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Christian-Muslim Dialogue reaches out to find mutual respect, understanding

20 October 2011 General No Comment Email This Post Email This Post

For a dozen years a diverse group of believers has convened monthly to find mutual understanding and respect – for their diverse faiths.

This group, the Christian-Muslim Dialogue, meets monthly to discuss issues between the two faiths. Sometimes the issues revolve around headline news stories, while other times the group simply discusses similarities and differences between the two religions. Though discussions typically focus on relations between Christians and Muslims, the meetings are open to anyone.

“We open it to all faiths. The topics are Christian-Muslim mainly, because we felt that was a needed thing,” said Dr. John Parks, co-founder of the Christian-Muslim Dialogue and member of Masjid Bilal Ibin Rabah mosque on Russell Cave Road.

The group was established more than 12 years ago when Parks and a group of other interested people met casually because they felt a Christian-Muslim dialogue was needed in Lexington. Shortly after their first meeting, they formalized the group, Parks said.

The group began to meet once a month at Hunter Presbyterian Church, where they would listen to both Christian and Muslim guest speakers and hold group discussions.

“We try to identify a topic that is relevant to our traditions that might have interest amongst the participants,” said Ihsan Bagby, participant in the Christian-Muslim dialogue and professor of Islamic Studies at University of Kentucky. “Sometimes we are theological, sometimes we cover headline-news type stuff.”

When it was first established, the group consisted of mainly older Christians and Muslims, Parks said. But in the last few years, the group has tried to reach out more to students.

“Particularly, in the last two years, we’ve put an effort into connecting with the Muslim Student association and UK students,” Parks said. “We’ve encouraged the younger speakers to do the presentations.”

The group also brings in professors, like Bagby, to speak about current issues.

At the group’s meeting on Oct. 22, the discussion is titled “Sharia law: what it is and what it isn’t” in light of current events surrounding Sharia law, which is the legal interpretation of Quran, the Muslim scripture.

“It has become a very contentious issue. In about 20 states there are bills called anti-Sharia bills in the state legislature that would ban Sharia. Usually the rhetoric surrounding these bills are very anti- Muslims,” Bagby said. “From an objective scholarly approach, and from a Muslim approach we want to have a better understanding of Sharia.”

The panel discussion at the meeting will feature Paul Salamanca, a professor at the UK College of Law, Roula Allouch, a Cincinnati attorney and Nabeel Jawahir, a pre-law student who has worked with the Council of American Islamic Relations regarding civil rights.

The goal of the discussion at the group’s meeting is “to put the whole issue of Sharia in perspective, so that people can understand what Sharia is,” Bagby said.

The Christian-Muslim Dialogue will be held Saturday, Oct. 22, at 10 a.m at the Unitarian Universalists Church at 3564 Clays Mill Road instead of Hunter Presbyterian Church due to the football game at Commonwealth Stadium. A potluck lunch will be held following the discussion and attendees are invited to bring a dish to share.

Original post: Christian-Muslim Dialogue reaches out to find mutual respect, understanding

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