Can Interfaith Dialogue Happen Online?

Published May 29, 2017 by Julian Bond & Alice Sandham

Julian Bond, formerly Director of Christian Muslim Forum (2006 to 2015), has a formidable social media presence. Unlike many, however, his twitter exchanges are most notable for their patience. Often tweeting about Islam to a Christian audience he regularly experiences trolling – sometimes by Christians who believe him to be betraying his faith through reaching out to the Muslim community. For Julian, there is no contradiction: as he recently tweeted: "Online haters tell me all kinds of hateful nonsense about Islam. But in the real world Muslims want me to explain the Gospel for broadcast."

After witnessing a particularly vicious (and prolonged) twitter exchange, I contacted Julian to ask – can constructive interfaith dialogue really happen online? He believed so, and had the following tips, originally offered to the Christian Muslim Forum's Facebook group:

Despite the negativity it seems that Julian Bond still believes in online dialogue. If we slow down, admit our own ignorance and engage positively then there is still the potential to further understanding. As one user observed: when we meet online, we still meet as individuals, and as such we have the potential to have a meeting "of the heart, not of texts, an appreciation of each other and each other's beliefs, religion, scripture, even though, and especially when, we disagree, some degree of equal levels of interest in the other". This is surely an opportunity too good to be missed.

Julian Bond (Christian Muslim Forum) & Alice Sandham (Woolf Institute)

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