Buddhism, Christianity & Islam: 3 Men Share Lessons on Creation

A Buddhist, a Christian, and a Muslim walk into a coffee shop in Marysville, Washington. The three men sit down and order something to drink. Sipping their coffee, they get down to business. They understand that there will be differences between them and they want to understand these differences. They ask each other, “How will we live together, given our cultural and religious differences?”

Representing Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam in Action

These three individuals, of three different faiths, wanted to see where and how they can act together to address the world’s needs. Jafar Siddigui, of Lynnwood, is a Muslim, representing Islam. Michael Jones, of Marysville, represents Buddhism. The Rev. Terry Kyllo, of Anacortes, represents Christianity, and is the pastor of St. Philips Episcopal Church in Marysville.

Having decided that they want to learn from each other’s similarities and differences, they shared teachings from their respective faiths over hot coffee on that cold winter day. Pleased with their newfound ability to work together, the three men formulated an action plan and decided to share their perspectives on three specific topics: Economic Justice, Caring for the Earth, and Creative Conflict.

“We Are All Children of the Same God”

Speaking recently to Amy Nile of The Everett Daily Herald, Jafar Siddigui said, “It shouldn’t be a surprise that we have similar beliefs.” He continued, “After all, we are all children of the same God.”

Siddiqui received his Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Washington. Born and raised in Pakistan, he began his career as an industrial engineer in Britain. Returning to the US, Siddiqui has written commentaries in newspapers and magazines, and has been a guest commentator on radio and TV. He is a now a real estate agent and a member of American Muslims of Puget Sound.

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“There’s a Common Thread”

Speaking of that first meeting at the coffee shop, Michael Jones said, “The dialogue we had was pretty incredible. There’s a common thread that weaves through all of this.” Jones has been a follower of Nichiren Buddhism for 30 years. He notes, “Throughout my journey I seek commonalities of all philosophies and religions.”

Well familiar with interfaith activities, Jones has conducted children’s workshops, interfaith dialogues, and youth cultural festivals aimed toward creating a peaceful world. His activism is based on Buddhism from “a humanistic philosophy that nurtures the creativity of the human spirit, to surmount the difficulties and crises facing humankind, and realize a society of peaceful and prosperous coexistence.”

“Interfaith Dialogue Is Critical”

The men found many similar beliefs as they talked together. They decided to hold three interfaith dialogues to give themselves practical experience talking and living together. “Interfaith dialogue is critical to us learning to live with each other, given our cultural differences,” said Rev. Terry Kyllo.

The author of two books, Being Human and Apprenticeship, Kyllo is a Lutheran pastor who is serving at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church. Raised in eastern Washington, Kyllo went to Pacific Lutheran University and graduated from a Lutheran seminary in Chicago. He has served in partnerships between Episcopalians and Lutherans for over 10 years and has been a pastor for 23 years.

Wanting to provide a place for people of various faiths to come together to discuss pertinent issues facing humanity, St. Philips Church offered a great opportunity. “We’re at the point as a species that we need to start thinking and acting differently,” Jones said. “We start to do that through dialogue.”

buddhism, christianity, islam, etc interfaith symbols

Faith-Based Views on “Economic Justice”

The men’s first interfaith dialogue was held in the spring and covered economic justice. “The economy,” Kyllo says, “should provide for people’s basic needs, including meaningful work and community. If it falls short, people need to make changes.”

Siddigui’s teaching from Islam is that “justice is the core value of humanity.” He says, “Economic and social justice are tied, and people cannot move forward unless they’re secure.”

From the Buddhism point of view, Jones says, “everything boils down to the individual. When one person changes, it permeates society”.

Sharing About “Caring for Creation”

Their second interfaith dialogue, “Caring for Creation,” was held in October. It was a big success, as well, held on a Sunday afternoon with a light meal served afterwards by the local Nichiren Buddhist Community. “Caring for the planet,” Kyllo said, “is a central component of what it means to be a Christian.”

Continuing, Rev. Kyllo said, “The sacred bread and wine are grown from the Earth.” He sees taking the Christian sacraments at the altar during the worship service as “a symbol that the entire planet is holy.”

“The Quran,” said Siddigui, “also commands people to care for their environment. On judgment day, how well people kept the planet will be a factor.” Continuing, he said, “In the Middle East, cutting down another person’s trees is an irrevocable sin. That’s how seriously Mother Earth is taken in Islam.”

“Buddhists also have high regard for the planet. They believe humans are connected to their natural surroundings,” explained Jones. He said that the lesson in Buddhism is that “everything one does affects the environment.”

Exploring the Concept of “Creative Conflict”

The men plan to hold their third lecture on the topic of Creative Conflict this winter. The date is not yet set, but Rev. Terry Kyllo says he plans to discuss “the importance of balancing the self-interests of different communities of people.”

Jafar Siddigui says he hopes to provide “an understanding that the conflicts in the Middle East aren’t about religion. The groups that are taking up arms in the name of Islam,” he says, “are using religion as a shield and a scapegoat.” He notes, “The bottom line is power, greed, corruption, wealth, whatever. It’s a mistake to give them religious elevation.”

Michael Jones says that Buddhism seeks to end all wars. “That starts with individuals working to change the conditions that start conflicts. Small adjustments in people’s lives can lead to change on a global scale.”

Love and Compassion Is at the Core of all Faiths

All three men agreed that sharing their views has allowed them a more compassionate understanding of people with different beliefs. Each has gained a more enlightened perspective of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. “Every religion holds love and compassion as its core values,” Jafar Siddigui said. “I was struck by the beauty of the expression of the same thoughts.”

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About the Author

Aisha Abdelhamid (Birth-name Kathleen Vail) is a freelance lifestyle and environmental science writer currently living in Vancouver, BC. Her interests include environmental conservation, climate science, renewable energy, faith-based environmental activism, sustainable economics, corporate social responsibility, creative lifestyles, and healthy living.