In this op-ed, MOST’s own Daniel Tutt writes about strengthening the understanding between Evangelical Christians and American Muslims. Here are some snippets from his powerful piece:
–– This past year I’ve been leading a new initiative at Unity Productions Foundation (UPF), whose mission is to counter bigotry and create peace through the media. Its docu-drama film The Sultan and the Saint is a peacemaking tool designed to forge new interfaith relationships. My particular initiative with this film is to strengthen understanding between Evangelical Christians and Muslims in America.
— Research shows that the perceptions of Evangelicals toward Muslims are not positive. In the encounters we have organized around the film, more than 70 percent of Evangelicals and Pentecostals attending have never had a chance to actually engage with Muslims.
— We began the initiative by introducing The Sultan and the Saint to a group of Evangelical and Muslim scholars and activists at Georgetown University. Attendees included former Islamic Society of North America president Imam Mohamed Magid and Bob Roberts, an Evangelical pastor from Dallas who has been leading high-level dialogue between the two communities for several years. These leaders have pioneered relationship-building work between Evangelicals and Muslims; our project seeks to reach an ever-wider cross-section of both communities. After two days of brainstorming at Georgetown, a dialogue model emerged.
— We learned from our Evangelical colleagues that, at the end of the day, Evangelicals have a Christology that is fundamentally built around Christ as the central salvific core. Changing the details about Jesus is suspect. In short, this is a theological difference that takes time to address.
— We also noticed that Evangelicals have a long history of peacemaking, with many churches involved in global peacemaking efforts. So we decided to emphasize the international context of peacemaking by looking at how both Christians and Muslims are forging peace around the world.
— … we decided that the shared imperative God makes on believers to be peacemakers in the world is a solid foundation for new relationships. It does not alienate. It shows what we share. And it includes an imperative to know the other and to work with the stranger, the neighbor, and those outside one’s own faith to make peace happen. The Sultan and the Saint brings home this shared imperative better than we could have imagined. From the shared experience of watching the film, we move on to key points of scripture that emphasize peacemaking.
— We’ve been happy with the results. To date the initiative’s encounters around the film have reached more 1,700 individuals and identified 75 peacemakers for the cause.