Christian and Muslim leaders met this past week to launch the National Muslim-Christian Initiative in North America aimed at facilitating greater understanding between the two religious communities.
Representatives of several Christian groups, including the Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord, consultant for interfaith relations for the Episcopal Church, and Dr. Peter Makari, co-chair of the National Council of Churches' Interfaith Relations Commission, were present at the meeting held near Washington, D.C.
The Rev. Guibord and Mohamed Elsanousi, director of communications and community outreach of the Islamic society of North America (ISNA), coordinated the meeting after several recent consultations between Muslim and Christian leaders.
"This Initiative of Muslim and Christian leaders sends a message to those in North America – [that] we co-exist in vibrant communities where awareness and cooperation will be our common future together," said co-convener Dr. Peter Makari, co-chair of the NCC's Interfaith Relations Commission, according to Episcopal Life.
The initiative’s mission, as stated in its mission statement adopted this past week, is to “enhance mutual understanding, respect, appreciation and support of what is sacred for each other through dialogue, education and sustained visible encounters that foster and nurture relationships.”
Representatives at the meeting discussed their desire for relationships of trust between the two communities, and to explore areas of common concern and understanding.
"This initiative is part of ongoing Muslim efforts to engage other faith communities in North America, and to bring about an understanding of common goals and reconciliation in our communities," said Dr. Syeed Sayyid, national director of the ISNA Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances.
The initiative was sparked by concerns from both Christians and Muslims over misrepresentations of Islam and stereotypes of Muslims in North America. It was also encouraged by an unprecedented letter last year from 138 Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals around the world addressed to Christians.