Why Dialogue? Reflecting on the Dialogue Journey

As we wrap up the year with Christian-Muslim dialogue, we wanted to take a moment to revisit the question we asked around SOAS at the beginning of Term 2- “What does dialogue mean to you?” For those of you who couldn’t make it to our year-end review, we discussed  what worked this term and what we want to improve upon as a society, but also how this dialogue has impacted our time here at SOAS. We have shared a quick testimonial below.

“When we matriculate as a college student, our religious beliefs immediately become secondary to our opinions as an intellectual. We may remain a committed member of one faith or another, but it would be inappropriate for us to bring our faith up in an academic essay, or use it to justify a point we share in class. It makes sense that we must distance our faith from our work in order to prevent very real problems of religious discrimination, or our dogma blinding us from facts. Dialogue still serves an important purpose in our growth outside of the classroom, however. Dialogue is a platform (perhaps the only platform) that allows us to embrace our collective identity as intellectuals of faith.

In interfaith dialogue, my thoughts as a Christian are validated and listened to by people with different beliefs. It is comforting to share about our spiritual walk when we are surrounded by other members of the same faith as us. Sharing your faith story in a Bible study group or praying as a group inside of a mosque feels like a safe,  protected expression of our faith.

But in dialogue, I can move outside of that space while still “pulling from” my Christian identity to speak. In an interfaith dialogue about gender roles in society, I could say, “The Bible says — about this topic, and I think of gender roles this way because I am a Christian.” My opinion is never disregarded or belittled because of my honesty about my beliefs.  In dialogue, I am free to reveal my spiritual identity while discussing very real and relevant issues for everyone, regardless of their faith background. A common misconception of interfaith dialogue is that it must remain grounded to merely theological concerns. SOAS Christian-Muslim Dialogue has shown that while theological dialogues are crucial to grow in understanding, dialogue can expand to include current events, social issues, and academic innovations as well. In the past year, the society has hosted New York Times bestselling authors, partnered with other societies to address social issues, and discussed topics from feminism to the historicity of the Gospels.

There are many more things to say, and I have only mentioned a few. I want to mention that dialogue pursues active coexistence with other faiths, celebrates the diversity of London, and a hundred other wonderful side effects, but instead of reading about why it is important, I urge people to come along and find their own meaning of dialogue, just like I did. Thank you, SOAS Christian-Muslim Dialogue Society, for the wonderful year. ”

Rachel Sumption, B.A. Exchange in Islamic Law, 2014


Come join us at the beginning of fall term to find your own meaning of dialogue! Thanks for a great year, all!


The Power and Practice of Prayer

Hello fellow SOASians! From now on, this blog will feature updates from our meetings, snapshots from our events, and opportunities for you to get more involved in the Christian-Muslim Dialogue here on campus.

Dialogue has a beautiful way of resolving problems and educating us when we are involved in it, but as with any conversation, when we move between subjects, it’s impossible to keep everything in our minds all at once. Reporting a dialogue can help the larger community (as well as dialogue participants) to process the content of our discussions and the progress that is achieved in interfaith cooperation as a result of the dialogue.

Read below to see an overview of what a typical weekly dialogue might look like!

Dialogue 18 March, 2014:  The Power and Practice of Prayer

We were honored to have Reverend Dr. Toby Howarth, Interfaith Adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury, as our special guest this evening.

For those of you who missed it, here are a few things to keep you updated.

As a society, our goal is to learn about aspects different faiths as understood by believers of that faith. Sharing faith can come from personal perspective and experience, not merely academic or media-based knowledge. With this in mind, our dialogues open with two testimonies of faith, followed by two short talks from each perspective on the dialogue’s subject.

This week, our testimonials were given by Zarqa Parvez and Rachel Sumption, and our two talks were given by Vian Hilli and Reverend Oliver Ryder. If you want to learn more about either Christian or Muslim prayer, read up on the presenter’s sources right here!

Reading List

  • Qur’an: Surat-al-Baqara 186, 153, Surat-al-Ma’ida 6
  • Bible: Matthew 6:7, Ephesians 2:18, Romans 8:1
  • Too Busy Not to Pray ~Bill Hybels and Ashley Viersma

After representatives from both faiths presented their thoughts on prayer, we took some time to ask questions to fully understand the practice of prayer for both sides.

  • How often do we pray?
  • When and how do we pray?
  • How do we feel when our prayer life is less active than we want it to be?
  • What are the spiritual effects we feel that come from prayer?

After answering these questions about prayer habits of each faith, the floor was opened up to dig deeper into topics where participants could share their personal experiences and explain how the power of prayer affected their spiritual life as a whole. Below, we have three common ideas about the power of prayer that were shared by the Muslim and Christian believers in the room :

The Intimacy of Spiritual Communication: We can hear from God through images, life coincidences, or through passages in scriptural texts. Words of reassurance can be given through family, friends, or even strangers.

The Interaction Between Sacred Texts and Prayer: Because sacred texts are the Word of God (whether directly or indirectly), they form the basis of our prayers as well as providing the answers to prayers. We pray verses of sacred texts that speak to our situations, and we pray the the words of the texts will be true in our lives.

The Place of Confession in Prayer: Prayer is the place where we can repent our sins to God and ask for forgiveness and mercy. Because of this function of prayer, we need it in our lives to purify us, and when we ask God for forgiveness, we pair our supplications with praise for His divine attributes.

Do you have ideas or experiences to share about the power of prayer in your own life? Leave a comment here or send us an email to join the conversation! check back here for more news on our latest events. xx