I was taken when a friend shared a link on his Facebook page, titled “Coffee and Conversation, Islam and Christianity” with the rider: “it’s vital that Christians and Muslims talk together, and that we all understand the crucial differences there are between Christianity and Islam…”, which I agree with, for since my university days when I met and befriended a number of Muslims, I have sought to do and continue to do so to this day.
I liked the website, which did not pull back when detailing essential differences between Islam and Christianity while, at the same time, spoke of the need to find Common Ground by “Learning to Discuss the Things that Matter” and stating its “purpose is to provide an open, friendly site where we can sit down over a cup of (virtual) coffee and share about the beliefs that guide our lives”.
Like many with my more conservative leaning Christian views, I battle on one hand with welcoming Muslim folk into my community and not welcoming an ideology I see as potentially harmful. Let me explain … as I have documented elsewhere, when I became a more than part time community activist at the turn of the millennium, I found myself having a lot to do with Muslim folk (and indeed was mentored by one of them), who I regarded as good people who contributed to the wider community, some I regard as friends, even to this day. I am pleased on issues such as helping the homeless there is much common ground, there are active inter faith forums and I am pleased to plug and attend events held at the local mosque to engage with neighbours. On the other hand, I recoil at some of the ideology, which in the worse case has been taken up by a minority of Muslims, like the Pakistani, Muslim sex grooming of minors gangs in English Northern cities and sexual attacks on women in cities across Europe (often covered up due to misguided political correctness), and that of Muslim immigration at odds with cultural norms, which countries like Hungary who have in the past experienced the worse effects of Islam conquest cannot forget.
I can elaborate on the pros and cons of Muslim immigration and the spread of Islamic ideology, but suffice to say the matter remains unresolved and my own positive experience of associating with Muslim folk cannot compensate with other peoples’ negative experiences. Moreover, the overtures I have made to have frank dialogue on these matters has not, in the main, happened, despite from my own perspective good relationships being maintained with members of at least two mosques in my town and continued positivity. I would like to see something along the line of what a local rabbi friend attempted a few years back, which was to bring together thoughtful representatives of Islam, Judaism and Christianity to discuss the Israel / Palestinian conundrum in a spirit of friendship. What I would oppose is what I see as false ecumenicalism – which can and does happen in trying to reach a consensus, and fails to recognize fundamental differences. But going back to the challenge laid down by Christian folk linked to the coffee loving website, there is a lot to be done to build up trust and friendship, honestly explore areas of differences as well as agreement, and find common ground.