Evangelical Christians and Muslims Engage in “Bridges of Faith” Conversation

Evangelical Christian and Muslim scholars and religious leaders met May 13-15 in Toronto for the fourth in a series of “extended conversations” between the two faith traditions. The dialogue, titled “Foundations of Our Faith: Religion in the Public Square,” is part of an ongoing effort to “reach out across the religious boundaries despite the recognized differences in some of our essential religious beliefs,” according to organizers.

The conference was organized around the framework of the “five pillars” of Islam. Muslim scholars presented papers on each of the pillars and other key concepts, paired with a complementary paper by Evangelical Christian scholars. One panel, for instance, focused on “Hajj in Islam” and “Pilgrimage and Religious Geography in Evangelical Christianity.” Another panel addressed “The True Meaning of Jihad in Islam” and “Taking up the Cross in Evangelical Christianity.”

The invitation-only dialogue group, called “Bridges of Faith” (www.bridgesoffaith.org), has been sponsored by the World Islamic Call Society. The group first met in Chicago in 2007, followed by gatherings in Tripoli, Libya, and at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.

Participants in the Evangelical-Muslim dialogue came to Toronto from the Middle East, Europe, and from across North America, and from institutions including the Hartford Seminary MacDonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, the Islamic Society of North America, and the Arab Team for Muslim-Christian Dialogue, as well as from Fuller Seminary, Wheaton College, the Arab Baptist Theological seminary, North Park University, and other institutions.

Keynote speaker Dr. Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary, affirmed the importance of Muslim-Evangelical Christian dialogue and commended the focus of the conference on the five pillars of Islam as a basis for conversation at this conference.

Mahmoud Ayoub said of the gathering, “As Muslims, we do this in response to the Quran’s call to all humanity to submit to the One true God.” Dr. Ayoub is professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford (Conn.) Seminary.

“As Evangelical Christians, we do this in emulation of Jesus, who through his teaching and life invited all of humanity into a relationship with God that transcends any single religious institution,” said co-convener Dr. Don Wagner, Executive Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at North Park University in Chicago.