- Simple competition/ slugging it out: As Annie Oakeley put it “anything you can do I can do better.” English people, Christian and Muslim, have a strong cultural resistance to being strident and competitive about anything, least of all religion.
Positively, this default position does avoid the bother of using your brain or taking your own faith tradition seriously. Its the easy “thumb in bum and mind in neutral” option.
Negatively, it makes friendship very difficult, denies first principles of the faiths concerned, and pushed to its logical extreme, as it almost never is in the UK, you’d end up in a Telegraph fantasy world of “No Go areas” and suchlike.
- Acceptance that it is God’s providence that both faith communities exist — a theology of “people of the book” or providence, in which believers feel secure enough about their faith to leave it to God to sort things out in the end.
Positively, this does engage with reality and express tolerance in a way which is attractive to English people. It’s probably where most English people of all faiths and none actually are.
Negatively, it seems to require pure relativism, and requires work to engage with one’s own religion more seriously in its own terms rather than just as cultural identity.
- Acceptance of (2), supplemented by feeling OK about conversions (either way). This raises the stakes on (2) and feels edgier.
Positively, it’s arguable this makes a virtue out of a theological and practical necessity in a free society.
Negatively, Conversions of this sort are surprisingly uncommon, and can inspire fear and backlash in people taking View (1).
The Christian Muslim Forum offers the following suggestions that, we hope, will equip Christians and Muslims (and others) to share their faith with integrity and compassion for those they meet.
1) We bear witness to, and proclaim our faith not only through words but through our attitudes, actions and lifestyles.
2) We cannot convert people, only God can do that. In our language and methods we should recognise that people’s choice of faith is primarily a matter between themselves and God.
3) Sharing our faith should never be coercive; this is especially important when working with children, young people and vulnerable adults. Everyone should have the choice to accept or reject the message we proclaim and we will accept people’s choices without resentment.
4) Whilst we might care for people in need or who are facing personal crises, we should never manipulate these situations in order to gain a convert.
5) An invitation to convert should never be linked with financial, material or other inducements. It should be a decision of the heart and mind alone.
6) We will speak of our faith without demeaning or ridiculing the faiths of others.
7) We will speak clearly and honestly about our faith, even when that is uncomfortable or controversial.
8) We will be honest about our motivations for activities and we will inform people when events will include the sharing of faith.
9) Whilst recognising that either community will naturally rejoice with and support those who have chosen to join them, we will be sensitive to the loss that others may feel.
10) Whilst we may feel hurt when someone we know and love chooses to leave our faith, we will respect their decision and will not force them to stay or harass them afterwards.