Friday, 30 November 2007

Muslim Christian Conciliation?

On October 13, 2007, on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, 138 Muslim scholars and clerics sent an open letter "to leaders of Christian churches, everywhere." The signatories to that letter, titled A Common Word Between Us and You, include top leaders from around the world representing every major school of Islamic thought. The text of A Common Word Between Us and You appears at http://www.acommonword.com/.

The text opens with the following words:

" Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.
The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity."
These two principles are then demonstrated in both the Qur'an and Bible.

The Christian response can be found here. It was drafted by scholars at Yale Divinity School's Center for Faith and Culture. It was issued by the first four signatories on the document and endorsed by almost 300 other Christian theologians and leaders, including those listed here. To promote constructive engagement between these major religious communities, planning is underway for a series of major conferences and workshops involving many of the signatories to A Common Word and to the Yale response, as well as other international Christian, Muslim, and
Jewish leaders. Events will be posted at www.yale.edu/faith, where readers can also view the complete list of signatories as well as add their names to the list.

I agree that the issue of Muslim/Christian relations will be the major topic for the next epoch of our history. What fruit this meeting will bring, I can't say. One thing I am convinced of is that without an adequate knowledge of our own identity as Christians, dialogue will dissipate into truisms that will leave us vulnerable to be led by those who do know what they believe.
NB: for the expected conservative reaction, go here.

5 comments:

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Thanks for sharing that, Phil. From time to time I post on "the struggle for the soul of Islam" on my "secular" blog, recently renamed [A]mazed and [Be]mused.

This is indeed an issue of global importance in our times, and anyone who speaks for a moderate, tolerant strain of Islam is to be encouraged!

Bob MacDonald said...

Thanks Phil - I bothered to read it and understand it to be non-polemic. The work is the most positive Islamic statement I have read online.

Phil Sumpter said...

Stephen,

the latest shocking example of Islamic brutality is here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21973378/. Up to now, I've not heard the Muslim community responding to these kinds of events. In the face of terrorism, I tend to hear complaints about how Muslims are misunderstood and presecuted, but little in the way of explicitly rejecting violence. In the aftermath of the Danish cartoon spectacle, the representative of the Muslim community of Britain had an interview on the BBC. The only thing that came across was blind rage and an inability to repsond to the questions of the interviewer. No doubt I've not enough ...

Bob,

the article looks positivie indeed. It was educated, informed and open for both sides to keep their differences. Just two things that nag on my mind: Germany is having tensions with our large Muslim minority. One of the comments we get back from inter-religious dialogue is the inability on the side of the Muslims to admit wrong. If one turns up and says that one has done wrong (as the Yale Document does), that one doesn't have the whole truth, then they see that as a victory for them from the word go. AS such, I would like to see a Muslim response to the Yale document that apologises for the brutality caused by Muslims in the modern world, a statement on terrorism, and, like the Yale document, and apology for invading Jerusalem (which precipitated the crusades in the first place) and for invading Spain. From what I understand, within Islamic theology, Spain is still regarded as legitimate Muslim territory. I find it hard to believe that an apology will be forthcoming ...

A little anecdote: my undergrad university (University of Wales, Lampeter) was a centre for Muslim studies. A liberal Muslim friend of mine took me to a service in the university mosque. The talk was on Jihad. After the sermon I spoke to the preacher about this and he said that Jihad can be a spiritual exercise, but it can also be military. He said that Muslims are now forbidden to carry out Islamic conquest because the Muslim world is divided. The day Sunnis and Shia get together will be the day Muslims can legitimately attack the world. He assured me that it'll be a long while till these communities reconcile, so I need not worry. My liberal friend (who rejects the hadith as authoritative) seemed to think this was reasonable.

A commitment to love of God and neighbour is meaningless when devoid of a theological matrix in which the concepts receive their content. Being aware of this and being able to call a spade a spade is a challenge that I think the church has to face. Unfortunately, the liberal tendancy to promote acceptance regardless of content and to constantly apologise in the belief that this will further genuine dialogue will not help us too much.

I hope I don't sound like I'm ranting ... I happy to have my ignorance of such issues corrected!

Phil Sumpter said...

Oops, Stephen, my sentence should have read: "No doubt I've not read enough ... "

Phil Sumpter said...

I should add the the news article I linked to above has been resolved. The teacher has been released due to Muslim pressure from England, although the mood on the street is not particularly conciliatory. Read up on it here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7124447.stm