Christians Continue to Close Religious Gap

( [email protected] ) Apr 05, 2004 12:56 PM EDT

One of the main concerns and challenges that Christians are facing today is how to maintain harmony with other religious groups, especially Jews and Muslims, and reinforce reconciliatory efforts as they serve the same God.

As Christians and Jews celebrate this week according to its own religious significance - Easter for Christians and Passover for Jews, they are focusing on interfaith hoping the movie “The Passion of the Christ” being a useful tool to close the gap between the two religions rather than inducing anti-Semitic atmosphere.

At the same time Christian leaders are focusing on how to maintain peace with Muslims as the West has been the target of terrorist attack.

Many religious leaders are recognizing that the efforts to build connections between the two religious grousp, Christians and Jews, have been slowed down.

"The ongoing work has slowed down tremendously," said Rabbi Leon Klenicki, a 30-year veteran of interfaith outreach with the Anti-Defamation League.

David Elcott, director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, is also planning to address this topic at the meeting with the members.

"Both sides are diminished by the loss of conversation," Elcott said. "I'm taking steps to assure them that our passion for peace is real."

Rabbi Susan Bulba Carvutto of Temple Beth El based in Augusta, Main, looks at the film as a way to spark interfaith conversation. She has watched the film twice with two different groups of leaders representing other faiths.

"Given that (the movie) is a phenomenon, I'm hoping we can turn it into a useful one," she said.

In Columbia, Missouri, Open Doors, Open Minds, which was organized locally by Jewish and Christian community with the goal to provide a platform for synagogues and churches to engage in dialogue and foster mutual understanding and appreciation, will end April 26.

“I think it’s a good time in our culture to try and build some bridges,” said the Rev. Kenneth Watson, an associate minister at First Christian Church. “There is certainly enough misunderstanding on both sides, and now is the time to build some bridges,”

Tim Parshall, a member of Beth Shalom, commented on the program: “A lot of Jews know very little about Christianity, and a lot of Christians know very little about Judaism, so efforts such as these are wonderful.”

Rick Love , international director of Frontier and adjunct professor of Islamics at Fuller Theological Seminary and Columbia International University, addressed how Christians must respond to Muslim terrorism in his commentary, ‘A Christian Perspective on Islam and Terrorism.’

He encouraged people to see why Muslims are leading terrorism in the name of God against the U.S. and the countries in Europe.

He wrote:

“Christians must still be guided by the wisdom of our Lord Jesus who said, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? … You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye."

As Christians, we not only need to get the logs out of our eyes, but we also need to speak truth and not bear false witness. This means that we must be accurate and fair when we describe another religion. So, why did the Muslim terrorists feel they were right in committing these atrocities in the name of Islam?”

He presented six reasons as to why Muslims hold hatred against America. First was because of its materialism, “the worldly pleasures of Western culture are luring the faithful away from the straight path of Islam, just as it lures many Christians away from a close walk with the Lord Jesus.” The rest of the reasons he made were mostly political, mainly because of the media that shapes Muslims’ perspective about America and power of the United States.

He also questioned what God would want to see and what are happening now, all the divisions and terrorism are what Satan wants to see, not God. He added that what really needs to be done is the advance of God’s Kingdom in Muslim countries. He thinks there could be “greater receptivity among Muslims and greater freedom to preach the gospel” due to recent tragedy and “disillusioned Muslims around the world may be more receptive to the gospel—that is, if they have an opportunity to hear it!”

He encouraged Christians to maintain peace with Muslims, engaging in prayer for peace and for true justice to prevail and continue demonstrating Christ’s love. He wrote:

“First, we must stand against all forms of hate crimes and racism aimed at Arabs and Muslims around the world (and especially in America). Now is an unprecedented moment for Christians to express our love to innocent Arab and Muslim neighbors by protecting them and helping reassure their personal security at this time.

Second, Christians, especially those in the West, should seek out Muslims and begin building bridges of love. If we show real love now—if we make innocent Arabs and Muslims feel that we are together in this international tragedy—then we will touch their hearts in ways that will not soon be forgotten. They will tell other Muslims around the world of how they were touched by our love. And that will make much easier the job of every Christian who is involved in evangelism among Muslims, both in our country and around the world, for a long time to come.

Third, now is the time for church leaders to meet with leaders of the mosque to enhance mutual understanding and perhaps discuss ways to work together against terrorism. As I said before, let’s wage peace on Islam!”