A Historic Trip to Damascus, Syria

A Historic Trip to Damascus, Syria

By: Faysal Burhan
Published: 2000

“Invite (all) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and discuss with them in ways that are best and most gracious.” Qur’an, 16:125 

An interfaith function at the Abu Nour Foundation, Damascus, Syria
Dr. Robert Schuller, founder of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California and Shaykh Ahmad Kuftaro, the Grand Mufti of Syria have met in Damascus (December 1999) at the invitation of the Grand Mufti. The visit was the first step to work together under the banner of faith and better understanding between Christians and Muslims. This meeting was organized by the Center for Islamic Studies and Christians and Muslims for Peace organizations.

Muslim Christian Collaboration

As a result of his visit, Dr. Robert Schuller called for an international Christian/Muslim conference to take place in Damascus in the year 2000 to kick off the 21st century with peace and understanding between Christians and Muslims. In an historic address at the Abu Nour Islamic Foundation, attended by over 15,000 people, including many officials, and leaders of the Christian denominations, his Excellency, Shaykh Ahmad Kuftaro told the congregation, “Muslims and Christians are in one camp,” and that it is the duty of the clergymen from both faiths to establish not only peace, but also kindness and brotherhood for all mankind.

Dr. Schuller pointed out that we have a lot more in common to build on than differences. He also said that the 21st century should be a century of coalition and not collision between the followers of these two great religions. Dr. Schuller and his delegation met with the Secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches, Dr. Mahat Al Khuri, and the leaders of the four Christian dominations of Syria in their respective churches. Later, at the invitation of the Middle East Council of Churches, a dinner was held in the New Umaiyad Hotel in the honor of the American Delegation and the Grand Mufti.

During his visit to the Umaiyad Mosque, Dr. Schuller and his delegation were shown the tomb of John the Baptist within the Mosque and the original stone containers and the water well in which people were washed to be baptized. Dr. William Baker, founder of Christians and Muslims for Peace organization, CAMP, was interviewed for one hour on the TV program, Focus. Dr. Baker said: “CAMP has brought peace between fighting Christians and Muslims in the Philippenes and in other communities in the world.”

The visit, which lasted 4 days, December 15 through 18th, 1999 marked the beginning of a new era for Muslims and Christians working together for peace and better relationships. The news of this event was broadcasted in the local papers, Orange County Register, and on CNN and the PBS television programs.

This wonderful passage, lays down the Islamic principles for interfaith and out-reach work. Wisdom and discretion, gentleness and consideration, are the grounds from which gracious work will surely change hearts and minds. Meeting people on their own level and introducing Islam to them with examples relevant to their own knowledge, which may be very narrow or very wide without dogmatic or offensive disposition, will surly make a difference and show the wisdom of the verse above.

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