The deep attention and reverence that Thomas Merton and Abdul Aziz brought to each other's books, traditions and lives undergirded their friendship, and the frank way they explored their similarities and differences enlivened it.
In recent conversations with my seminary classmates, we've been lamenting the state of Christian education. In many churches it is evident that the average member hasn't grown in religious or biblical knowledge since he or she heard moralistic tales of Noah, Esther or Daniel as a child. Some even resist pastoral attempts to expand their Christian knowledge, and they simply refuse to learn about other religions. As seminarians, we are struggling with how to respond to this.
I travel to the Middle East at least once each year, often visiting multiple countries. I belong to an evangelical-Muslim discussion group which meets annually, and the participants include pious, brilliant, generous Muslim scholars whom I count as my friends. When a topic like "Islamophobic America" comes up, I share intense personal e-mails with them. But I came away from my trip to the Middle East this past summer with some new concerns.