Middle East Interfaith Delegation Tours U.S.

A Middle East delegation of various faiths is now touring the United States, with the hope of improving interfaith relations between Christians and Muslims.

The delegates are Christian, Muslim and Druze academic, policy, and interfaith leaders from Lebanon, Egypt and Syria. They are touring under the auspices of the Middle East Forum, which is organized by Church World Service - an international humanitarian agency.

“Our desire is to clarify that there is an alternative reality existing in the Middle East that demonstrates positive, vital models of cooperation between Arab Christians and Muslims,” said Rev. Riad Jarjour, the general secretary of the Beirut-based Arab Group for Christian Muslim Dialogue, according to a press release from CWS.

The group is currently in Los Angeles where it will visit Fuller Theological seminary today and tomorrow.

This past weekend, their schedule in the Los Angeles area included a visit with Dr. Robert H. Schuller Jr., of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, and a dialogue with Biola University students.

A second team of delegates is currently in New York after visiting Charlotte, North Carolina. Both teams of delegates will converge in Washington for dialogues and congressional briefings from Thursday April 28 to Saturday 30.

In comments before the start of the tour in mid-April, Abbas al-Halabi, a Lebanese Druze and President of the Arab Group for Christian-Muslim dialogue, said that a delegation had been planned for the past two years in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York.

He wanted to discuss “misunderstandings” about the Middle East region. “We didn’t want Americans to think that all in the Middle East are extremists and hate all Americans.”

The delegation of speakers, which is comprised of six men and two women, wants “to inform Americans about the common lives shared by Christians and Muslims in our region. Christianity has been in the Middle East for centuries,” added al-Halabi.

The delegation includes Muhammad Sammak, a Lebanese Muslim and former advisor to the late Prime Minister of Lebanon Rafik Hariri; Dr. Antoine Messara, a Lebanese Christian and professor at the Lebanese University Department of Communication; and Dr. Nadia Mahmoud Mustafa, an Egyptian Muslim and professor of political science at Cairo University.