The first Oxford Muslim-Christian Summer School organised by the Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies, Oxford, in association with Ebrahim College and the Islamic College for Advanced Studies, London, and was 7 days of intensive shared study for 6 Christian and 6 Muslim UK-based theological students in their 20s and 30s. The residential programme at St Stephen’s House, Oxford, offered a unique opportunity to get to know one another over meals, on excursions (including punting on the river!) and during free time. The more serious side included lectures, workshops and tutorials led by Christian and Muslim academics exploring sacred texts, shared history and contemporary issues.
The aim of the summer school is for Muslims and Christians to learn about each other together; not avoiding or denying differences and difficult topics but addressing them with gentleness and respect; seeking to understand before seeking to be understood; speaking positively of our own faith rather than speaking critically of the other; so equipping these emerging faith leaders to live together well.
However, this is just the beginning. The purpose of the programme is that these emerging faith leaders will now keep in touch with one another as they move into various careers within their faith communities and will start a network that participants of future Summer Schools can join. To facilitate this, the next step is a reunion weekend early in December 2015 when students will be able to cement their friendships as well as report back on the joint projects which they are undertaking in the interim. These include a Christian-Muslim student event in Edinburgh University, an interfaith fashion show in London and various youth work projects.
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“This week permanently changed my view of Islam and life as a Christian. Thank you!” (Christian)
“Amazing on how to become a leader in the community. Very practical; nothing wishy washy. Also it was very beneficial to network and have this personal contact.” (Muslim)
“The generosity of the sponsors is greatly appreciated and has allowed me the opportunity of a lifetime; I will never forget this experience as it has touched my heart, my mind and my attitude to life and faith.” (Christian)
“The face to face contact with Christians is what I enjoyed the most. The opportunity to meet practising Christians and ask them any and every question about their faith, in a safe and honest environment is not something that one comes across very often. This led to the development of genuinely positive relationships that I can imagine will continue long into the future.” (Muslim)
“More than anything though it was the friendships I made that have excited me, full of honest conversation, and a desire to keep in touch and journey together. I’ll certainly be calling people in the future!” (Christian)
“At the start of this week, I could not have imagined building such positive and, God-willing, fruitful relationships as the ones that I have built at the 2015 Summer School. A huge thank you to those who made it possible. I pray your generosity has ensured the start of a new future for inter-faith dialogue and work and continues to do so for years to come.” (Muslim)
“I can safely say we have all become good friends and will definitely keep in contact and who knows where we might be in future and who we might be standing next to.” (Christian)