Religious Diversity and Ash Wednesday
While shopping in a local grocery store today, I noticed several people with a cross of ashes on their foreheads. I had once thought only Roman Catholics observed this practice, but those I observed today were from a local Anglican church. This got me wondering what Christian denominations who do not practice the imposition of ashes think about Ash Wednesday. So often there is misunderstanding, suspicion, and judgment even between various groups all calling themselves the same thing, in this case, “Christian.”
Local Christian-Muslim Meetings
And, of course, conflict is even more common between religions. But contention does not have to be part of cross-religion interaction. A friend of mine told me about her Christian church that has productively held regular discussion nights with a local mosque.
The stated purpose of these meetings is to gain a better understanding of each other’s culture and beliefs. About every three months, each institution sends a representative to give a talk and answer questions. Members of both organizations and the public are invited to attend. The two groups take turns hosting the meetings and the sessions are conducted with mutual respect.
No doubt each group would welcome converts, but whether or not that occurs, surely these well-attended events are enlightening to both sides. These Christian-Muslim talks are an encouraging illustration of constructive dialogue and an amazing example of openness to diversity. Both groups must be confident of their own beliefs or they would be afraid to examine the other’s or to expose their congregations to beliefs that are different than their own.
Although this mosque and this church are in the same town, their members could easily ignore each other. Instead, they choose to engage and learn about each other rather than harbor fear or misunderstanding. Perhaps it’s easier for a group to engage a group than it is for individuals to engage each other, but in any case respectful interaction can only be a positive thing.
You are invited to share your thoughts on or experiences with cross-religion interaction.