Last week I attended an event put on by the 20,000 Dialogues Initiative, a group which works to use film to facilitate a dialogue on Islam and the Muslim people. The event included a viewing of the film Cities of Light and a subsequent discussion of how to apply its content to current inter-religious concerns. It drew participants from very diverse backgrounds. My own small discussion group consisted of two Muslims, a Presbyterian Minister, a Jew, a woman who ascribes to all religions, and two people who considered themselves “unsure.”
I thought the event was a wonderful step towards fostering interfaith dialogue in America. Cities of Light ended with the reminder that although the Abrahamic religions have diverged in history, at the heart of each one is the teaching to “treat thy neighbor as thyself.”
The film also highlighted the fact that world history has shown the greatest progress in times of tolerance and peace. This remains an important lesson in today’s society. As George Santayana once said, “those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
The next event in the series will be in late July and will follow the story of a West African prince captured and sold into American slavery. I would encourage any and all to check to see if there is a viewing in your area. You can find information here (http://www.20000dialogues.org/films.aspx)
Praise for Cities of Light
“Called “fascinating” by the Wall Street Journal, this historical documentary utilizes feature-film style re-enactments to bring to life the 700 year long history of the European Islamic civilization of Muslim Spain. It tells of the triumphs and shortcomings, achievements and ultimate failures of a centuries-long period when Muslims, Christians, and Jews inhabited the same far corner of Western Europe and built a society that lit the Dark Ages.”
The 20,000 Dialogues Initiative is funded by the Unity Productions Foundation.