Q and A: Craig Detweiler, Producer and Director [un]Common Sounds

Q: Was there a specific incident that sparked this endeavor?   
CD: The Songs for Peace and Reconciliation Project directed by Roberta King and Sooi Ling Tan began with a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation (of TIME magazine fame).   One of their stated interests is in “religion and international affairs.”   The Brehm Center at Fuller Seminary received funding to create two international conferences (Beirut, Lebanon in 2009, Yogyakarta, Indonesia in 2010) bringing Muslim and Christian scholars together and the resources to document the process with a film crew.

Q: How’s this project unique/groundbreaking?   
CD: There is lots of talk about peace.   We know that scholars and leaders approach peace in an academic manner.  But for the Songs of Peace and Reconciliation Project (SOPR), the scholars and leaders were also musicians who study, discuss, and SING peace.  They are ethnomusicologists who consider music, faith, and culture in their study and practices.

Q: How exactly was peace found through this music?  
The most tangible examples are in the performers and concerts.
In Lebanon, the Classical Arabic Music Ensemble was led by a Christian (on violin) and yet featured Muslim musicians (like a blind oud player from Egypt).   They performed ancient music from both Muslims and Christians that sounded remarkably similar–because both feature classical Arabic musical roots.

In Indonesia, we saw a women’s choir, comprised of Muslims and Christians perform.   A renowned world music group, Saurasama, included both Muslims and Christians in their band.   They performed three songs that celebrated Abraham, Jesus, and Mohammad.  At the end, they performed a new song (commissioned for the project) entitled “We Share” about what Christians and Muslims share in common.  This was sung by both the Muslim and Christian scholars in attendance.

Q: Any interesting stories/people you encountered in making the film?

CD: I was so impressed by The Mahad, four young Muslim high school students who are a punk rock band.   They reminded me of U2.   Like U2, they come from a country riddled by violence and yet, they are committed to writing songs that bring people together (rooted in their serious commitment to faith–Christianity for U2, Islam for The Mahad). They want to “Rock for Peace.”

Q: Where does the film suggest we go from here?

CD: My favorite interview was with Dr. Miroslav Volf from the Yale Center for Faith and Culture.   As a Croatian Protestant, he witnessed religious violence in the war over the Balkans.   As a Christian theologian, he wants Christian and Muslims to find the common values they can agree upon rather than defaulting towards their differences.   He suggests that while we may call upon God in different languages, it could be that we are still praying to the same God (via different names).  And surely, that can alter our relationship and respect for each other.