequences of the July 2006 war and the following internal conflicts. Through the promotion of peaceful resolution of conflict by means of joint development action, interfaith and intercultural dialogue, and interfaith encounters, the Arab Group looks to engage grassroots-based action that equips youth from different parts of the Middle East with conflict resolution skills that enable them to engage conflict in a constructive and relevant manner. The project aims to create extra-political space (not a-political or non-political space) where youth can bring their identities into peaceful encounters with others in Lebanon. A trademark of the Arab Group activities is its ability to use the support and encouragement of participants from other parts of the Arab Middle East to stand alongside their Lebanese counterparts and exchange concerns, experiences, and hopes for the future.
Below is a list of special ways in which you can help the Arab Group for Christian Muslim Dialogue:
- $30.00 will pay for conference/workshop materials for one person
- $40.00 will purchase one travel visa for conferences, workshops, and dialogues
- $90.00 will pay for meals for one person for a three day workshop
- $125.00 will pay for accommodations and meals for one person for one day
- $400.00 will pay for round trip travel for one person
Support this Ministry
To make a gift for this ministry online or by check use the online donation page.
- 100% of your gift will be directed to The Arab Group for Christian Muslim Dialogue
- You will receive updates on the work in this area as they become available
- Share in the vision of God’s abundant life for all people
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