Leaders from three Baptist organizations met recently with a Muslim leader to begin discussions on ways the two faiths can work together and learn from one another.

The initiative for Jan. 4-5 discussions in Hartford, Conn., with Sayyid M. Syeed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America, came from visits last year to Lebanon and the Republic of Georgia by Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.

At each place, both Baptist and Muslim leaders urged Medley to seek to improve relationships between the two faiths in the United States. The ABC/USA Committee on Christian Unity eagerly accepted the challenge and offered an invitation to other Baptists to join in.

“We enter into these dialogues as fully committed disciples of Jesus, understanding that so much of the peace of the world depends upon how Muslims, Christians, and Jews are able to live together with mutual respect and a common commitment to the well-being of all,” Medley said, quoted in American Baptist News Service.

The proposed framework for the dialogue includes a national event scheduled in early January 2009 where representative theologians will meet for presentations and relationship-building.

Based in Plainfield, Ind., the Islamic Association of North America is a national umbrella organization claiming more than 300 affiliates in the U.S. and Canada.

Joining Medley at the Hartford meeting were Stan Hastey of the Alliance of Baptists and Rob Sellers, a professor at the Logsdon School of Theology representing the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

A task force for the consultation includes members from those three groups, along with Alan Stanford, head of the North American Baptist Fellowship.

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