CAIRO - Bringing both faiths closer, a Farmington Presbyterian church in the southern US state of New Mexico is planning classes on Islam to introduce a true image of the much debated faith to its congregation.
"Ever since 9/11, we who did not understand very much about the Muslim faith certainly have been exposed to it," Rev. Glenn Perica of Farmington's First Presbyterian Church told Farmington's The Daily Times.
The 10-week course entitled "Christianity and Islam: So Much In Common, So Far Apart" aims at introducing Islam to Farmington people.
Seeing more similarities than differences between the two faiths, the course, which begins Sept. 4 at Farmington's First Presbyterian Church, would try to bridge gabs between Christians and Muslims.
Perica said people attending the course might find it surprising that Muslims revere Abraham as a patriarch of their religion, just like Christians and Jews.
"Islam also treats Jesus as a prophet and respects him," Perica said.
He added that both faiths share a desire for peace, hoping that learning about Islam will help bring the Christian and Muslims closer to peace.
Walter Declerck of Dar al Islam, an AbiquiÃº-based Islamic education center, welcomed the ideas, confirming that all authentic world religions have the same message.
"There is one God, one divine reality," Declerck said.
"There is much more that is common than is different," he said.
Muslims believe in Jesus as one of the great Prophets of God and that he is the son of Mary but not the Son of God. He was conceived and born miraculously.
In the Noble Qur'an, Jesus is called "Isa". He is also known as Al-Masih (the Christ) and Ibn Maryam (Son of Mary).
As for his crucifixion, Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified but was lifted up to heaven.
Muslims believe that Jesus will come back to earth before the end of time to restore peace and order, fight the Anti-Christ (Al-Masih Al-Dajjal) and bring victory for truth and righteousness.
The true followers of Jesus will prevail over those who deny him, misrepresent him and reject him.
Despite the many similarities, the two faiths have some differences, based in most cases on misinterpretation of Islam, such as role of women.
"The prophet was a champion of women's rights," Declerck said.
Declerck disagreed with Perica suggestion that women play a larger role in the Christian faith than in Islam.
In 600 A.D., when women in Europe were not allowed to own property, Muhammad said women had property rights and couldn't be forced to marry, Declerck said.
Declerck said the main differences between Islam and Christianity is that Christianity holds on to the concept of the Trinity and regards Jesus as God.
Moreover, he added that Christians, unlike Muslims, believe people are born with the original sin.
"Islam says that you're born pure," Declerck said.
Both leaders believe that the course would help Christians develop relationships with Muslims, based on true information about the faith.
"Our prayers for peace are something that God will honor," Perica said.
Declerck agreed, urging followers of both faiths to learn respect, understanding and collaboration from each other.
"It's important for Muslims to learn about Christianity -- authentic Christianity," Declerck said.
"It's important for Christians to learn about Islam -- authentic Islam."
US Muslims are estimated between six to seven million.
A US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A recent Gallup poll, however, found 43 percent of Americans Nationwide admitted to feeling at least a little prejudice against Muslims.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net