A friend of mine, Rev. Phil Rawlings recently sent me his thesis, Beyond Dialogue - An Exploration of the Musalaha: Curriculum of Reconciliation model of interfaith dialogue with relevance for the UK context. Phil is the Director of the Manchester Centre for the Study of Christianity and Islam at the Nazarene Theological College in Manchester, UK. He will be receiving his doctorate this fall for this work.
Following his frustration in working with various models of interfaith engagement, several years ago Phil adopted Musalaha’s model of reconciliation and applied the Six Stages of Reconciliation to interfaith groups in the UK. As a part of his work, Rawlings initiated meetings among three focus groups that were an integral part of his research and findings. The Priests-Imams group in Oldham, the Oldham Catalyst Group --- a group that brought young adults from the major faiths to engage in an interfaith leadership program, and the Turkish Hizmet - a Dialogue Society group consisting of Muslims and Christians.
After testing the effectiveness and progress they did or did not have in the process of using our model, he sent the results of his research to me. To our delight, he found similarities in the process people in the UK go through in their journeys of reconciliation to what Israelis and Palestinians experience here in the Land.
The core of his findings was the crucial nature of building relationships when engaging in interfaith interaction. For example, in the first few meetings between the Imams and Priests, the Christians were aggressively told they were wrong and their beliefs were dismissed. However, after the Muslims had fulfilled their ‘da’wa’ - giving an invitation to join Islam, they began asking more questions and a genuine interest for the other from both sides developed. Thus, they were able to move forward.
Rev. Rawling's thesis makes the case for a new and fresh approach to interfaith dialogue by adapting our model, the Six-Stages of Reconciliation, to develop reconciliation among people of devout faith in their respective religions.
“It strongly affirms that the participants’ faith is the underlying common purpose, giving strength to the motivation needed to drive the process towards reconciliation.”
“The six-stage cycle of reconciliation is an important resource, alongside others, which will facilitate growth in the personal faith of participants, develop an understanding between different religions and thereby enhance the cohesion of marginalized communities in the UK.”
We are grateful that Musalaha’s model is bearing fruit among diverse communities within the UK. We are also excited to share that we have been asked to update our Curriculum of Reconciliation in Arabic and create short video clips to be used through the Middle East. We would appreciate your prayers as we move ahead with this important project.
By Salim J. Munayer, Ph.D.