Representatives of several Muslim organizations and Christian denominations launched a National Muslim-Christian Initiative in North America at a meeting this week near Washington, D.C.
The work is partially sponsored by the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches of Christ.
Mohamed Elsanousi, director of communications and community outreach of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and the Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord, consultant for interfaith relations for the Episcopal Church, coordinated the meeting, which was convened as the result of consultations between Muslim and Christian organizations and leaders in the recent past.
The initiative was inspired by mutual concerns over misrepresentations of Islam and stereotypes of Muslims in North America, and further by an unprecedented letter from Muslim to Christian leaders, titled “A Common Word Between Us and You,” signed by 138 leading Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals from around the world.
“This initiative is part of ongoing Muslim efforts to engage other faith communities in North America, and to bring about an understanding of common goals and reconciliation in our communities,” said Dr. Syeed Sayyid, national director of the ISNA Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances.
Christians and Muslims across the continent regularly encounter one another at their work places and in their local communities. Representatives to the initiative discussed the desire for relationships of trust in these communities, and explored areas of common concern and understanding. Initiative representatives set up five task groups to frame its work and prepare for future gatherings, to be held twice a year.
The initiative also adopted a mission statement to shape this work in the coming years. The statement says, “We, from various streams of Muslim and Christian communities, seek to enhance mutual understanding, respect, appreciation and support of what is Sacred for each other through dialogue, education and sustained visible encounters that foster and nurture relationships.”
“This Initiative of Muslim and Christian leaders sends a message to those in North America — [that] we co-exist in vibrant communities where awareness and cooperation will be our common future together,” said co-convener, Dr. Peter Makari, co-chair of the NCC’s Interfaith Relations Commission
The Muslim-Christian Initiative will meet again in Chicago in September.