In Sterling Heights, Michigan the battle over the proposed construction of a mosque precipitated religious and cultural tension between Christians and Muslims. The UN reported that Christian militias are engaged in ethnic cleansing of Muslims in an ongoing Central African Republic civil war. At the same time, over the previous weekend (October 11, 2015) after hearing about armed protests scheduled to take place around mosques throughout the U.S., hundreds came out to rally around their Muslim neighbors in support.
In the midst of all these headlines, I had the pleasure of talking with Michal. She is doing inspiring peacemaking work with Christians and Muslims. She wrote of her calling, “I'm passionate about helping local churches effectively interact with the Muslim community around them; overcoming stereotypes/fears/misunderstandings, share faith and work together for the common good. I do this through my PhD research, the many grassroots events I organize with Muslims and Christians in California, and the documentaries I'm working on.”
While her work is primarily in Southern California, the impact is global. Michal, and her Muslim friend and partner Sondos — who together maintain the site MissUnderstanding.co — are confident that what they do is a significant part of the peacemaking process across the world.
One of the many projects Michal and Sondos are working on is the “People of Peace Documentary.” The project is about Muslims and Christians learning what it means to become friends while staying true to their faith.
In the clip above, twelve Christians visit a local mosque to learn more about their Muslim neighbors. They are paired with a Muslim their age and gender to talk about what their faith means to them. The goal is to talk candidly and openly about any subject.
Interacting with someone from another religion on their terms and at their place of worship or practice is one of the best avenues for better understanding and increased dialogue between people of disparate faiths. Such experiences “re-humanize” the religious “other” more than a lecture, a book, or even an in-class discussion. Beyond learning, students are then able to identify with the religious “other.”
As Yehezkel Landau wrote, “We need to develop educational strategies to overcome the ignorance that leads to prejudice, which in turn leads to dehumanizing contempt, which in turn breeds violence.” Friendships between people of different religious persuasions are not only personally fulfilling, but educationally efficacious and potentially life-changing. Sometimes, people talk just once. Other times, they make lifelong friends and change the world together.
Watch the video to find out more and to consider a program like it with your local masjid or church communities.