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‘A Common Word’ in the News

Christians and Muslims issue joint statement condemning Iraqi church attack

High-level Christian and Muslim leaders meeting in Geneva to build a
“common future” together have issued a joint statement condemning the
deadly attack against a Catholic church in Baghdad.

In the statement, they “condemn this inhumane act that contradicts
all religious teachings, and Middle Eastern culture that enabled people
to coexist peacefully for many centuries”.

The joint statemnt was undersigned by Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin
Talal of Jordan; Dr Muhammad Ahmed Al-Sharif, general secretary of the
World Islamic Call Society; the World Council of Churches; and
representatives of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant
Evangelical and Pentecostal traditions.

The group called on the United Nations Security Council and Iraqi
officials to “intervene to put an end to all terrorist attacks aimed at
degrading Iraqi people, irrespective of their religious affiliation, and
defiling Christian and Islamic sacred places”.

On Sunday, an insurgent group stormed into Our Lady of Salvation
church located in the al-Karadah neighbourhood in Baghdad and killed 58
people. Among those killed were three priests, one of whom died later in

It was the deadliest attack against Iraqi Christians since Islamic
extremists began targeting them in 2003 after the US-led invasion of

The Islamic State of Iraq, the group that claimed responsibility for
the attack, issued a statement Tuesday evening threatening to continue
the bloodshed. The ISI includes al-Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni Muslim
insurgent groups.

While violence is raging in Iraq between Christians and Muslims,
leaders of the two religious groups met in Geneva, Switzerland, at the
Ecumenical Center to work out how to live and work harmoniously
together. The dialogue was hosted by the World Council of Churches.

Dr Aref Ali Nayed, director of the Kalam Research and Media Center in
Dubai recommended dialogue to help “keep each other honest” in the
quest for justice and peace. He added that through dialogue it was
possible to “grow ecologies of peace and forgiveness”.

The Rev Kjell Magne Bondevik, former prime minister of Norway and now
president of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights, said he agrees
that dialogue is a meaningful tool.

“It is perhaps the only tool to build better relations. It is a tool for the building of shared societies,” said Bondevik.

Dr Farid Esack, professor in the study of Islam at the University of
Johannesburg in South Africa, suggested that to move towards peace and
justice, those involved must admit their guilt in systems of injustice
and recognise themselves in others who suffer from that injustice.

“The idea of justice without compassion is somehow a betrayal of justice,” said Esack.

The event was inspired by the historic 2007 letter by 138 Muslim
scholars called, “A Common Word”. Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal of
Jordan was the initiator of the letter.