Yep, you heard it here first. For the last 5 years, we’ve been working diligently to try and develop an environment where Christians can have real conversations with Muslims, and vice versa. Yesterday, we reached another Milestone.
Setting the Stage
We’ve had an incredible partnership with our friends from Jordan over the last several years. We’ve opened our gates, our minds, and our hearts, to see how we (American Christians) can welcome people from a different place, a different faith perspective, and a different culture, to a place where we can all just have fun.
That’s our agenda
We’re just trying to learn from one another and see how we can engage together; mainly Western Students and Middle East Students.
Our rules are pretty simple:
- Nobody is allowed to convert anyone.
- We always ask honest questions. (no skirting the issues just to be nice.)
- We respect one another at all times
- Everything is on the table.
Yesterday, I invited my dear friend Ra’d to come teach with me from the stage. We set up the conversation as if we were having a dialogue, and ANY time the students (about 100) wanted to ask a question we would stop and answer. We started at 1:30 in the afternoon, and the session went well into the 6:00 pm hour. (yes…we took lots of breaks)
Overall, it was AMAZING.
We asked the students what they wanted to know from a Christian perspective, and then we countered the Christian idea with a Muslim perspective. Honestly, as we talked through our views of God, Jesus, the Bible, the Quran, the origins of both faiths, and the various bias’ we both have for “the other”; we found that 90% of what we talk about is pretty similar.
Of course there are differences, and we were careful to cover those with love and respect. But ultimately, I think the students were thankful for a balanced approach to two men who are trying to live out different faith perspectives and show that we can still be friends in spite of our differences.
My immediate concern after leaving yesterday’s session is the overall ignorance we show when dealing with other people. I don’t mean ignorance in a demeaning way, but in a way that we just don’t have a place where we can have these types of discussions without someone flaring up into anger.
I could tell, some of the Christian kids were trying their best to set the stage for some kind of argument. “Well, if you believe in Jesus, don’t you think he said…” and then try and lead my friend into a conversion experience. One girl even said, “What do you think about Jesus in your heart?” And Ra’d looked at me with confusion, “What is she talking about? Jesus in my heart? Like…he’s in here?” pointing to his chest.
There’s just so much divide due to the constant barrage of media in our world. The students started wanting to know about ISIS, to which my friend furrowed his brow and asked, “Do we want to talk about Islam? or do we want to talk about war?” And that was probably the road we tried to walk down the most , differentiating Sunni from Shia, trying to understand the current world of Terrorism, and ultimately how do we respond to each other’s tradition.
After it was over, I think we showed students that we both care for Jesus (Isa for my friend). And even though there are some major theological differences from where we come, there are also some great common places where we can learn how to follow Jesus together.
Maybe, and I’m just trying to wrap my head around this one recently, but just maybe; there’s a place in the world where words like “Christian” and “Muslim” can take a back seat to friendship and commonality. Of course, in any relationship there will be disagreements, but what would happen if both parties decided they might drop the labels for just a little while and discover who Jesus is together?
I hope we gave the students something interesting to think about. I sure had fun laughing, sharing, and praying with my friend. I hope we showed the world, it’s possible to love deeply, care compassionately, and have fun together despite our different world views.