Mwilwa Francis Kapansa was raised Christian but converted to Islam at 17. Summer School gave him an opportunity to learn about Christianity from people who were happy to discuss their faith and see first hand the value of Muslim-Christian cooperation.
I first heard about the Summer School whilst studying for my MA at the Islamic College of Advanced Study. My MA course was in comparative studies between ‘Islam and the West’ with focus on Philosophy and Theology.
In particular, one module on ‘Christian Theology’ intrigued me further towards attending the Summer School as I felt it was necessary to learn about Christianity from active, practising Christians or at the very least those showing serious concern for their faith. I was raised a Christian coming from a Catholic family and converted to Islam aged 17. I therefore felt that I might possibly be at home spending some time in a Christian Muslim forum.
At Summer School we learned how to communicate firmly and honestly without offending one another in our discussions. We read Biblical and Qur’anic texts, explored inter-faith dialogue through history to the present day and its meaningful application in our society.
We also had informal discussions that trickled from the class room to the dinner tables and onwards into the evenings, sometimes led by guest speakers, both Muslim and Christian. We also had optional visits to a mosque for Friday prayers and a church for Sunday mass for both Muslims and Christians to experience one another’s spiritual practice.
I was comfortable at the school due to my past as a Christian but did enjoy the challenge of trying to explain Muslim beliefs to my Christian colleagues. It was not about trying to convert the other or score points in debates, but about trying to effectively communicate one’s beliefs to another.
My biggest surprise was spending so much time with God-fearing and God-loving Christians. With Muslims I always found it was easier to break into conversations about God wherever we met, whilst many Christians I encountered on a daily basis in modern-day Britain seemed a little shy to discuss their faith in a more social or work environment.
I truly felt blessed be with Christians whom to me were not different to Muslims in their inclinations towards striving to become closer to God. Of course, the religions naturally have differences so any discussions to try and clearly articulate specific beliefs such as the Trinity to a Muslim remained as they were.
I was very comfortable and happy with the balance of serious reading and conversation and the lighter project work that had us as Christians and Muslims together to proposing faith based solutions to try tackle practical problems.
My experience has left me with an awareness of the importance of Christian-Muslim cooperation. We were given and shown many examples of Muslims and Christians working successfully together in handling problems from the grass roots up. I feel the two Abrahamic communities complement each other and have the potential to empower each other in a world that is becoming increasingly secular.
Interested in Attending Summer School?
The programme is designed for men and women who are currently, or have recently finished, studying at Christian or Islamic theological colleges training for vocational, faith-based careers in the UK, and who hope one day to be leaders within their local communities.
You can find out more about Summer School and register your interest here.