As a member of the Arab Group for Muslim Christian Dialogue (see picture above), I will be participating in a 'Christian-Muslim Conference on Better Understanding and Cooperation between Muslims and Christians' which will be held first in Beirut-Lebanon April 30 to May 3rd, 2012 and then a corresponding conference to be held in Copenhagen 25-29 September 2012.
The conference is a joint effort by the National Council of Churches in Denmark, the Muslim Council in Denmark and the Arab Group for Muslim Christian Dialogue.
The participants in the conference will be Christians and Muslims from Denmark, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and the Gulf. The conference is supported by the Danish Ministry of foreign affairs.
The objective of the conference is to further a common understanding between Christians and Muslims across the Mediterranean Sea and to further an understanding of basic common values within both religions as a constructive point of departure for development that focuses on peace, reconciliation, mutuality and democracy. The purpose is to promote peaceful co-existence between cultures and religions in Denmark as well as in the Middle East, and to contribute to an alternative understanding of religion- Christianity and Islam in particular- to the one portrayed by extremists. There is a need for continuous dialogue between Christians and Muslims in the West (Denmark) and the Middle East, which has been enhanced with the growing tension in the Middle East in recent months.
Themes of the Conferences
Themes of the conferences were discussed by the organizing groups. As a general remark, it was underlined that the conferences are not only an important part of inter-religious dialogue among leaders but also has a vital objective and mission to inform Muslims and Christians in our own contexts and globally about the misconceptions of the other. The themes are:
- God in Christianity and Islam
A theme of introduction that includes both theological/ academic reflections and the question on how God is present in our lives.
Understanding God in the perspectives of a theology of dialogue.
- Basic ethical values in Christianity and Islam.
Do we have understandings of a specific and exclusive Muslim and Christian ethic or can we say that there are common values?
- View of religious other
Looking at the Qur’an, Bible Tradition, theologies, tec.
Testimonies: examples of how faith minorities enrich a country (eg. Young people)
- Religious Freedom
Rights of minorities
The theme includes both human right aspects, experiences from different contexts and visions for peaceful coexistence.
Some of the terminologies in the Danish summary (concept paper) were discussed (focusing on themes).
- Instead of using the term “tolerance”, we should use the terms of “honor” and “respect”.
- Instead of using the term “protection” of minorities we should use the term of “support and rights”.
- It was noted that we should be aware of not having too much focus on minority/majority relations, but more on citizenship. Furthermore, we must be aware of the different context of the faith minorities in the Middle East and in Europe. Muslims in Europe do not only constitute a minority of faith but are also divided into different ethnic minorities, whereas the Christians in the Middle East are primarily only a faith minority- not an ethnic minority.