By Victor Ochieng
When most people think of religion, a majority think of peace and tolerance; however, in reality religion has been a source of division and bigotry which has caused many to leave religion behind all together. Of particular significance are Christians and Muslims; both religions preach peace as the core of their doctrines, yet they’re known to be constantly at odds with one another.
Having realized how divisive religion can be, several religious leaders have signed a pact in a commitment to relentlessly defend the freedom of religion and to fight religious prejudice.
An excerpt of the pledge reads: “I pledge and commit to the American people that I will uphold and defend the freedom of conscience and religion of all individuals; and reject and speak out, without reservation, against bigotry, discrimination, harassment, and violence based on religion or belief.”
Pastor Bob Roberts of Texas and Imam Mohamed Magid of Virginia, held a joint prayer hosted at the Washington National Cathedral, alongside other religious leaders ahead of signing the agreement. The meeting pulled close to 200 evangelical pastors and imams. Besides the commitment of the different faiths, the leaders have also committed to weigh on political leaders to join their cause.
“I love Muslims as much as I love Christians,” said Pastor Bob Roberts, of Northwood Church in Keller, Texas, before leading a prayer at the “Beyond Tolerance” event. “Jesus, when you get hold of us, there’s nobody we don’t love.”
Over the years, there have been efforts by mainstream Christian groups to fight religious biases, but the coming together of evangelicals and Muslims brings a completely new approach to fostering interreligious tolerance.
“I would like each one of us today to spread the news, using evangelical terminology, or to share what we have learned here today,” said Magid.
The signing of the pledge comes right on time for election season, where several questions are sure to be asked about religion and whether each candidate will promote religious tolerance or rule based on a commitment to their own faith.
Just recently, Republican presidential candidates Ben Carson and Donald Trump cast aspersions over each other’s commitment to their confessed faiths. In an interview, Carson even mentioned that America isn’t ready for a Muslim president.
In an effort to reach as many people as possible, Magid and Roberts are on a mission to organize retreats in different states across the country to solidify their bridge building endeavors.
A survey was recently conducted underlining the importance of bridging the gap and nurturing religious tolerance. The results, which were released on Thursday, found that up to 53% of Evangelical pastors consider Islam as a spiritually evil faith.