Muslims and Christians ‘can share faith ethically’

25 June 2009

by Bill Bowder

GUIDELINES produced by the Christian-Muslim Forum to help people from each faith share their religious convictions were launched on Wednesday at the headquarters of the charity Islamic Relief in London.

The Bishop of Kingston, Dr Richard Cheetham, who is vice-chairman of the Forum, chaired the launch. He said: “The guidelines re­cognise that both Christians and Muslims will seek to share their faith with others, and that there are diverse approaches to this within both faiths.”

Dr Andrew Smith, youth specialist on the Forum, said that both faiths were “frustrated and defensive” when they tried to share their faith. “At times it has become competitive, aggressive, and has left a nasty taste in my mouth,” he said before the launch. He had worked for Scripture Union, and had sought to promote his faith in inner-city Birmingham.

“I was left feeling frustrated and defensive, and with no wish to do it again. Talking to others, I realised that this was a common experience, so the idea of a set of principles that would help both faiths avoid this seemed to me an obvious way forward.”

Another speaker, Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, interfaith spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “Islam and Christianity are two world religions that are missionary — and therefore are ever vying with each other for converts. But we should be able to speak of our faith honestly and with conviction, without demeaning or ridiculing others.”

The ten-point guidelines state:

1. both faiths believed they should proclaim their faith by words and attitudes, actions and lifestyles;

2. in language and method, both faiths should recognise that people’s choice of faith was primarily a matter between themselves and God;

3. “sharing our faith should never be coercive”;

4. caring for people should never be manipulated to gain a convert;

5. nor should conversion be linked to inducements;

6. neither faith should diminish the faith of others and each should speak honestly about their own faith;

8. people should be honest about their motivations;

9. they can rejoice with converts but be sensitive to the loss that others felt; and

10. “Whilst we may feel hurt when someone we know and love chooses to leave our faith, we will respect their decision and will not force them to stay, or harass them afterwards.”

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