Source: Adventist News Network
[March 28, 2007] As almost any psychologist will tell you, open-minded dialogue is vital to achieving mutual respect and understanding. That advice also applies to communities of faith, according to Seventh-day Adventist leaders in the church's Trans-European (TED) region, where an estimated 60 to 65 percent of citizens are Muslims.
Adventists in the region recently adopted an official Statement on Islam to help foster a more constructive relationship between Muslims and Christians. "As the [Adventist] movement continues to grow in the world," the statement begins, "we are looking for [a] good relationship with Islam, a faith with a similar sense of godly calling that is followed by one-fifth of the world's population."
The Statement draws parallels between Islam and Christianity, such as submission to the Creator God and a common Abrahamic heritage. It also applauds the scientific, literary and philosophical contributions of Muslims throughout history and recognizes Islam's prophet Muhammad as "a spiritual and social reformer at a time of confusion and ignorance."
"We believe that among peoples of all faiths, God has, through history, preserved a people of authentic submission in the face of apostasy, oppression and persecution. We acknowledge that within Islam there are such people ... Within this group of sincere believers we see potential partners for further exploring our spiritual understanding of the One true God," the Statement reads.
The Statement ends with a call for Adventists to commit to "honesty, fairness and respect in describing Islamic faith," and vice versa. It acknowledges doctrinal differences--such as belief in Christ as Savior and Son of God--but says such differences should "not be made points of controversy or generate attitudes of superiority, but rather provide an opportunity for respectful dialogue, knowing that it is ultimately God who brings conviction to the heart."
Bertil Wiklander, president of the church's Trans-European region, says, "We must show Muslims that they can trust us, while we stand by our Adventist faith ... We should not underestimate the challenges, but I feel that times are changing and that we can look forward to dialogue and, I pray, successful work among Muslim people."
Regional church leaders have sent the Statement to world church headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, where officials will decide how such a statement would "best benefit the mission of the world church," says Pastor Michael L. Ryan, a world church vice president.
While Ryan admits "statements are not nearly as important as the way church members interact and behave toward people of other faith groups," he does believe they bolster positive relations. "The Gospel Commission instructs the church that every person is invited to know Jesus Christ. This [statement] will provide a relationship tool to help Adventists better understand the people [they] are inviting."
"People, regardless of background and religious affiliation," Ryan adds, "need to be perceived by the church as worthy of genuine respect. Statements such as this one help get that message across."