- Social Media
- Active Citizenship
- Good Giving
- Corporate Responsibility
- Be Fearless
Rizwaan Akhtar, a Muslim, and Mac Skelton, a Christian, work with the Buxton Initiative, a Case Foundation partner organization that builds understanding among people of different faiths and worldviews through candid dialogue and authentic relationships.
People of faith, particularly religious conservatives, are often skeptical of “interfaith” work.
To be frank, their skepticism is not wholly unjustified. All too often, interfaith groups avoid the difficult questions and minimize differences, all in the name of establishing a “common ground” between various religious traditions.
We at the Buxton Initiative make every effort to take an alternative approach; our events and programs provide opportunities for truly robust dialogue where nothing is “out of bounds,” including important differences.
Buxton’s founder and co-chair J. Douglas Holladay described this vision recently, saying:
The bedrock of this effort is civility, but not capitulation. It is dishonest to pretend that we all agree, so we still argue our positions and worldviews vociferously, we just avoid doing so in a hateful manner.
That’s a realistic, but ultimately hopeful vision that people of faith can stand by.
Allow us to give an example of what this approach looks like in real-time. A few weeks ago, we traveled to a country club in the area and met with some long-time members, all of whom were Christians. Before the conversation began, we make it very clear that no question or comment would be regarded as inappropriate. “Please feel free to say or ask anything at all,” we said.
One participant took our instructions to heart and pleaded, “If Muslims hate America, why don’t they go back to where they came from? And why don’t more Muslims speak up against the radicals?”
As the sole Muslim in the room, I (Rizwaan) knew it was my turn to speak. I replied: “Most Muslims in America have been living here for over half a century and came here out of their desire for the freedoms and prosperity that it stood for. A large number of Muslims around the world, not just in the West, have become admirable, outspoken representatives for over one billion Muslims.”
And, just like that, an hour-long exchange between me and the group began.
After the conversation came to a close, the same individual who posed the original question approached me and expressed his desire to connect me with others who might benefit from hearing my perspective as a Muslim. So, while we by no means reached mutual agreement on all matters of faith and politics, we certainly developed a mutual sense of trust.
In this situation and in countless others, we have seen the deep trust and respect that develops when people of different faiths sit around a table and ask honest questions of each other. Therein we find reason for tremendous hope.
Please join us in our efforts. First, for those of you who live in the DC area, we frequently host public inter-religious dialogues and forums, most of which are held at the Case Foundation headquarters. Second, we have a newly re-designed website that allows visitors to easily learn more about what we do and ways to get involved and support us, check it out at buxtoninitiative.org. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if you would like for the Buxton Initiative to partner with your community, please contact us. We’d love to help you facilitate opportunities for inter-religious dialogue at your school, place of worship, community center, etc.