It has been somewhat surreal to be at this conference these past few days, while at the same time watching the news coverage of the church bombing in Pakistan and the Nairobi mall shooting. While the world has seen that (false) face of Islam, I have been here, surrounded by thousands of Muslims from all over the world who are kind, intelligent, engaging, AND extremely devout. This is the face of Islam I wish everyone could see.
Yesterday was a perfect case in point. There were around 1,000 people at the panel where I gave my paper (see picture below), in which I talked about the ways in which Nursi’s understanding of prophethood can help Christians come to a richer, deeper picture of Jesus, who is not only savior but also a prophet. And, of course, I talked about how important it is that we talk and grow together in faith–not minimizing or ignoring our differences, but also not allowing them to keep us from friendship, love of God and shared service in the world. I am happy to say that this message was very well received here, and returned in spades. After the presentation, I was approached by Muslims from Yemen (Yemen!), Sudan, Azerbaijan (the picture is with a group of Azerbaijani women), Malaysia, the UK, and Turkey (among other countries) all of whom wanted to learn more about Christianity (and once again, I was brought to my theological knees trying to explain the Trinity–no, we REALLY ARE monotheists!–while surrounded by 10 eager and interested Muslims!) and express their appreciation for a message of hope and friendship. It was deeply, deeply moving for me, and reminded me anew about how important it is for us to not only share our own faith with others, but be open to hearing about others’ faith as well. I genuinely believe it makes all the difference in the world.