Hundreds of students are expected to attend a conference at Wheaton College aimed at helping evangelicals and Muslims to more effectively communicate and understand each other.
The Neighborly Faith Conference will be held at Wheaton on Friday and Saturday, but is not being hosted or sponsored by the college. It will feature both evangelical and Muslim speakers.
Kevin Singer, co-director of Neighborly Faith, told The Christian Post that while the organization has hosted smaller interfaith events, this will be their first larger scale conference, with 350 students and staff expected to attend.
Singer provided The Christian Post with a press release about the conference which notes: “Christians are called to love all of their neighbors, yet 91% of evangelicals say their current friends are ‘mostly similar’ to them when it comes to religious beliefs. Perhaps this is why 62% of evangelicals recently reported anti-Muslim sentiment in their own communities. According to the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, ‘Evangelical Christian and Muslim relations is the greatest interreligious challenge in America today.’”
Scheduled speakers for the conference include: Luke Goodrich of the Becket Fund; Kristen Deede Johnson of Western Theology Seminary; Matthew Soerens of World Relief; Jennifer McNutt of Wheaton College; and Daniel Darling of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
One of the evangelical keynote speakers will be Matthew Kaemingk, assistant professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Seminary in Houston, Texas, and author of the book Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear.
“Neighborly Faith has been helping the evangelical community answer this question: Will we treat our new Muslim neighbors as a problem to be solved, a threat to be neutralized, or a profound and historic opportunity to relearn the hospitality that Christ taught us?” Kaemingk asked. “Now they are developing young leaders on college campuses who are eager to welcome Muslims as Christ welcomes them. I'm excited to contribute my expertise to the conference.”
The conference will also feature Muslim speakers, including: Anwar Khan of Islamic Relief USA; Petra Alsoofy of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding; and Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution.
“Neighborly Faith's approach is unique in the otherwise staid world of ‘interfaith’ dialogue — it doesn't try to dilute its theological commitment to Christ, nor should it. Muslims, likewise, come to the table with their own deep convictions,” Hamid said in a statement.
“This opens, rather than closes, the door to a kind of understanding that is more robust, respectful, and grounded. This is what we need now,” he added.