PERSPECTIVES . Christian-Muslim Relations

BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: In Washington, a group of American evangelical leaders publicly criticized anti-Islamic statements made by prominent members of their own movement — among them evangelist Franklin Graham, who had called Islam “a very evil and wicked religion.” At this week’s meeting, which was co-sponsored by the National Association of Evangelicals, participants said such remarks endanger missionaries and Christian minorities in Muslim countries. The group proposed guidelines for Christians interacting with Muslims. One of the meeting’s organizers was Diane Knippers, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

DIANE KNIPPERS (President, Institute on Religion and Democracy): We recognize that when statements are made in public that are needlessly insulting to another faith, it not only is a very poor representation of Christianity but, in fact, Christians in other parts of the world can suffer because of those actions. So we want to say to our brothers and sisters in Christ, “That’s inappropriate language. Please, stop using it. You’re jeopardizing very important ministries and work.”

ABERNETHY: Knippers also finds fault with liberals who, she says, are too uncritical of Islam.

Ms. KNIPPERS: You can’t just say that Islam is a religion of peace. There’s too many examples of religiously motivated violence within Islam. We need to talk to Muslims about this. Photo of Diane Knippers And we will find that there are many, many Muslims who share our concerns about those radical movements.

ABERNETHY: Knippers also wants dialogue with Muslims to include human rights.

Ms. KNIPPERS: I think we could talk about the way women are treated in Saudi Arabia. We need to talk about the way Christians are treated in southern Sudan. We need to talk about religious freedom.

The fact of the matter is many Arab, Muslim nations, the Muslims, their general population are not offered genuine, free human rights.

ABERNETHY: Knippers thinks the religious differences between Christianity and Islam are so great, Christians and Muslims should not try to worship together.

Photo of Interfaith Service Ms. KNIPPERS: These are fundamentally very different faiths. Central to Christian worship is acknowledging Jesus Christ, the son of God, as God. So we worship Jesus Christ. Muslims would find that blasphemous. So it’s really impossible to have completely authentic Christian worship or Muslim worship together.

Photo of religious symbol ABERNETHY: Is there a danger that identifying the greatest issues that divide Christians and Muslims, being very open about them, could make relations between the two religions worse, rather than better?

Ms. KNIPPERS: That’s a very good question. Sometimes increased understanding does not lower disagreement. I just think that’s a risk that we have to take. I am sure that noncommunication and mutual ignorance is not the way for peace in the world. I’m more willing to take the risk that dialogue will produce some benefits. I would hope that it would lead to Muslims being more understanding and respectful of Christianity.

ABERNETHY: And you would hope, would you, that Muslims would become Christians?

Ms. KNIPPERS: I would be delighted if Muslims accepted Jesus Christ.