Danville Express

Newsfront - January 12, 2007

Church takes steps to bridge the gaps

Imam addressing what Islam and Christianity have in common

by Jordan M. Doronila

Building bridges between Islam and Christianity may help people from different faiths walk across a sea of differences and arrive on the shores of understanding, hope pastors at an Alamo church.

The San Ramon Valley United Methodist Church in Alamo will present a public dialogue about the commonalities between Christianity and Islam, at 11:15 a.m., Sunday, Jan. 14. The talk is part of a series of diverse January presentations called: "Bridging the Gap: Overcoming Our Cultural Divide."

Dr. Amer Salih Araim, an Imam from Concord and a professor at Diablo Valley College, is the keynote speaker at the event. Prior to the dialogue, the church will hold a sermon centered around the Christian and Islamic theme, from 8:30-9:30 a.m. and again from 10-11 a.m.

"I have been speaking to many churches since 9/11 to promote understanding between Muslims and Christians and to bring Muslims into the mainstream," Araim said. "We are part of society."

He will speak about the challenges of being a minority, and connecting with different faiths and cultures in a multicultural society, said Pastor Heather Hammer, adding that 400 to 500 people attend the church's services each week.

Other issues that will be presented in January are the relationship between the economy and the environment, and concerns regarding science and religion. Last week, the church held a discussion about liberal and conservative issues.

"We purposely were picking issues that often divide us, but we want to understand these issues," Hammer said. "The purpose is to bridge the differences with people who are diverse."

"We certainly look forward to having dialogue," she added. "This is the first of its kind (at the church)."

Senior Pastor Ron Dunn and Hammer began to organize the dialogues in the fall.

"It's a response to the world as we presently see it," Dunn said. "The goal isn't to change each other's minds. The goal is to work together and build a community rather than tear it apart."

Hammer said the church's presentations will help bring better understanding of different cultures and enable people to work together.

"We need to focus on the commonality," Hammer said.

For more information about other dialogues in "Bridging the Gap: Overcoming Our Cultural Divide," call the church at 837-5243.

Begin a dialogue

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