Reflecting on Jesus (pbuh): An Interfaith ConversationWritten by Mohamed Suleman
On Sunday, March 30th, the Thaqalayn Muslim Association (TMA) and the Ahlul Bayt Student Association (ABSA) hosted an interfaith event at the University of Ottawa.
Fostering dialogue between the Christian and Muslim communities, the event, titled Celebrating the life of Jesus, featured keynote addresses from local religion professor and Evangelist Reverend Bassma Dabbour Jaballah and Sheikh Hanif Mohamed of Atlanta, Georgia.
What made the two talks and the ensuing question and answer session even more interesting was the fact that each speaker was a convert from the other's religion.
Originally from Tunisia, Reverend Bassma turned to Christianity when she says she came across the magnanimous personality of Jesus. Sheikh Hanif on the other hand was born to a devout Christian family in Georgia and converted to Islam when he was in college.
“The event as dialogue is a great opportunity for both sides to talk and get to know each other,” said Reverend Bassma. “I believe in dialogue and not in debating as dialogue builds relationships despite our differences.”
Both speakers presented the role that Jesus (pbuh) played in their respective religions, and firmly but respectively drew the line as to where Christianity and Islam differ with regards to his status.
They also spoke of the lessons to be learnt from his life, like the compassion he showed to others and his sincerity in action. Reverend Bassma and Sheikh Hanif both quoted excerpts from Jesus's famous Sermon on the Mount, lauding it for its universal message.
“We wanted to open a channel for dialogue and dispel misconceptions about both Muslims and our Christian brethren,” said Hussein Haider, president of TMA and a second year chemical engineering student at the University of Ottawa.
Haider said he was pleased that the audience, which was evenly represented by Muslims and Christians, were courteous to both speakers and were able to ask their questions in a constructive manner, “There was mutual respect by everyone attending and chances were given for everyone to equally voice their thoughts.”
For Scott Simpson, a second year student at La Cite collégiale, the event was a chance for him to learn more about Islam.
“I was personally not aware of how similarly Christians and Muslims believed in Jesus,” Simpson said. “It was a nice event to get to know a little bit more about the other belief's mindset.”
According to Haider, the event's goal was not to only educate others about different faiths, but to also promote conversations and friendship between people of different faiths and backgrounds.
“It is important to foster a healthy environment on campus where one goes not only to learn, but to engage with people of diverse backgrounds.”
Reverend Bassma agreed, and said that it's important to remember that we live in a world filled with different kinds of people and the only way to live peacefully is through appreciating and respecting each other's differences.
“We get to know that even though we don't have the same beliefs, we can live together and make our world better through mutually respecting our differences,” she said.
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