In the past few months the Buxton Initiative has organized interesting outreach programs that, quite simply, work to bring young Christians and Muslims together to have dinner and discuss faith. I’ve had the opportunity to attend three of these dinners and each time I’m amazed by how engaged everyone is –once the first question is asked the night flies by with endless conversation and learning. It’s reaffirmed that once you get two groups of different people together to share dinner and honest conversation, they usually leave the evening with a fresh perspective and deeper appreciation for one another. There are so many curiosities that people have for those that are different from them since rarely do they get an opportunity to openly ask questions. As convener, the Buxton Initiative provided this space to respectfully and candidly discuss faith.
In observation, I noticed a certain level of surprise and newfound respect when a Muslim participant heard how important prayer and thanksgiving was to Christians. Just as many Christians get their perspectives on Muslims from what they hear from the media and other outlets, Muslims, many times, get their perspectives of Christians from the same places. There is a problem here but once a personal relationship develops with someone outside of your own faith everything changes.
What I found most interesting was how surprised Christians were to hear that Muslims are mandated to follow the teachings of Jesus. To me, this unifying belief between the two faiths was important for understanding. It created a level of familiarity that was missing. I think Christians thought to themselves, “wow, if they (Muslims) follow the teachings of Jesus then I know where there heart is and maybe I should reevaluate any assumptions I once had”.
Still, there are obvious ideological differences between the two religions that there is no middle ground for – and points that even those who identify with the same faith group disagree about. It requires a certain grace to accept differences without sacrificing any of your beliefs and at these dinners that is exactly what happens.