The Christian Perceptions of Jews and Muslims

Held at AMI on 11th March 2019

Following on from the Inter-Religious Symposia‘s first meeting on Muslim perceptions of other Abrahamic faiths, the second meeting considered Christian perceptions of Jews and Muslims. Dr Richard McCallum, an associate member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford, presented an overview of the various ways in which Christians have viewed the other two faiths and how they have developed historically.

Beginning with the relationship between Christians and Jews, Dr McCallum explained how the relationship has changed over time.  Early Christian religious texts initially spoke of Jews positively as the original chosen people from Abraham who were awaiting the messiah. However, some of the Gospels of the New Testament paint a sinister picture of Jews as a community who rejected Christ and who the new Christian believers lived in fear of. The Jewish community was held responsible for the crucifixion and many of these sentiments became rooted and played a part in the wide spread European anti-Semitism that occurred later. This treatment of the Jews become a source of regret and has resulted in more positive relations between the two faiths with Christians acknowledging the need to seek forgiveness and strongly condemning anti-Semitism.

Moving onto how Christians have viewed Muslims, Dr McCallum pointed out that there have been several paradigms. Islam is not mentioned in the biblical scriptures due to the chronology of the two religions, however, some Christians considered Islam to be a heretical religion invented by the Prophet Muhammed. Whilst there have been tense relations between the two faiths with some Christians considering Islam to be a violent religion and fearing the Islamisation of Europe, others consider Muslims to be partners in achieving peace. More recently Muslims have been viewed as allies against secularism who can help to establish religious moral values in society. From both the presentation and discussion that ensued, it is clear that Christian perceptions are diverse and have varied over time. Similarly, the various Christian denominations have different attitudes towards other faiths based on their own theological beliefs and position regarding pluralism.

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