The University of Iowa

Our View – Straddling the boundary between faiths

October 11th, 2010

This opinion piece is from the Iowa City Press-Citizen editorial board.

Last month we opined that it was rare for Iowa City area residents to discuss the Muslim-Christian divide with someone who has spent seven years traveling across the 10th parallel — the latitude line 700 miles north of the equator that serves as a highly contested, religious boundary line. Thats why we encouraged our readers to attend the WorldCanvass program featuring Eliza Griswold, author of “The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line between Christianity and Islam.”

Residents today have two additional opportunities to hear a firsthand report from someone with great experience straddling the boundary between the two faiths. Mano Rumalshah, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Peshawar in the Church of Pakistan, will speak at noon today for the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council. Rumalshah will then hold a public lecture on “Christianity and Islam: Prospects for Reconciliation” at 7 p.m. today in St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, 1300 Melrose Ave.

Griswold’s presentation did a good job of complicating any overly simplistic accounts of the clashes among Christians and Muslims in Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. But while her “Tenth Parallel” went into detail about how many of these religious conflicts are also conflicts about land, water, oil and other natural resources, Griswold didn’t have many contemporary stories to share about successful peacemaking efforts among the different groups.

Rumalshah, on the other hand, is speaking throughout the United States as part of the International Peacemaker Program of the Presbyterian Church USA. He is recognized in Pakistan and internationally for his work at fostering mutual peaceful cooperation and understanding among all peoples in the Islamic community of Peshawar where he lives, as well as serving the surrounding region, which has been among the hardest hit by recent flooding.

For information about the Foreign Relations Council luncheon, call 335-0351 or visit

One Community, One Book

And, of course, there is still time for Johnson County residents to read through “Gardens of Water” by Alan Drew, this year’s selection for the “One Community, One Book” program. The novel tells the story of a devout Muslim family and an American Christian family in Turkey during and after a massive earthquake near Istanbul.

As the story of Muslim-Christian cooperation in historic crossroads of the eastern and western world, “Gardens of Water” deviates somewhat from the war, torture and racial themes of the other books the UI Center for Human Rights has chosen in recent years. But the novel does help illuminate the consequences and possibilities in our world’s clash of cultures and faiths.