As campaign rhetoric intensifies hate and fear against immigrants and Muslims in the United States, the Companions’ Spring Conference in April provided a profound immersion in the theology and practice of interfaith collaboration. Here are some of the resources provided by keynoter Lucinda Mosher, director of the Multifaith Chaplaincy Program at Hartford Seminary.
Mosher pointed out that Christianity calls us to reach out to people of other faiths, first through the Ninth commandment, “thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” which, stated positively, calls us to know the truth and bear truthful witness about our neighbor. Mosher defined “neighbor” as one who makes a claim on us by his or nearness (Luke 10:25-37).
So, Mosher added, the Christian mandate includes getting to know our neighbors of other faiths, through what David Lochhead calls the dialogical imperative (“talking through”): a process of building relationship which takes time and effort.
Mosher presented parts of a wonderful DVD by American Muslim Eboo Patel (Embracing Interfaith Cooperation). Patel lists the steps which will help us be good neighbors and citizens in the United States, one of the most religiously pluralistic countries on earth:
- Appreciative knowledge: discover specifics you admire about other religions
- Embrace an ethic or theology of interfaith cooperation: we cooperate because our religious texts and heroes require it.
- Learn the history of interfaith cooperation in human history including your own country.
- Know the shared values between and across faiths instead of going straight to the differences.
To these Mosher added: be aware of America’s interfaith infrastructure. A great start would be to find out what Muslims are doing to improve conditions in your community. I was astounded to learn at this conference how a non-profit founded by a compassionate Muslim nurse in Dearborn has grown into an extraordinarily effective one-stop shop, combining emergency assistance and empowerment for vulnerable women and children. I realized that I had never asked what Muslims are doing in my city to improve conditions for all.
Through field trips and workshops, we glimpsed the fruit of decades of loving partnership between Companions in the Ann Arbor Chapter and people of other faiths – Muslim, Christian, and Jewish – to bring hope and renewal to Detroit and Dearborn.
Ariel Miller, OH/KY Chapter