Reaching Out: Christian-Muslim Dialogue Initiative
A two-week international workshop on “Islam and Interfaith Relations,” came up with glad tidings to the mainstream peace-loving Muslims and Christians. The event, organized by Henry Martyn Institute, Hyderabad, at Shillong (Meghalaya), brought together priests, bishops, pastors, students and scholars, to understand Islam and inter-faith harmony.
By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi
One of the baffling challenges that the adherents of the world religions face today is that of inter-faith relations in general, and Muslim-Christian ties in particular. Given the history of intense conflicts and grave atrocities perpetrated by extremists of both communities, the adherents of the two largest religions of the world are laden with the burden of harsh memories. In such an environment which actually seems to promote division, a two-week international workshop on “Islam and Interfaith Relations” came up with glad tidings to the mainstream peace-loving Muslims and Christians. The event was organized by Henry Martyn Institute (Hyderabad) at Shillong (Meghalaya), from the 4th to the 17th of May, 2014.
The course on “Islam and Interfaith Relations” included an intensive introduction to Islamic beliefs, doctrines and practical guidelines for how to relate to people of other faiths and an introduction to conflict resolution as a way to promote reconciliation. This study of Islam and interfaith relations was an important part of pastoral training, particularly in light of the present context of communal divisions on destructive lines. The course focused on communal harmony in India and the growing need for understanding of Muslim neighbors so that the two largest communities of the world may help to build bridges of understanding and cooperation the world over.
Henry Martyn Institute (HMI), an international Centre for Research, Interfaith Relations and Reconciliation, is an ecumenical Christian organization based in Hyderabad. It is dedicated to the objective study and teaching of religions and the promotion of interfaith relations and reconciliation. Since its inception in 1930, HMI has established a long record of peace-building and promotion of interfaith harmony through the academic programmes, international workshops and residential courses focused on Islamic studies, interfaith relations and peace-making. Taking into account the growing importance of multi-culturalism and religious diversity, the HMI also helps students and scholars, with a bird’s eye view of major religions like Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism etc.
The Summer Course on Islam and Interfaith Relations, a long-standing annual programme of HMI, which was an intensive two-week residential workshop— provided the priests, bishops, pastors, students and scholars educated in Christian seminaries, with great deal of time to examine and deepen the knowledge about the essential messages as well as the most vital contemporary issues and concerns of Islam and Muslims. They were exposed to the real meaning of relationship between people of different faiths. A deeper analysis of pluralism, co-existence, interreligious harmony and interfaith dialogue was envisaged.
The course was open to people of all faiths, and to students and scholars of both religious seminaries and secular universities. Most notably, priests, chaplains, pastors and religious and community leaders of the Christian societies in different parts of India got enrolled in the course on Islam and Interfaith relations. There were approximately 30 participants each for the Introductory and advanced levels.
The participants followed an intensive two-week programme, consisting of lectures and presentations; group discussions, role plays, cultural events and practical dialogue sessions; readings, videos, and visits to local religious places. Upon successful completion of the course, each participant received a certificate from HMI.
The event was truly delightful and quite an ennobling experience for the faculty and resource persons as well. By offering such extensive summer courses combined with enriching cultural events, Henry Martyn Institute, aims at fostering an atmosphere of peace and harmony in the country and removing doom and gloom created by religious bias and communal hatred. Though it is an uphill task, the HMI seems to be committed and spirited in its efforts of spreading messages of love, peace and inclusiveness in the framework of religions.