Peace and Reconciliation in Islam and Christianity
We as Americans keep hearing the same phrases these days, like "In the wake of September 11th" or "After the events of September 11th". They show up everywhere, in the media, classrooms, communities, and homes. Terms like Islamic fundamentalism, jihad, and religious extremism are new elements of the vocabulary of the average American citizen.
But with the recent influx of new information about whom the terrorists of the Trade Center attacks were and where they came from, the understanding of Islam as a legitimate and morally based religion seems unthinkable to many. The goal of the recent conference at Valparaiso University was to provide a setting where informed and concerned people of Christian and Muslim traditions could share their interpretations of the current situation in the sphere of religious interaction and dialogue. This atmosphere of learning, relating, and growth served as a starting point for scholars and students alike to begin to form an understanding of both perspectives.
The presenters included American, Indonesian, Thai, and Bengali teachers and scholars from both faith backgrounds. With the help of the Religion Department, four students, including myself, attended this conference in hopes and gaining new insight into the roles we can play in promoting understanding and awareness. Along with the presenters and students from Valparaiso University we all had an amazing opportunity to enter into an interfaith dialogue, enjoy Middle Eastern cuisine and music, and, in the end, take home a changed perspective.
For me personally, there is a huge difference between reading about something and actually experiencing it first hand. At the Peace and Reconciliation conference I had an opportunity to meet and talk with Muslim people from many nations and hear them speak about their own understanding of Islam. I could see the personal passion they had for their own religion, in spite of all of the negative attention, and how they wished to share this with other people of faith, whether they be Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. This is what probably impacted me the most: seeing Islam through the eyes of individuals Muslims.