Colin Smith, Dean of Mission Education at the Church Mission Society (CMS) regularly commissions cross-cultural training courses from the Centre for Muslim Christian Studies. Here he talks about working with the Centre.
At CMS we have known about the Centre for Christian-Muslim Studies for many years. Ida Glaser worked for us a number of years ago and I have known John Chesworth (ex fellow of CMCS) both from the UK and as a mission partner in East Africa.
As an organisation CMS has a long history of involvement in the Muslim world and has been deeply involved in inter-faith work within the UK.
What Makes CMCS Cross-Cultural Training So Effective?
A number of factors make the centre an obvious choice for us when it comes to cross-cultural training:
- They hold some important tensions together without one losing out to the other.
- They function as an academic institution but with a depth of practical experience and engagement and a readiness to tailor the training to needs of the group.
- They are evidently and committedly Christian, but very effectively hold a space where Muslim voices can be heard in their own right without being filtered through a Christian lens.
- They create a space where it is safe to question, and where we are encouraged to ask ourselves the very questions we bring to Islam.
- There is an atmosphere of respect which does not preclude a challenging of ideas and assumptions.
Our mission partners come with a variety of views and perspectives in Islam. I can be confident that the training both respects the diversity of approaches and challenges them.
Training sessions always provide space to listen and learn from a Muslim. It might be an Imam, an academic, a member of the local Mosque, or a combination of all three.
One of the surprises for students is to take some of the questions they bring to Islam and ask them first of Christianity. For many that has left some challenging questions which I think create the space to look at Islam in a way that both appreciates its rich diversity and recognises some of inconsistencies that come with that diversity.
Any organisation, whether from a faith background or not, that wants to have a deeper understanding of Islam and particularly Islam in Britain, will find CMCS a great place for training that can to some degree be tailored to their needs. It provides a highly informed space in which to open up important conversations that address our understanding of Islam but also invite us to consider what it means to relate to our Muslim neighbour.