Baptist and Muslim relationships top the agenda for global Baptist leaders who gather this week in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, for the annual conclave of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) – much as was the case at the 2012 meeting in Santiago, Chile.
One of the most dynamic sessions will focus on the conflict between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria, where media reports abound about Islamic extremists who have targeted both Muslims and Christians.

During that session, participants will hear about a BWA staff visit to Nigeria in December 2012 and from three Nigerian leaders.

The BWA adopted in 2012 a resolution that expressed “concern about the discriminatory bombing of places of worship,” the slaughtering of Nigerian people and the “abuse of human rights in the name of religion.” The resolution called for peacemaking efforts.

A joint session of the Commissions on Baptist-Muslim Relations and Human Rights Advocacy will receive an update on the situation in the Middle East moderated by Nabil Costa, executive director of the Lebanese Baptist Society, and Nicholas Wood, director of the Centre for Christianity and Culture at Regent’s Park College in Oxford, England.

Wood will also speak to the common word initiative launched by Muslim religious scholars in October 2007 in a peacemaking letter to Christian leaders titled A Common Word Between Us and You.

That initiative became the foundation for’s 2010 documentary, “Different Books, Common Word: Baptists and Muslims,” which aired on 130 ABC-TV stations.

In the related field, Tony Peck, general secretary of the European Baptist Federation (EBF), and David Kerrigan, general secretary of BMS World Mission, will report on the situation between Israelis and Palestinians.

Founded in 1905, the BWA is the largest network of worldwide Baptists with 223 member conventions and unions located in 120 countries. BWA has 42 million members in some 177,000 churches.

While the Southern Baptist Convention is not a member of the BWA, many United States participants are affiliated with SBC churches and organizations.

The SBC withdrew from the BWA in 2004, accusing the BWA of holding stances contrary to the Bible, encouraging women to be pastors, having an anti-American tone and refusing to allow for a discussion about abortion. One SBC leader justified the withdrawal from the BWA on the basis that it had member bodies that affirmed gay marriage.

Helle Liht, assistant to the general secretary of the EBF, will moderate a session on environmental justice with a presentation on climate change by Michael Taylor, a Jamaican Baptist and lecturer on physics at The University of the West Indies.

Other sessions will examine the contributions of George Liele, a freed American slave credited with starting Baptist mission work in Jamaica, and Sam Sharpe, leader of the Jamaican Baptist war against slavery.

Argentinean Baptist leader Tomas Mackey will reflect on the role of Pope Francis, who was the cardinal of Argentina.

That session will be moderated by Daniel Carro, a professor of divinity at The John Leland Center for Theological Studies in Arlington, Va., and a member of the board of directors for the Baptist Center for Ethics, the parent company of

Named Baptist of the Year in 2012 by, Glen Stassen was later honored with the BWA’s 2013 Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award. At the end of the week, participants will gather for a conversation with Stassen about his many years of peacemaking work.

For a video clip of Stassen speaking in 2012 about the Baptist contribution to the development of human rights, click here. provided extensive coverage of BWA’s annual meetings in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012.

The annual gathering includes meetings of the General Council related to organizational matters – finances, bylaws, membership, resolutions and planning for the Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa, in 2015.

Assuming that all the technological wrinkles work, will keep global Baptists up to speed with articles, tweets and video interviews.

Robert Parham is executive editor of and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.

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