Local religious leaders discuss Muslim-Christian relations


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In a current worldwide state of Muslim discrimination, local religious leaders —Muslims and non-Muslims — offer a bit of advice for the world to move towards a more peaceful state: Talk.

The Rev. Sam Massey, the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, and Taha Tawil, the Imam and executive director of the Mother Mosque of America, gathered Monday night to review necessary measures to create an accepting society during the panel “The Challenges of Peace-building Post 9/11: Dialogue and Action.” The Intellectual Dialogue Society put on the event for the public to attend.

Massey and Tawil said the way to end violence and gain acceptance for all religions comes from dialogue. This dialogue is especially important as the Middle East looks for peace and democracy during turbulent times surrounding acontroversial YouTube video that sparked violence, Tawil said.

“I wish that trashy thing was never made,” Massey said. “There are limits to some hate speech, and why that YouTube video didn’t fall into hate speech, I don’t know.”

While Massey and Tawil come from very different backgrounds, they agreed that Christians’ lack of consideration for Muslim beliefs causes much of the violence and resentment built up in the world.

“They need to understand and try to grasp that the deity is not locked up in our belief system,” Massey said. “The deity is greater than our own belief system.”

Massey said that while Christians believe in the way, the truth, and the life, he believes they have strayed from their ideals.

“We have completely mucked that up and created misery in the process,” the Presbyterian pastor said.

While Massey says that Christians’ unrelenting views of religion have played a role in the violence and tension, Tawil doesn’t believe this is the only source of tension.

Tawil said there are two groups igniting the adversity. He said fundamental Christians make up the first group because they believe they are in competition with the spread of Islam, and therefore, they try to stop the spread of this religion.

Second, politicians don’t want peace and mercy to spread because it would be against their political agenda, Tawil said.

The panelists agreed that acceptance and dialogue could potentially solve these issues, but they aren’t quite sure who is listening.

“To whom are we talking? I don’t know,” Tawil said. “We are talking as a cry.”

Sitting roughly six rows from the front was Helen Kudos — she seemed to be listening.

“It’s nice to be in a larger community to discuss these things,” said Kudos, a West Branch resident. “In one’s everyday life, we don’t talk about these things.”

While discussion focused on the negatives in American society and the religious views that created worldwide tension, Kudos remains optimistic about the future.

“I see our society as a welcoming society and, hopefully, a civil society, which is what I’d like to put my energies towards,” Kudos said.

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