UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

The Tenth Parallel

New book reveals how Muslims and Christians meet, clash and find peace around the globe

The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam
By Eliza Griswold
(Farrar, Straus And Giroux) $31


Eighty percent of the world’s Muslims live outside the Middle East, with half of them living along the 10th parallel. Eliza Griswold, prizewinning journalist and poet, masterfully narrates the stories of individuals who live some 1,100 kilometres north of the equator.

Griswold spent seven years travelling in Nigeria, the Sudan, Somalia, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. These pages reflect her experiences of the people and provide an education on life in the Global South that is at once illuminating and empathetic.

Christianity and Islam meet, and often clash, along this parallel. In Nigeria, we are introduced to two fundamentalists (a Muslim and a Christian) who tried to kill one another for at least a decade. While each still believes the other to be hopelessly lost, they have tired of the violence and are now seeking to deprogram those they were largely responsible for militarizing. Griswold concludes that the work of these two remains “ultimately mysterious,” an enigma that can’t “be explained away by self-interest, or anything else of this world.”

Her travels in Indonesia reveal a country of “Islams” with internal conflicts that indicate the clash within religions is at least as important as the clash between them.

In the Philippines, Griswold tells the story of Martin and Gracia Burnham, Christian missionaries kidnapped by a Muslim extremist and held in the jungles for most of a year. Martin died there, shot during a rescue attempt. While nearly starving to death, Gracia struggled to survive by working to love her kidnappers, focusing on their poverty in order to forgive their personal failings. As Griswold puts it, “She’d focused on their shared humanity.”

In these pages, a reader encounters Griswold’s own struggles to understand faith. As the daughter of a liberal Episcopalian bishop, she grew up wondering what faith could “cost” her and asking herself “how it was that smart people could believe in God.” The journeys chronicled here have taught her something about the costs of faith, and also of the terrible abuses evident when faith attaches too much to power or self-interest. But, in the end, she offers a kind of testimony: “I had met many believers . . . and every time I thought I had them classified, they slipped out of my easy distinctions.”

In most cases, the people she met had moved “far beyond the binary divisions between Saved and Damned, Good and Evil, Us and Them.” In this book, Griswold speaks of hope along the fault lines, a message all of us desperately need to hear.

Mark Toulouse is the principal of Emmanuel College in Toronto.



Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Interviews

Courtesy of Pixabay

Why this woman is leaving the Catholic Church in her 60s

by Angela Mombourquette

After a lifetime devoted to Catholicism, a Nova Scotia teacher is settling in with the United Church of Canada. Here, she explains why.

Promotional Image

Editorials

Jocelyn Bell%

Observations: It’s a long road toward full equality for women

by Jocelyn Bell

'It’s a wonder that we continue to see male ministers as normative and attach shame to female ministers’ biology and sexuality.'

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Playing by Heart

by Observer Staff

United Church music director Kara Shaw was born prematurely, became almost totally blind and was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today, the 28-year-old showcases her unique musical ability, performing piano on local and national stages.

Promotional Image

Faith

May 2018

Toronto church builds interfaith friendship

by Vivien Fellegi

Faith

May 2018

This parent found no support for her autistic daughter — and decided to change that

by Kieran Delamont

Suzanne Allen talks about raising a daughter on the autism spectrum and bringing all autistic girls together

Faith

May 2018

Church retreat helps first responders with PTSD

by Joe Martelle

Interviews

May 2018

Why this woman is leaving the Catholic Church in her 60s

by Angela Mombourquette

After a lifetime devoted to Catholicism, a Nova Scotia teacher is settling in with the United Church of Canada. Here, she explains why.

Ethics

May 2018

Pregnant in the pulpit

by Trisha Elliott

Ministers who take a maternity leave still face discrimination in their own congregations

Interviews

May 2018

The two words Rev. Cheri DiNovo wants to hear from the United Church

by Alex Mlynek

The Toronto minister talks about her disappointment over the church’s silence when she officiated the country’s first legalized same-sex marriage 17 years ago – and why she wants an apology.

Promotional Image