Evangelicals and Islam
From the Washington Post's "On Faith" blog
By Katherine Marshall, Georgetown University
A group of American Christians, most of them evangelicals, met for four days last weekend with a distinguished group of Moroccans at Eastern Mennonite University, concluding with a public session Monday at Georgetown University's Berkley Center.
To an outsider, the point of the conclave was not easy to fathom. It opened with a showing of a terrifying film about nuclear threats: Countdown to Zero, and concluded with heartfelt statements of shared interests and values. What was it all about? Why did Morocco's busy ambassador to the United States and other distinguished Moroccans devote so much time to the discussion?
Richard Cizik, founder of a new movement of evangelicals he describes as "young in spirit" (the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good) gave some clues as he spoke Monday. Quoting from a post-2010 election survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, he noted that while 45 percent of Americans said they thought the values of Islam are at odds with American values, the figure was much higher (57 percent) for white evangelicals who responded to the survey. This was the highest recorded percentage among the defined groups (Catholics followed with 53 percent). We must, Cizik said, combat the lurking and dangerous idea that Islam is the new "evil empire".
So last weekend's event, which builds on a several-year partnership with the Moroccan government, was intended to eliminate some of the mistaken ideas, to build a sense of a shared common interest, and to dig into some topics that generate both misunderstandings and genuine disagreement.
Nuclear threats, the perils of climate change and terrorism were discussed as common, shared interests, and it did not prove difficult to establish the sense that there is indeed a shared concern. More significantly, discussion of the reasons why citizens care about these global threats underscored a message that the very different participants shared common values.
Read the rest of this article at the Washington Post.