The discussion was led by Bishop Dr. Sunday Onuoha, Bishop of the Methodist Church Nigeria, Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, Wisconsin (U.S.) of the United Methodist Church, Rev. Megan Dean, and Emmy Lou John.
Bishop Onuoha described his role in Nigeria in the fight against malaria. He was asked to lead the international effort to eradicate malaria in Nigeria where 300,000 people a year die from the disease. There are basically equal numbers of Muslims and Christians in his area of Nigeria so the balance facilitates a mutual working relationship. However, Bishop Onuoha has gone beyond that to a real friendship with the leader of Islam there. They recognized that citizens there trusted their religious leaders more than their doctors or their political leaders so they used churches and mosques to educate people about the importance of preventing malaria. Their efforts together were successful by decreasing incidence of malaria in Nigeria by 18% but their work and relationship continue.
Bishop Jung reported growing concern about the upcoming 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. orchestrated by al Queda leader Osama Bin Laden and coincidentally a Muslim holiday on the same day in 2016. This is a quandary for Muslims who faithfully celebrate their religious holidays and for New York officials responsible for public safety and the protection of religious freedom.
He shared his experience in Chicago where a covenant relationship between 200 churches and local mosques to create common understanding. He also helped organize a weekend of ecumenical sharing of services of many faiths.
Rev. Megan Dean and Emmy Lou John contributed their experience in the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church where Mosques and Christian churches are sharing duties and funding of facilities to feed the poor. They also suggested visiting two sites that will have aids for local churches to begin the process of developing dialogue with the Muslim community: go to www.umc.org and search Called to be Neighbors and they are developing resources at www.umcnic.org/outreach.
For additional time for discussion and questions on this topic, interested persons may attend the workshop “Interreligious collaboration to Advance Peace and Development from 1:30 – 3:00 pm.