What does it mean to be a Muslim and what does it mean to be a Christian in a post-9/11 world?
Westwood Church will try to answer those provocative questions by participating in a live webcast on Sunday, the 10-year anniversary of the attacks.
“They want to cut through the hysteria and offer a balanced and accurate assessment of Islam through their interviews with Muslim experts,” said Dawn Zimmerman, a church member and founder of Write Advantage Inc., a St. Cloud-based writing and communications firm.
“Unpacking Islam: What Muslims Really Believe — And How it Affects You” will be broadcast to churches nationwide and feature Christian apologists Lee Strobel, a journalist, and Mark Mittelberg, an author.
“I thought this would be a great way to — not only for our church members but for the community — to find out more about what Muslim teaches … and how does that inform our faith as well,” said Dave Sautner, connections pastor at the St. Cloud church.
The Americas are the only world regions where the percentage increase in the number of Muslims will be greater from 2010 to 2030 than it was from 1990 to 2010, according to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.
“Central Minnesota has a growing population of Muslims, and I feel like we need to know more about what Muslims believe and what do we believe, as Christians,” Sautner said of the strained relationship between members of both faiths shortly after the attacks.
Westwood Church is part of the Evangelical Free Church of America. Located at Walnut Drive and Stearns County Road 4, it averages about 700 people at its services, according to Sautner.
Sautner said he was inspired by his son and the child’s Muslim friends to host Sunday’s event, which ends with a question-and-answer session where participants across the country are invited to ask questions.
“I thought to myself, ‘Hey, if my 9-year-old is having a discussion about it, I think we, as adults, need to have a discussion about it, too.’ I think there are growing misperceptions, probably, about what Muslims believe … and ignorance,” he said of the webcast.
Zimmerman said, “They are striving to go beyond the clichés and caricatures of Islam to present its central teaching as they interview experts as well as Muslims-turned-Christians.”
Sunday’s event is free to the public. A Westwood member who teaches about Islam will be hosting a class for further discussion after the event.
“The goal is to provide easy-to-understand explanations and real stories to give participants a true understanding of Islam,” Zimmerman said.
Sautner said: “It’s taking advantage of this time where people are talking about these issues to help Christians understand what do Muslims believe and, in light of that, what does the historic Christian faith also believe.” SOURCE