Today we returned to “the classroom” or the conference space at the EELS office. Pastor Joseph Diop assembled an assortment of guests to help open our minds to the journey of Christian-Muslim relationships through PRICA/PROMCURA. Purpose of this group is to address “How we relate to Muslims without compromising our commitment to the gospel?” It is exclusively Christian, Pan-African, established in 1959 with a focus on peaceful co-existence since the continent and Senegal have been invaded by 2 missionary religions that have had and continue to have great potential for conflict to erupt. To date, 10 countries have hosted workshops and scholarships are being developed for Christian students to receive an MA in Islamic Studies at St. Paul School, Nairobi, Kenya. The group seeks to be intentionally Christian so that it does not appear to be syncretistic, while it has an intentional focus on engaging and reaching out to the Muslim community for dialog and mutual understanding. In 1990, PRICA in Senegal originated in a retreat center outside of Dakar. This led to making visits with Imams in order to get their input to avoid conflicts experienced in other parts of the world where Muslims and Christians live. An obstacle in forming the group was the attitude represented in “The only dealings we need to have with Muslims is to preach the gospel to them and leave it at that.” Another obstacle was gaining the trust of fellow Christians as well as the trust of the Muslims. There was a spirit of suspicion on the purpose and motive of this group. A leading Sheik and Islamic teacher joined our conversation and outlined the climate of trust needed to engage in conversation:
Unless a person feels safe with you there cannot be a conversation!
Conditions for Conversation:
- Feel safe with whom you are engaging
- For the other to feel safe with us
- If a person agrees aloud that there is safety and ground of agreement. If there is not agreement, it is important that the other is not left as an enemy.
- Mutual respect in the humanness of the other
- Conversations are not holy–they can be right or wrong
- In the end we are still brothers or sisters–All people are one family of God
- The person closest to God is one who helps the family of God
Like any relationship, trust is something that develops as risks are taken to know the other and share oneself. Maybe this is why in the Bible we have over 350 references to God, angels and Jesus saying “Don’t be afraid.”
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