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‘A Common Word’ in the News

Baby Steps on the Road to Understanding, and Peace

A very small, yet hopeful sign:

Amman, Dec. 28, 2007 (CWNews.com) – The leader of an Islamic group calling for inter-religious dialogue has responded positively to a papal invitation for talks with the Holy See, Vatican Radio reports.

Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, the president of the Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Jordan, has indicated that he would like to meet with Pope Benedict XVI early in the new year. The Jordanian prince has been the most prominent figure associated the “Common Word” initiative, in which 138 Islamic leaders signed a public statement, issued in October, calling for broader dialogue between Christians and Muslims. More recently the Common Word participants joined in a Christmas greeting to the world’s Christians, renewing their call for dialogue and cooperation.

Pope Benedict replied to the Common Word initiative in November, with his own invitation for members of the Islamic group to join in talks at the Vatican. Prince Ghazi was responding to this papal invitation.

In his reply — which was conveyed in a letter to the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone — Prince Ghazi said that he hoped to meet with the Pope in February or March 2008.

I’ve linked to that public statement in the quote – and I do recommend that everyone read it. As I said shortly after it came out, it is a brisk and forthright attempt to bridge the gap between Islam and Christianity (and thus bridge the gap between Islam and the West). At that time, I also deplored the wet-noodle response a few weak-kneed Christians made to it; grovelling is not what is needed, or desired. But the Vatican holding a conference – at which I hope that other Christian leaders also attend – is a far better response. To get together and talk can often be an exercise in futility – but it some times can break logjams.

Just as there is a tiny element in Christianity which has forgotten what its all about, so there is a tiny element in Islam which is entirely off the Islamic ranch. Tiny, but still quite large in raw numbers (even if only 1% of Islam is radicalised, that is approximately 10 million people) – and, unfortunately, backed for varied reasons (some base, some just foolish) by politicians and rich people in the Arab/Moslem world. The ultimate key to victory in the War on Terrorism is for the Arab/Moslem world to be transformed into a free society which makes room for the religious dissident and seeks the betterment of the Arab people, rather than the revival of an archaic Caliphate. In this transformation, there is a role for everyone to play – including, not least, religious leaders on both sides who can come together and issue statements which will tend to isolate the Islamo-fascists and bring them into disrepute among the Arab population.

In this war of ideas, we must use our armed might, our economic might and our diplomatic might – but we also must make use of well-disposed people in the Moslem and Christian worlds who are willing, often at great personal risk, to come together past the divide. Small results will come from this conference – initially; but with good will and God’s grace, much will be accomplished over time.

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