Earlier this month, Muslim and Evangelical Christian students convened at a conference at Wheaton College to explore what they could do to reform relations, a situation the event’s organizers, Neighborly Faith, called “the greatest interreligious challenge of our time.”
A recent survey conducted by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding found that only 22% of evangelical participants said that they had regular interactions with Muslims while on the flip side, 53% of Muslim respondents said they interact with Christians frequently.
Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institue, was a keynote speaker at the conference, and says that he encourages both faiths to stand by their beliefs. “Evangelicals, in their engagement with Muslims, should feel comfortable being open and unapologetic about their commitment to Christ, and Muslims shouldn’t need to temper any of their convictions either. The idea that you have to dilute in order to understand and engage has it backwards. If you know who you are, then this allows for a mutual respect and generosity of spirit that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.”
Anna Cole, a Christian student at Wheaton College, said that the conference did not necessarily change her personal attitudes though added that the event gave her “renewed inspiration for working to build relationships between Wheaton students and Muslims in the area.”
Saad Hazari, a Muslim student at Benedictine University, said that “some of his dearest friends are evangelicals” but is dismayed at what he sees as a lack of empathy among evangelicals “towards any cause that is related to the Muslims, like whether it be Islamophobia in America, Uighur Muslims, Yemen, Ethiopia, Kashmir [or] Burma.” However, Hazari said he thinks that the Neighborly Faith conference is important because it forces people to step outside their “bubble.”