Guidelines developed for Christian-Muslim 'ethical faith sharing'

By staff writers
June 24, 2009

The first ever set of guidelines offering advice for Christians and Muslims who want to share their faith in an ethical way, will be launched today.

The guide, which contains 10 points of advice, has been produced by the Christian Muslim Forum, a national body set up in 2006 to improve relationships between the two faiths.

It will be launched on Wenesday (24 June) at Islamic Relief’s Headquarters in London.

Dr Andrew Smith, Youth Specialist on the Forum, will be one of the key speakers at the launch. He has been working for the evangelical organisation Scripture Union in inner-city Birmingham for the past 14 years and has been active in promoting his own faith whilst at the same time seeking to listen to and understand his Muslim neighbours.

“Speaking with local Muslims and sharing my faith has been fascinating, stimulating, even fun, but at times it has become competitive, aggressive and has left a nasty taste in my mouth. I was left feeling frustrated and defensive and with no wish to do it again! Talking to others I realised that this was a common experience, so the idea of a set of principles that would help both faiths avoid this, seemed to me an obvious way forward.”

Speaking alongside Dr Smith, will be Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, interfaith spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain. He recognises that this is a controversial and sensitive area.

“Islam and Christianity are two world religions that are missionary - and therefore are ever vying with each other for converts. But we should be able to speak of our faith honestly and with conviction, without demeaning or ridiculing others. There is no place for coercion or manipulation and when a person does convert from either faith, that decision should be respected. It is our hope that these ethical guidelines will be adopted by many Christian and Muslim organisations.”

The launch will be chaired by the Vice-Chair of the Christian Muslim Forum, Dr Richard Cheetham, the Bishop of Kingston and will be attended by many representatives from Muslim and Christian missionary organisations.

The Ethical Guidelines for Christian and Muslim Witness in Britain

As members of the Christian Muslim Forum we are deeply committed to our own faiths (Christianity and Islam) and wish to bear faithful witness to them. As Christians and Muslims we are committed to working together for the common good. We recognise that both communities actively invite others to share their faith and acknowledge that all faiths have the same right to share their faith with others.

There are diverse attitudes and approaches amongst us which can be controversial and raise questions. This paper is not a theology of Christian evangelism or mission or Da’wah (invitation to Islam), rather it offers guidelines for good practice.
The Christian Muslim Forum offers the following suggestions that, we hope, will equip Christians and Muslims (and others) to share their faith with integrity and compassion for those they meet.

1) We bear witness to, and proclaim our faith not only through words but through our attitudes, actions and lifestyles.

2) We cannot convert people, only God can do that. In our language and methods we should recognise that people’s choice of faith is primarily a matter between themselves and God.

3) Sharing our faith should never be coercive; this is especially important when working with children, young people and vulnerable adults. Everyone should have the choice to accept or reject the message we proclaim and we will accept people’s choices without resentment.

4) Whilst we might care for people in need or who are facing personal crises, we should never manipulate these situations in order to gain a convert.

5) An invitation to convert should never be linked with financial, material or other inducements. It should be a decision of the heart and mind alone.

6) We will speak of our faith without demeaning or ridiculing the faiths of others.

7) We will speak clearly and honestly about our faith, even when that is uncomfortable or controversial.

8) We will be honest about our motivations for activities and we will inform people when events will include the sharing of faith.

9) Whilst recognising that either community will naturally rejoice with and support those who have chosen to join them, we will be sensitive to the loss that others may feel.

10) Whilst we may feel hurt when someone we know and love chooses to leave our faith, we will respect their decision and will not force them to stay or harass them afterwards

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