138 of the world’s leading Muslim scholars and intellectuals from all branches of Islam (Sunni and Shia, Salafi and Sufi, liberal and conservative) had come together to write a letter entitled “A Common Word Between Us and You,” to the world’s Christian leaders.
The drafting of the letter was organized by the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Amman, Jordan. Though its message has been said by Muslim scholars many times before, it is the first time so many high-profile Muslims have come together in public to make such a unified call for peace.
The letter was launched first in Jordan this morning, and then in other countries over the course of the day, the letter gets its final unveiling at a joint press conference in Washington D.C. this afternoon by Mustafa Ceric, Grand Mufti of Bosnia, and John Esposito, Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University.
In a display of unprecedented unity, the letter – which calls for peace between the world’s Christians and Muslims – is signed by no fewer than 19 current and former grand ayatollahs and grand muftis from countries as diverse as Egypt, Turkey, Russia, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine. War-torn Iraq was represented by both Shi’ites and Sunnis.
It is addressed to Christianity’s most powerful leaders, including the pope, the archbishop of Canterbury and the heads of the Lutheran, Methodist and Baptist churches, and, in 15 pages laced with Qur’anic and Biblical scriptures, argues that the most fundamental tenets of Islam and Christianity are identical: love of one (and the same) God, and love of one’s neighbor.
On this basis the letter reasons that harmony between the two religions is not only necessary for world peace, it is natural.
“As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them – so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes … Our very eternal souls are all at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace,” the letter reads.
“If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. With the terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world’s inhabitants,” the scholars wrote.
“Our common future is at stake. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake,”
“It’s an astonishing achievement of solidarity,” says David Ford, director of the Cambridge University’s Interfaith Program. “I hope it will be able to set the right key note for relations between Muslims and Christians in the 21st century, which have been lacking since September 11.”
One profound obstacle to establishing positive relations among mainstream Muslim and Christian groups, argues Ford, has been the lack of a single, authoritative Muslim voice to participate in such a dialogue. This letter changes that. “It proves that Islam can have an unambiguous, unified voice,” says Aref Ali Nayed, a leading Islamic scholar and one of the letter’s authors.
Emily Flynn Vencat, “Giving Peace a Chance” Newsweek October 11, 2007
Peter Graff, “Unprecedented Muslim call for peace with Christians” Reuters October 11, 2007
Jumana Farouky, “Muslim Leaders Send Peace Message” Time October 11, 2007