Highland Church of Christ welcomed Imam Samer Maltabaa of the Lubbock Mosque for a forum geared toward making peace with Muslim-majority parts of the world. The discussion series, titled “To Know and Love Your Muslim Neighbor,” will take place in two parts. It began Wednesday, Nov. 2 and will continue Wednesday, Nov. 9 in the church’s main auditorium.
In a video shared on Highland’s Facebook, Monty Lynn, leader of Highland’s peacemaking team and professor of management sciences, invited the church and other members of the community to Wednesday’s discussion with Imam Maltabaa about “common misconceptions of Muslims in Texas, in America, and in the world.”
Derran Reese, director of global ministries at Highland, said this was the church’s first presentation explicitly about Islam.
“The hope is to begin equipping our church, and others from the community, about the core beliefs, practices, and tenets of Islam,” Reese said in an email. “And if we are going to understand Islam, then we should hear from actual Muslims. Also, this past summer, the imam in Lubbock warmly welcomed a few Highland members when we visited his mosque. We want to respond in kind by being hospitable to him and others from his mosque in order to build a relationship of mutual respect and find ways we can partner to be agents of peace and reconciliation in our communities and beyond.”
Hosting Imam Maltabaa is part of Highland’s three global initiatives outlined in 2015 – combatting trafficking in Southeast Asia, welcoming the homeless in Brazil, and making peace in the Muslim-majority world.
“Highland has some experience with the first two initiatives, but we have no history with engaging the Muslim-majority world. However, we feel this is a vital work for the church today,” Reese said. “Therefore, we are taking 3-4 years to equip our church to understand Islam and become loving, peacemaking neighbors to Muslims, both near and far.”
Reese said these conversations are important to dispel pop culture notions of the Muslim religion, and noted that understanding begins with listening.
“People hear a lot in the news and other forms of media about Muslims, and they develop attitudes and understandings of Muslims that are often inaccurate and unfair. Yet, many have never interacted with Muslims,” Reese said. “For those who want to pursue peace and reconciliation with other people, including Muslims, then we must begin with listening to those people. This is an opportunity to begin that the process of peacemaking by humbly listening to a Muslim on his own terms and hopefully discovering connection points for future dialogue and work for the common good.I have dear friends who are Muslim, and my life is better off because I know them.”
Highland’s series will continue next Wednesday, Nov. 9, where Dr. John Azumah, associate professor of World Christianity and Islam at Columbia Theological College in Georgia, will share more on Christian-Muslim peacemaking efforts.