Have Muslim-Christian Relations Improved Since 9/11?
Rick Love is president of Peace Catalyst International and consultant for Christian-Muslim relations with the Vineyard USA.
Terrorist attacks. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Guantanamo Bay. Abu Ghraib. Violent Muslim responses to Terry Jones's Qur'an burning. Islamophobic responses to building mosques in the United States.
Have Muslim-Christian relations improved since 9/11? Most people would say, "No!" I disagree. Muslim-Christian relations have improved.
Yes, there is progress, but many can't see it because they confuse Christianity with the West. Relationships between Muslims and the West haven't improved since 9/11. But that isn't the question.
Yes, there is progress, but many can't see it because of the media. Journalists select events, promote images, and emphasize perspectives that shape perception. Sometimes they get it right. Often they don't. And the undiscerning miss what God is doing.
Yes, there is progress, but there is also bad news. There have been violent attacks on minority Christians in Muslim countries like Indonesia, Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt, and Nigeria. Churches have been destroyed and Christians killed. Muslims in America have freedom of religion, but they face increasing hostility from fearful populations.
But overall, things are improving.
At the National Prayer Breakfast in 2005, King Abdullah II of Jordan forcefully spoke out against terrorism. The media complain that Muslims don't speak out against terrorism. Abdullah did, loud and clear. Other Muslim countries are building bridges. Qatar hosts the annual Doha Interfaith Conference. King Abdullah al-Saud of Saudi Arabia promotes interfaith dialogue and religious tolerance, which was unheard of prior to 9/11. This same dynamic is happening in the U.S. among Muslim organizations and local mosques.
The World Evangelical Alliance, representing over 600 million evangelicals, recently birthed a peace and reconciliation initiative with a strong emphasis on Christian-Muslim relations.
During a 2009 conference in Kenya, 50 evangelical leaders from around the world wrestled with alienation between Muslims and Christians. The Grace and Truth Project started. Nine biblical guidelines for Christlike relations emerged, changing the way Christians relate to Muslims.
The International Guild of Visual Peacemakers builds bridges of peace through breathtaking photography and stirring video clips. The Institute for Global Engagement focuses on building mutual respect, reconciliation, and religious freedom. They host numerous conferences aimed at enhancing Christian-Muslim relations. Peace Catalyst International is another influential initiative making a difference by getting mosques and churches together around meals and shared concerns.
The Yale Reconciliation Program may be one of the most promising academic and global initiatives. The program hosted the Common Word dialogue between 75 prominent international Muslim leaders and 75 prominent international Christian leaders in 2008. In June 2011, the program convened a gathering of 30 influential leaders for "Building Hope: Muslims, Christians and Jews Seeking the Common Good." The good will fostered at the Common Word is trickling down to thousands of churches and mosques around the world.
In spite of many chronic problems, Christians and Muslims have been making concerted efforts to get along since September 11.
Carl Moeller is president of Open Doors USA, a group that works with persecuted Christians worldwide.