Campus Ministries Council hosted a conversation with Bruce Nichols, Ph.D. around how to engage with a more diverse faith-based community. Nichols had many insights in his understanding of the Christian and Islamic faiths but really did not give insights on how to engage this conversation on campus. He explained the nuanced identities of Christians and Muslims with our world comparing and contrasting them, but he led us to a place of difference and not a place of partnership.
However, he did inspire conversations following his speech. I am arriving in a place of understanding with the Christian-Muslim relations on this campus: this conversation first and foremost needs to be happening, we as a campus need to recognize the power and privilege we have as “Christian” within the Western American context. The mandate from Christ is for us to lay down our Bible and pick up bread.
As our world changes and our campus changes there is a recognition that our Muslim population is increasing in our undergraduate and IEP programs. We cannot deny that our identity as a purebred “Christian” university has been and continues to evolve.
More and more our campus continues to diversify. When looking at this phenomenon, the question which keeps rising to the surface is what do we do with this? How do we stay true to our Christian call and roots while also adapting to how the world is changing around us?
The beauty of the Holy Spirit and the Christ message calls us to be true to the context in which we are living, and our context increasingly is becoming more and more diverse. Let us acknowledge this and let the first step be to name the fact that this campus is no longer only housing a Christocentric view of the world.
In our acknowledgment that our world is changing, we are met with the reality that creating space for the Islamic faith is a marginal way of handling this situation. In today’s Western, American Christian culture there is Islamophobia which is the dominant school of thought. EMU has no choice but to recognize that we are in a position of privilege and power.
In our context we, yes us Mennonites, are the ones who hold the power. There is something to be said about someone who is biblically, literate in our context. I have been in many situations in our country where it was the person who was born here, grew up in this context but was not biblically literate seen as the other. To recognize our “Christian” power and privilege must be the first place we begin to engage with ourselves and then with our Muslim family.
In my opinion, the call of Christ is to be reconciling agents in our world. We see this accented by the life of Christ and then reiterated within Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth.
Christ shows us the best way of participating in being agents of reconciliation in the act of Love Feast, Eucharist, and/or communion.
I urge us on campus, if we truly call ourselves followers of Christ, to take intentional steps to begin inviting all to the table of Christ. This invitation includes acknowledging the baggage society has given both us and those whom we are inviting. We must be willing to enter into the space with an open heart, an engaged mind, and attentive ears.
-Chris Parks, Contributing Writer
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