Interfaith Dialogue

By Liz Jacobs The first day of school this spring, Whitworth extended a gesture of support to Islamic students on campus at the invocation address during convocation.

Karin Heller wrote the prayer for invocation and a graduate student named Haitham Al Mhana translated the prayer into Arabic. Mhana repeated the translated prayer in Arabic during the ceremony.

Heller said that she wrote the prayer for invocation in a way that Mhana could translate it. However, at the end of the prayer, she asked for all these things through Christ, God’s holy son and through the Holy Trinity.

A believing Muslim cannot pray that statement because in Islam does not believe in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit or Christ as God.

Dr. Heller said that Mhana translated the prayer, that was it. He did not pray the prayer, but recited it to show Whitworth’s openness to Islam.

“You cannot deny that there are different ways of viewing the Christian God and viewing the Islamic God,” Dr. Heller said.

Clearly, interfaith dialogue is important and as a community, Whitworth must be open to multiple religions. Whitworth intentionally welcomes other religions as demonstrated in this year’s invocation address.

Still, creating an atmosphere for interfaith conversations is challenging. In order to have honest, real dialogue, our community must face the differences in religion rather than glossing over disagreement.

As a campus, we must understand that different religions are diverse, and that is okay. For example, Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, Abrahamic religions, but their conceptions of God have several key differences.

These contrasting conceptions of God create ripple effects in the theology Christianity and Islam. Many Christians see marriage as a parallel to the way Christ loves the Church. God is father and husband in the Christian understanding, but in the Qu’ran God is only father.

Many Christians, Catholics specifically, view marriage a sacrament. Islam professes that marriage is civil, not a sacrament. It is clear that different beliefs in the image of God do not align.

I am not arguing in this article that one belief in God is better than the other, but in order to have interfaith dialogue, it is important to acknowledge differences and have a conversation from there.

It starts with dialogue, and understanding that differences, even if they oppose each other, are not bad. The conversation dies when people refuse to understand that Islam, Christianity and often denominations of Christianity hold opposing beliefs.

I think that is a good thing. We shouldn’t shy away from difference, but discuss it. By realizing that dialogue isn’t about convincing someone to your side, but understanding another perspective, people can understand the world better.

Dr. Heller said that there is not a lot of interreligious dialogue campus, and she is right. She also said that in order to have dialogue, people have to understand their own beliefs.

So, take a moment to understand who you are and the faith or non-faith you hold, and be open to an opinion that completely opposes yours.

The invocation address was a positive gesture toward Islam, but more interfaith dialogue needs to happen on this campus for people to truly understand each other.

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