Ames Interfaith Council Program Explores Christian-Muslim Relations

Article excerpt

Dr. Jane Smith of Hartford Seminary and Prof. Edward Gaffney of Valparaiso University School of Law were featured speakers at the Ames Interfaith Council's Oct. 22 fall program at the Iowa State University (ISU) campus.

Smith, co-director of the Duncan Black Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, discussed "The Perils and Pleasures of Interfaith Encounter." "A very big challenge on our agenda," she said, "is the growing number of evangelicals who are not interested in dialogue, and the shrinking number of liberal Christians who are interested in interfaith dialogue."

Even Christians who are interested in interfaith dialogue, Smith pointed out, sometimes make assumptions that turn out to be counterproductive. Illustrating some of the pitfalls of interfaith encounter, Smith described some of the ways in which Christians, often inadvertently, offend Muslims and members of other faith traditions.

Some Muslim women have complained that well-intentioned Christian women are sometimes perceived as trying to liberate Muslim women from their religion, said Smith, and Muslim women generally don't want to be part of that.

Other Christians have structured interfaith encounters in ways that are not conducive to dialogue, she noted, by wanting "to talk about salvation or redemption or other concepts that work for Christians but. don't quite work for Muslims."

Most Muslims are not interested in having that conversation, said Smith, until it is structured in a way that addresses their, concerns, too. …