I did not know what to expect when I was asked to attend the third Baptist-Muslim Dialogue of North America in the stead of Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Secretary Elijah M. Brown.
The reports from the first and second dialogues include deep, thoughtful reflections from experts in Muslim-Baptist interface and theology.
I began reading and listening to Baptist experts like Roy Medley and Paul Fiddes, along with papers presented by the BWA Commission on Interfaith Relations and reflections from Baptist sisters and brothers around the world.
While seeking to bask myself in the Marrakesh Declaration, I realized I had a place at this meeting.
The declaration calls “upon the educated, artistic and creative members of our societies … to establish a broad movement for the just treatment of religious minorities in Muslim countries.”
I began to realize that through education, artistry and creativity all would have a place at the table at Green Lake, Wisconsin, where the dialogue took place on April 16-19.
It was a blessing to begin to rest in the richness of identity in being God’s beloved creation living on earth.
Within the BWA, a deep well of encounters already exists between ordinary people – Baptist and Muslim – in both positive and challenging situations.
There are people around the world engaged in radical, life-giving hospitality. Others employ cutting-edge creative artistry in response to the need for love in their communities.
Still some are responding to crises at the grass-roots level. All of these are ordinary citizens loving their neighbors.
Participating in this dialogue opened my eyes to see my experiences living in a variety of places – and now residing in a county where there are more Muslims than Baptists – as one of interfaith engagement.
Anwar Khan, president of Islamic Relief USA, was my partner in the session titled “Baptists and Muslims in Interfaith Relations.”
We spoke briefly ahead of time. To my relief, he too had not participated in previous dialogues, was a person who desires to see people of faith take their faith more seriously and was eager to be more effective in his ministry and the shaping of future leaders.
As children of Abraham, Anwar and I share a number of the same joys and struggles; we value our faith communities and our Holy Scriptures as well as prayer and rituals.
I certainly have not had death threats as Anwar has had many times. I have not been detained in the U.S. because of my appearance or my name, though I have been held back at some other border crossings.
We shared laughter and prayer; we shared concerns and delighted in seeing where each of “our people” have joined together for the good of humanity.
Our Muslim friends were extremely kind and gracious toward us Baptists, who tend not to have a single voice but many voices speaking into our identity.
At times, our Baptist dialogue would consume a bit more energy than conceivably warranted by such an event, but this, perhaps, helped paint our diverse Baptist canvas.
We offered each other a respectful listening ear and, in return, experienced the grace of God.
I pray we will continue to be creative and thoughtful members of society, realizing we are indeed children of Abraham and cousins of faith.
May we, like young children in primary school, come together to celebrate life and care for each other.
May the good work that took place at Green Lake neither stop there nor end with those who participated.
The Baptist World Alliance response to the “A Common Word between Us and You” letter states, “The theological vision which enlivens us must be received at the grass roots and change attitudes and prejudices there.”
Maybe then we can all sing together, “Father Abraham had many sons and daughters. I am one of them and so are you!”
Trisha Miller Manarin is the Baptist World Alliance coordinator for the division on mission, evangelism and justice, the executive coordinator for Mid-Atlantic Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the director of supervised ministry at John Leland Center for Theological Studies in metro D.C. She hosts a Gift from Global Baptists podcast.
Editor’s note: This article is part of a series reflecting on the third Baptist-Muslim dialogue held April 16-19 in Green Lake, Wisconsin. Photos from the event are available here. A series of video interviews from the dialogue will be published here.
The first article in the series is:
What Happens When Baptists, Muslims Work Together by Richard P. Olson
6 Factors That Brought Baptist, Muslim Leaders Together by Rob Sellers
Trisha Miller Manarin and her family live in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, where she serves at the Executive Coordinator with Mid-Atlantic Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. She loves getting to know neighbors from far and near, and exploring various cultures, customs, music and foods.