Interfaith education to build cooperation

The Center for Interfaith Reconciliation based at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia will be hosting a conference entitled, “Encounter Islam” on February 12-13.

More information on this conference can be found on the St. Stephen’s website. The executive director of the Center, the Rev. William L. Sachs, Ph.D, wrote a helpful and wise letter to the editor on Interfaith encounter and understanding. Read an excerpt below.

Interfaith Education: A Little Knowledge Can Be Dangerous

By the Rev. William L. Sachs, Ph.D in the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Last November’s killings at Fort Hood were labeled terrorism by many when it became known that the alleged shooter — a U.S. citizen and Army psychiatrist — was also Muslim.

The attempted bombing of a North west Airlines flight on Christmas Day by a Nigerian Muslim came despite a warning by the man’s father — also Muslim. “The Jihadist Next Door,” the cover story of the Jan. 31 edition of the New York Times Magazine, presented the account of a boy who went from a rural Alabama upbringing to leading an African terror group linked to al-Qaida.

These are several of the images of Islam that encourage prejudice. But are these images generally true of Muslims and their religion? Is Islam inherently violent? Or, have Islam and Muslims been tarnished unfairly by the actions of a few? To what extent are perceptions of the world’s second-largest religion mistaken? According to a recent Gallup study, prejudice by Americans against Muslims and Islam exceeds misgivings about other religions. Nearly half of Americans (43 percent) admit to being prejudiced against this religion and its followers. But how much actual knowledge do those who admit prejudice possess?

. . .

“Knowledge” and “cooperation” are not abstractions. They are what you and I can do to make a concrete difference. If we are to address our common challenges we must develop knowledge that builds cooperation. Muslims and their faith are emblematic of our greatest challenge: We must learn to work together amid unprecedented diversity. A little knowledge can be dangerous. But knowledge that builds understanding will equip us for the work we must do together.

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