‘Meetings for better understanding’ (MBU)* are not debates. Any public criticism of either the Muslim or Christian religion is not encouraged since that would lead to arguments which are not productive. Nor am I proposing dialogues, in the sense that the word is used by liberal ecumenical gatherings.
Contrary to them, our aim is not for either side to compromise its message or mix the two faiths. MBUs simply promote a mutual understanding of what Muslims and Christians believe. This happens both publicly and after the formal part is over, on a personal basis when members of the two faiths can get to know each other. This has resulted in more open relationships. Perhaps the best thing is that Muslims are willing to come to listen to what the Bible has to say on chosen topics. After all, the Imam, their local leader, has given his approval to the gatherings. Numerous times participants have gone away with individual invitations to meet again on a more private basis to continue the conversation.
The following rules to the meeting ought to be observed:
- Each speaker has 20 minutes to speak on the topic and should speak only on that topic.
- A 45 minute question-and-answer period is held after both speakers have presented their messages. Questions should be written down and are to be kept on the topic. They should not be statements of the views of the questioners. Questions can be directed to one or both of the speakers. Each speaker may follow up on the answer of the other speaker once. Other questions that are of personal interest but not related to the topic may be discussed in individual conversations after the formal sessions.
- The meetings should be moderated to ensure that the above guidelines are followed. The moderator for each meeting is to be chosen by the group that hosts the meeting.
- There should be ample time after the formal meeting for people to meet personally with members of the other faith. Refreshments may be served either before or after the question-and-answer session.
- A series of meetings should be held regularly, every month or so.
- Topics can be classified as either theological or social. One can alternate between the two categories from meeting to meeting if you are holding a series.
Muslims and Christians explain what their books, the Qur’an and the Bible, teach about the following issues:
|Theological and doctrinal topics||Social topics – ‘Christian living’ and ‘Islamic living’|
|The unity of God||Religion in daily life|
|Who is Jesus Christ?||Morality|
|The Bible and the Qur’an, their inspiration and origins||Family life: husband-wife-child relationships|
|Humanity’s relationship to God||Marriage, divorce, and remarriage|
|What is sin, and how is it to be dealt with?||How do race and colour affect religion?|
|What is a prophet, and who are the prophets?||The role of men and women in life, according to religion|
|The attributes of God||Human rights|
|Prayer and fasting||How to raise teenagers in a secular society|
|Law and grace||Principles of friendship and neighbourhood responsibility|
|The death of Jesus on the cross||How to live out your religion in British culture|
|Images in religion||What the Bible and the Qur’an teach about slavery|
|What constitutes a true believer?||The unity of the human race|
|Worship – what and how?||Why is there so much corruption in the world today?|
|The Day of Judgment||How can Christians and Muslims work together for good?|
|The purpose of life||Hospitality|
|What are the requirements of going to Paradise/Heaven?||Goodness, godliness|
|What is the Church/Ummah?||Honesty|
|What is repentance?|
Venues and hosting
‘Meetings for Better Understanding’ are held in mosques, neutral halls or private homes. In the case of the latter, the gatherings are much smaller and usually accompanied by the eating of halal food.
This article was originally published in 2010 for A Passion For Life’s Ideas for Mission. For more information please contact the ABC (Applied Biblical Christianity) or visit https://aboutabc.org
* ‘Meeting for Better Understanding’ and ‘MBU’ are copyright terms and may not be reproduced without permission in writing from an ABC coordinator.