By: Ramesh Mathew
BETTER understanding among the people of different faiths and cultures will lead to a decrease in the number of conflicts that the world witnesses today, said a representative of the Church of Resurrection, an American Christian denomination working for the residents of Illinois.Mark Galli, who is managing editor of Christianity Today, a magazine published by Christianity Today International, has come to Doha to attend the US-Islamic World Forum 2007, the fourth edition of which began at the Ritz-Carlton yesterday.Sharing his views on the importance of having frequent exchanges of ideas, opinions and thoughts among members of different faiths living in the US and their “Islamic brethren” in the rest of the world, Galli feels that the root cause of all problems that the world confronts today is the lack of faith among people of different faiths.“We are still in the process of learning more about Islam, its teachings and its wider applications in various issues,” said Galli.“My advice to Muslims is to understand the good teachings of other faiths and draw a lesson or two from them,” he said.While acknowledging that the West is slow in understanding the Islam, the editor feels that regular participation in conferences like this and exchanges of opinions would help create better understanding about each other’s religion. “There should be regular interactions among people of different faiths,” he stressed.Noting that there is a higher level of ecumenism of late among followers of different Christian sects in the West, particularly in the US, Galli said it had resulted in a better understanding of the religion among its followers and also has taught the members of the necessity of studying good points of other’s faiths.Dr Joel C Hunter, a senior pastor of the Northland church, a protestant denomination, also echoed similar views. The world is passing through a turbulent phase and there is a greater necessity for talks among not only leaders but common people of different nations themselves, said Hunter.“What one requires most in a society is freedom of expression and hence the right to talk. There is no freedom of religion where there is little scope for freedom of speech,” said the pastor, who is attached to one of the growing Evangelist sects in the US. His church, he said, has more than 3mn followers. Hailing from Chicago, Hunter feels that Muslims face absolutely no problem in practising their religion in a world society as the US. Conceding that his knowledge of Islam is very limited, the pastor said one of his Orlando-based Saudi friends is helping him these days to understand the religion better.Hunter appreciated the freedom granted to non-Muslims in Qatar. Bob Roberts Jr of the Northwood church of Texas said he was honoured to be invited to the forum.“It is an opportunity to not only meeting representatives of various Islamic states and forums, but also a rare occasion to exchange our views on Islam.”Author of a book, Glocalisation, which he said has an element of Japanese in its name, Roberts said he believed in action more than words. “After all, the talks here should in any way be translated into action.” said. He said his church members were actively involved in community service in a predominantly Islamic society like Afghanistan and has set up a number of medical centres, schools and rehabilitation units for the people of the war-shattered Central Asian nation. “The best way to take others into confidence is by doing community service among its people,” feels Roberts Jr.Attributing the problems confronting the world to lack of faith, Roberts said while the West viewed Islam with a lot of suspicion, non-Muslims in most Islamic countries feared the faith. Talks being held in Doha, he said, should help change both the suspicion and fear.Lauding Qatar for hosting an event of this magnitude for the fourth successive year, Roberts said the country’s association with such events would eventually lead the West change some of its perceptions in the long-run.