he 30-denomination National Council of Churches is setting up a Task Force on Christian-Muslim Relations.
NCC member bodies are being asked to send as many representatives as they wish to the task force's first meeting at NCC headquarters here Sept. 12.
A letter from Jorge Lara-Braud, executive director of the NCC'c Commission of Faith and Order, speaks of "a benefit from having various perspectives in the churches present, e.g., from ecumenical or interreligious concerns; from overseas or international ministries, and from home or national ministries."
According to Lara-Braud, the task force has two purposes - to provide a "Christian forum in which different kinds of approaches and relationships to Islam and Muslims can be explored and experienced," and to offer a "channel for information and resources by which church and Christians in the U.S. can understand and relate constructively to the growing Islamic community in this country, and to those communities overseas."
The council leader outlined three reasons for the program:
Growing Muslim population in the United States, now estimated at 2 million, and growing contact with Islam by non-Muslim Americans working overseas.
Relationships between the United States and countries of the third world, many of which have substantial Muslim populations.
The "commonalities and difference" between Islam and Christianity as "members of the monotheistic family . . . The history of our relationship with Islam has been primarily one of confrontation, ranging from warfare to malign neglect. From this stance we cannot be forces of reconciliation in the world."
The new task force is to work closely with the Duncan Black MacDonald Center for the study of Islam and Christain Muslim Relations, Hartford Theological Seminary.
The NCC has an Office on Christian-Jewish Relations.