'Meetings for Better Understanding' between Muslims and Christians.

Unfortunately, confrontation is a frequent feature of Christian-Muslim encounter. Therefore, opportunities for discussion in a friendly atmosphere are rare. Real communication often just does not happen.

Muslims and Christians do have organized debates about issues such as the true Divine revelation, the Deity of Christ, or even whether Britain should be an Islamic State. But, whilst in many ways such events have their uses, the problem nearly always attached to them is the degree of heated controversy they frequently engender. On the other hand, inter-faith dialogue always runs the risk of obscuring the differences between the religions, and implying that all roads lead to God.

Read more... Clearly, then, there is a need for a forum where Christians and Muslims can meet in large numbers to hear what the other community believes without succumbing on the one hand to liberal ecumenism or on the other deteriorating to a shouting match. A middle way has long been needed to facilitate more intelligent discussions and understanding of the very real differences between Islam and Christianity.

That middle way is attempted by organizing forums called Meetings for Better Understanding [MBU]. MBUs have been successful in North America, and more recently here in Britain. These are not debates. Any public criticism of either the Muslim or Christian religion is not encouraged since that would lead to unproductive arguments. Neither are they ecumenical dialogues, in that the aim is not for either side to compromise its message or mix the two faiths. Rather MBUs promote a mutual comprehension of what Muslims and Christians believe. These meetings enable the two communities to encounter one another in a relaxed context of friendship and learning.

Speakers from both communities address the meeting for about 20 minutes on the same, agreed-upon topic. A forty-five minute question-and-answer period is held after both speakers have presented their messages. Questions, which may be directed to one or both of the speakers, are to be kept on the topic and are not to be statements of the views of the questioners. Each speaker may follow up on the answer of the other speaker once. Other questions that are of personal interest but are not related to the topic may be discussed in individual conversations after the formal sessions. For each meeting the host group selects a moderator whose role is to ensure that the above guidelines are followed. There is ample time after the formal meeting for people attending the meeting to meet personally with members of the other faith. Meetings can vary in frequency, but once a month is suggested. Topics are classified as theological or social, so a topic like, 'Who is Jesus Christ?' would be theological, whereas 'Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage' would be social. The areas for discussion can be alternated for maximum breadth of interest.

Participants have expressed their appreciation for meeting one another. Unlike other public religious assemblies of members belonging to the two faiths, there has always been a friendly ambience. Many misunderstandings have been removed on both sides. This has resulted in more openness for relationships. The elements of fear and defensiveness are dispelled by this kind of Muslim-Christian encounter.

To watch past MBUs click here.
To get summaries of past MBU topics click here.