Muslim-Christian dialogue will take center stage at the statewide gathering next weekend of the Catholic social justice organization, Pax Christi.
The "Compassion Conference" will be held at the University of the Incarnate Word and will feature academic experts on Islam as well as an array of local Muslim leaders and groups.
Other religious leaders also are taking part, but Muslims were asked to play a key role in planning this conference, organizers said.
The goals are to foster the values of nonviolence and interreligious unity, and to build friendships among diverse people, said Karen Ball, with the local Pax Christi chapter.
She said she hoped "we can look at this as the beginning point, and not as an event that comes and then is done."
The conference will have opportunities to brainstorm how to apply the idea of compassion to local and national policymaking, organizers said.
Esposito is a religion, international affairs and Islamic studies professor at Georgetown University and is author of "Who Speaks for Islam; What a Billion Muslims Really Think."
That charter is what conference organizers hope to promote well after the weekend events are over. It's based on the idea of the Golden Rule and has been a rallying point for advocates of restoring a sense of compassion around the world.
"Too often, we have gotten caught up in a world that is increasingly violent and secular and ostensibly materialistic, and we forget about the role of real faith," said Esposito, founding director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.
"It's not a faith that you manipulate in American politics to win votes or to get your guy elected. It's a faith that — while disagreeing — still is compassionate to people of other faiths."