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‘A Common Word’ in the News

Christian communities urged to be good neighbours to Muslims

Christian communities should improve their knowledge of Islam, be good
neighbours to Muslims and bear witness to their faith in an appropriate
manner, according to an international group of church leaders and
experts on Christian-Muslim dialogue.

These were some of the recommendations put forward at an 18 to 20
October consultation aimed at developing an ecumenical Christian
theological understanding of dialogue with Islam.

Convened by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the meeting gathered
some fifty church leaders and experts on Christian-Muslim dialogue in
Chavannes-de-Bogis, outside Geneva, Switzerland.

Participants acknowledged a history of “mixed” relationships between
Christians and Muslims, with both positive and negative dimensions. On
their part, Christians have seen Muslims both as friend and rival,
neighbour and stranger.

However, participants agreed, Christianity teaches to love the
neighbour regardless of race, gender or religion. Even more, Christian
self-understanding is challenged and deepened through relationships
with Muslims, while Christians themselves are renewed by entering into
dialogue with them.

For this dialogue to be fruitful it needs to be sensitive, including a
careful use of traditional Christian language like mission, witness and
conversion. And both church leaders and communities need to be educated
in the knowledge of Islam as Muslims live and present it.

While attitudes among Christians towards Islam are diverse and rich,
different contexts and experiences of living together with Muslims
inspire different theological approaches.

The consultation identified a number of issues to be addressed in
further dialogue with Muslims, among others: human rights, conversion,
concepts of secularism, pluralism, and citizenship, as well as the use
of religious symbols for political ideologies and religiously motivated

Participants also recommended further Christian-Muslim collaboration on
issues such as social and economic justice, climate change, peace and
healing of memories.

Organised by the WCC together with a number of Christian World
Communions, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and the Roman Catholic
Church, the consultation is a continuation of an ecumenical process
launched by the WCC in response to “A Common Word”, a letter signed by
138 Muslim scholars and addressed to Christian leaders around the world
in October 2007.

Rather than producing a written response to the letter by the Muslim
scholars, the goal of the consultation was to provide a space for
churches and communions of churches to share their initiatives and
theological resources for engaging with Muslims, and to identify
substantial issues for Christian theology in relation to
Christian-Muslim dialogue.

Participants agreed on the need for further ecumenical exploration of
theological issues pertaining to Muslim-Christian dialogue and invited
the organisers to facilitate the process. A report on the consultation,
including the presentations delivered and an account of the findings
will be published by the end of the year.