The Buxton Initiative
Almost ten years ago, two former Ambassadors, one from the Muslim tradition, the other Christian, met shortly after September 11 at the National Press Club in Washington. Despite a climate of growing suspicions and brewing hostility, each was in search of an honest friend with whom to explore a way to avoid what Harvard's Samuel Huntington saw as the ‘inevitable clash of civilizations’. While both enjoy politics, they prize faith even more. Thus began an unusual journey, one they called the Buxton Initiative.
At the core of the Buxton Initiative is the belief that relationships of trust are the best bridge to real understanding.
Whether on the interpersonal level — between two individuals — or on the geopolitical stage — between two nations — understanding and trust grow in the rich soil of friendship. People of faith or no faith need to be encouraged to have real dialogue in their communities, especially as radical groups threaten our societies and propagate a rhetoric of fear. Buxton offers a simple yet profound proposal: Faith and friendship are the vital bridge to establishing deep and lasting understanding between individuals, people groups and nations.
A Revised Strategy
The mission of the Buxton Initiative was and is to foster dialogue and build bridges among people of different faiths and worldviews. In the past, Buxton was focused on the Abrahamic faiths, with programming chiefly in the Washington, DC area. It has been important and fruitful work, and yet with the rising fear surrounding Muslims, Islam and the Qur’an, we believe it is time to revise our strategy. There are about 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today, and approximately 6 million Muslims in America. Yet a recent Time Magazine poll found that 63% of Americans do not know a Muslim American and that 46% hold that Islam is the faith most likely to encourage violence.
In order to meet the current need, Buxton will expand beyond Washington—out to cities and leaders across America—and will focus on demystifying Islam by providing people the opportunity to meet and dialogue with practicing Muslims in order to build understanding. Our objective is to create a space for people to talk honestly as friends, and to discuss their fear and concerns in a safe environment.
As in the past, Buxton will continue to host events in DC and engage in local outreach. In addition, we are excited to welcome the eighth class of Buxton Fellows, John Alley (Christian Fellow) and Sarina Bajwa (Muslim Fellow). The Buxton Initiative’s Muslim/Christian staff reflects the roots of the Initiative, the friendship of co-founders Dr. Akbar Ahmed and J. Douglas Holladay, but the work and mission of the Buxton Initiative is for all people—of faith or no faith. It is our hope that everyone will engage in this vitally important dialogue.