Christians and Muslims need to recognize that they are “spiritual siblings,” speakers at a global Baptist congress have stated, while warning against Islamophobia.

“The vilification of Christianity by Muslim extremists in order to justify militant jihad and the need to convert an ‘immoral’ West to Islam is alive and well,” Nabil Costa, executive director of the Lebanese Baptist Society in Beirut, Lebanon, said during the July 28-Aug. 1 Baptist World Congress in Honolulu.

“In the same way, political and media voices in the West have used long-standing prejudice against Islam in order to paint a vile picture of a religion that is part of an ‘axis of evil’ and bent on the destruction of a so-called ‘free world,’” Costa said in his presentation.

As reported by EthicsDaily, a Web site of the Baptist Center for Ethics, both Costa and Robert Sellers, a professor at the Logsdon School of Theology in Abilene, Texas, warned of a wide-spread demonization of Islam that has taken root in many evangelical churches.

They were delivering papers at a July 29 workshop on interfaith relations during the 20th world congress of the Baptist World Alliance, which accounts for more than 37 million baptized believers and a community of 105 million.

Sellers, EthicsDaily reported, warned against “a culture of Islamophobia.”

“Baptists have clearly responded to Muslims in several ways, not all of them positive. Without a doubt, one way — reacting with fear and stereotyping — is unproductive and patently unkind,” he said.

“Defaming the Prophet Muhammad, speaking ill of Islam or portraying Muslims collectively as if they were all extremist or terrorist individuals is wrong, unloving and deceitful. I trust that none of us wishes to sin against our neighbors by spreading fear and stereotypes,” Sellers stated.

Costa warned against Christians engaging in religious hubris, and urged that both Christians and the U.S. government act with humility in their relations with predominately Muslim communities and countries. Costa praised U.S. President Barack Obama's outreach to Muslim countries.

“Humility cannot be faked long without being found out. But if it is genuine and follows up on the talk with action, then it has the power to transform the world,” said Costa.

The issue of Christian-Muslim relations has been a subject of a number of recent meetings in the last three years by the global Baptist body, which is based in Falls Church, Va.

The BWA is a fellowship of 216 Baptist conventions and unions. It holds a world congress approximately every five years.