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‘A Common Word’ in the News

Catholics, Muslims Affirm Shared Mission

Say Religion a Source of Harmony, Not Conflict

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 6, 2008 (Zenit.org).-
Catholics and Muslims agree that youth must be formed in their own
religious traditions and correctly educated about other religions, to
give witness to transcendent values in a secular society.

The
recently established Catholic-Muslim Forum affirmed this in a joint
declaration released today, the result of their first seminar, which
began Tuesday. The forum is comprised of 29 members of each religion
and was formed by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
and representatives of the 138 Muslim leaders who sent an open letter
to Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders in October 2007.

The
theme of the three-day seminar was “Love of God, Love of Neighbor,”
with a specific focus on two areas: “Theological and Spiritual
Foundations” and “Human Dignity and Mutual Respect.”

The final
statement of the forum reflected many points of similarity between the
two creeds as well as resolutions for positive action to build
solidarity and peace between the two.

Foundation of love

The
forum recognized the specific focus of Christian love: “The source and
example of love of God and neighbor is the love of Christ for his
Father, for humanity and for each person. God is Love and God so loved
the world that he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life. God’s love is placed in the
human heart through the Holy Spirit. It is God who first loves us
thereby enabling us to love him in return.”

They continued with
a summary of how love for one’s neighbor in word and deed follows
necessarily from the Christian’s love for God. This love imitates
Christ’s sacrificial love, and includes every human person, even
enemies.

Turning to the Muslim perspective on love, the
declaration affirmed: “Love is a timeless transcendent power which
guides and transforms human mutual regard. This love, as indicated by
the holy and beloved Prophet Muhammad, is prior to the human love for
the one true God. […] God’s loving compassion for humanity is even
greater than that of a mother for her child; it therefore exists before
and independently of the human response to the One who is ‘The Loving,’”

In
regard to love of neighbor, the statement added some Muslim beliefs
similar to those of Christians: “Those that believe, and do good works,
the Merciful shall engender love among them. […] Not one of you has
faith until he loves for his neighbor what he loves for himself.”

Given
these common foundations of love for God and neighbor, participants in
the seminar recognized the gift of human life and the need to protect
it. They asserted the belief that human dignity is based on each
person’s creation “by a loving God out of love.” Thus every person
deserves recognition of “his or her identity and freedom by
individuals, communities and governments, supported by civil
legislation that assures equal rights and full citizenship.”

The
declaration acknowledged God’s creation of human personas as male and
female, and noted the commitment of the forum to ensure “that human
dignity and respect are extended on an equal basis to both men and
women.”

Religious differences

Members of the forum wrote
that love of neighbor includes respect for each person’s choices
regarding religion. They affirmed that religious minorities are to be
respected and that sacred figures, symbols and places should not be
ridiculed.

They acknowledged: “As Catholic and Muslim
believers, we are aware of the summons and imperative to bear witness
to the transcendent dimension of life, through a spirituality nourished
by prayer, in a world which is becoming more and more secularized and
materialistic. […]

“We are convinced that Catholics and Muslims
have the duty to provide a sound education in human, civic, religious
and moral values for their respective members and to promote accurate
information about each other’s religions.”

A source of peace

Seminar
participants recognized that plurality in God’s creation is a richness
and should not be a source of conflict. They professed the belief that
“Catholics and Muslims are called to be instruments of love and harmony
among believers, and for humanity as a whole, renouncing any
oppression, aggressive violence and terrorism, especially that
committed in the name of religion, and upholding the principle of
justice for all.”

They challenged individuals from any religion
to come together to help the needy, and to work toward upstanding
financial systems that will consider the needs of the poor and relieve
individual or national suffering.

Forward looking

The
joint declaration recorded the conviction that young people are the
future of the religious communities as well as societies. It asserted
the necessity of forming youth, in their own religions as well as in
the understanding of other cultures and religions.

The statement
closed with a plan to hold a second seminar in two years, in a
Muslim-majority country. Benedict XVI received the members of the forum
in an audience, and participants ended the seminar by expressing
gratitude to God for the fruitful dialogue among them.

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On the Net:

Full text: www.zenit.org/article-24175?l=english

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