Minnesota Achieves a Unique Distinction in Christian Muslim Relations
Posted by: Zafar Siddiqui
“Say, ‘O people of the book’ [a term which particularly refers to Jews and Christians] ‘come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him (in His powers and divine attributes); that we erect not from among ourselves lords and patrons other than God.‘” (Qur’an,3:64)
The history of dialogue between Muslims and Christians goes back 1400 years when a delegation of Christians visited the Prophet Muhammad in Medina for a dialogue. They stayed in the Prophet’s mosque for three days and even prayed in their own custom when it was time for their prayers.
In 1989, Minnesota saw the birth of the Muslim Christian Dialogue program jointly organized by the Islamic Center of Minnesota (ICM) and the Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC). The largest Islamic center in Minnesota and a major Christian umbrella organization coming together for such an edifying project set the tone of Muslim Christian relations in our state. The increasing Muslim population and an overriding need for Muslims and Christians to understand each other in a deeper way was a major motivator behind the initiation of this program.
There have been similar efforts in other parts of the country and even in Minnesota in the past, but what sets this program apart from others is the consistency and commitment that both the organizers and the audience have shown for the past 25 years. To meet month after month, all the while sustaining the intensity of the spirit for dialogue to understand each other’s religious traditions better, requires a genuine passion for coexistence, acknowledgement of pluralism around us, and a belief in taking ownership to bring about a positive change in Muslim-Christian relationship. The ICM and MCC deserve to be applauded for this tremendous effort.
With close to 300 meetings in the past 25 years, this dialogue has encompassed a wide array of topics pertaining to Islam and Christianity. Many participants in the dialogue have been attending these meetings for years and many others continue to join these gatherings. This dialogue has invariably resulted in the audience gaining a deeper understanding of each other’s faith and, as a result, it has provided a platform where long term relationships between the followers of the world’s two largest faiths have been forged. Even topics that are perceived as “difficult” were discussed in a safe, peaceful, and nurturing environment that encouraged questions and provided honest answers.
According to Owais Bayunus, one of the founding members of this dialogue, “the value of this dialogue has transcended Christian-Muslim topics and increasingly people from other faith traditions are taking part in the dialogue. This augurs well for an expanded scope for the dialogue as we go past the 25-year milestone.”
This dialogue has served as a model for other such efforts in the Twin Cities. Most notably, the Muslim Christian Dialog Center (MCDC) at the University of St. Thomas drew its inspiration from the Muslim Christian Dialogue of ICM and MCC. The late Prof. Terence Nichols of MCDC was a regular participant in the dialogue.
The Twin Cities is now home to several interfaith efforts. Dialogue involving Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists are now a commonplace occurrence. This is a testimony to the openness of Minnesotans in striving to understand each other.
In a world beset with strife, hate, and violence, the Muslim Christian Dialogue stands out like a beacon, beckoning all toward the way of coexistence, awareness, and peace.
In order to mark this momentous milestone, the ICM and MCC will be hosting a 25 years anniversary celebration on Nov 9 at 5:30 PM at the Islamic Center at 1401 Gardena Avenue, Fridley, MN 55432.
Dr. Jamal Badawi and Dr. Jay Rock will be the keynote speakers at this event. Prior registration is highly recommended as seats are limited. Please register at this link or call the Islamic Center of Minnesota at 763 561 5604.