Abu Dhabi, UAE
In a press conference held on Monday, 26 November 2007, at the Cultural Foundation of Abu Dhabi, UAE, Muslims scholars met with renowned Evangelical theologian Dr. Miroslav Volf and thanked him and his colleagues for their support of “A Common Word”.
“A Common Word Between Us and You” is an open letter signed by over 138 prominent Muslim scholars, leaders and intellectuals from around the world addressed to Christian clergy and scholars of all denominations that unanimously affirms common ground between Christianity and Islam exists and that the principal piece of common ground between Islam and Christianity, and the best foundation for interfaith dialogue and understanding, is Love of God and Love of thy neighbor.
Dr. Miroslav Volf, who is currently the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School and Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, was instrumental in galvanizing Christian support for “A Common Word” including his help in publishing an 18th November 2007, full-page advertisement in the The New York Times called the Yale Statement. The advertisement featured a 300-strong list of endorsements from leading Christian figures from all over the world. The Yale Statement, which included a number of prominent Evangelical leaders such as John Stott and Rick Warren, was a remarkable display of Christian encouragement for the effort by the over 138 Muslim scholars, and has helped pave the way for future theological engagement between representatives of both faith communities.
Sheikh al-Habib Ali al-Jifri, Founder and Director of the Tabah Foundation in Abu Dhabi, representing the over 138 Muslim sigantories, opened the press conference by emphasizing the historic and unprecedented process of peace-making and reconciliation, and expressed his gratitude to the Christian leaders and scholars who so willingly embraced the Muslim initiative. He said that Muslim scholars were profoundly touched by the spiritual humility manifest in the Yale Statement, and that they deeply shared the sentiments and the vision expressed in it.
Prof. Miroslav Volf described the process of how the Yale Statement came to fruition and expressed the deep impact “A Common Word” had on the Christian community. He said he was touched at having the opportunity to personally deliver to Muslim scholars the official Arabic translation of the Yale Statement and for seeing the day when Muslims and Christians could come together in such an extraordinary manner to affirm the very foundations of their faiths as expressed in the core concepts of Love of God and Love of thy neighbor.
In addressing the questions of journalists, Sheikh al-Habib al-Jifri and Prof. Volf were joined by Dr. Aref Ali Nayed, Director of the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in Amman, Jordan, and Senior Advisor to the Cambridge Interfaith Program. Dr. Nayed conveyed the support of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Amman, Jordan, where “A Common Word” originated and whose 100 fellows were signatories. The news conference was followed by a conference call with the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Ali Gomaa, who thanked Prof. Volf and his co-signatories for making such a response possible, and was followed by further work sessions on the planning of upcoming “Common Word” conferences and workshops in the US, UK, UAE, and Jordan.
Prof. Volf was also officially received at the office of Sheikh Ali al-Hashimi, Advisor for Judicial and Islamic affairs to the President of the UAE. Sheikh al-Hashimi said that the “Common Word” statement had set a clear and solid foundation for dialogue between both faiths.
The “Common Word” initiative has gained considerable momentum in Christian circles. With the exception of the Vatican, which has yet to publish an official response from Pope Benedict XVI on the document, almost all major Christian leaders representing all key denomination have stated their full support for the initiative. Muslim leaders launched the “Common Word” document as a move to develop solidarity with Christian communities and work toward greater peace and justice throughout the world.