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‘A Common Word’ in the News

Christians and Muslims press for ‘common deeds’

These challenges are not for Muslims
alone, or Christians or Jews, Hindus or Buddhists for that matter. They are
challenges for all people of faith, Blair said at the 2009 Common Word
Conference at Georgetown University.

And the best hope for faith in the twenty-first century,
he added, is that people of faith confront all of this together.

This is not because we intend to have the same faith. We
dont, he clarified. Our separate beliefs will remain.

But our coming together will allow us to speak in
friendship to one another about our own faiths and also speak to the world
about faith,’ he said.

For two days last week, around 1,000 people attended the
2009 Common Word Conference the fourth such conference held since a 2007
document from 138 Muslim scholars to Christian leaders, titled ‘A Common Word
Between Us and You’, called for Christians and Muslims to work together for

Like the conferences before it, the latest gathering
focused on the message of The Common Word Initiative, which supporters hope
will give Muslims and Christians a starting point for cooperation and worldwide
co-ordination while doing so on the most solid theological ground possible.

‘To work for justice in the world, it cannot be only
Muslims or Christians and cannot be only for our own interests, but it must
really take into consideration what problems are facing us and need justice,’
commented Bishop Munib A Younan, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan
and the Holy Land.

Jordanian Prince Ghazi bin Muhammed said the purpose of
the conference was ‘to examine and chart out some concrete, practical, and, more
importantly, actionable ideas that we can bring to fruition based perhaps on
the principles of A Common Word and the Two Greatest Commandments.’

In other words, we want to move, God willing, from
traction to trickledown, and we want to start this here, in the fourth major
conference on A Common Word, he said.

That is not to say, of course, that nothing practical has
been done up to now, Ghazi added, but our efforts, though we hope they be
pleasing to God, have not succeeded enough.

In his reflection of the gathering, the Rev Mark S Hanson,
presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, also recognised
that it has been both the challenge and the hope for the conference that common
words would lead to common deeds.

‘If our common words do not lead to common deeds that
bring justice where there are very real conflicts today, where people’s lives
are at stake, then our work is completely unfinished,’ he stated, paraphrasing
Younan’s comments at one of the conference panels.

In his speech Wednesday, former British Prime Minister
Blair urged participants to understand one another, respect each other and,
most importantly, act with each other.

Our relationships with each other and both of us with
Judaism that in time Im sure will be part of the Common Word, will best be
judged in action, in the work we can do together in relieving poverty, fighting
injustice, preventing disease and bringing hope to those in despair, he said.

So: understand each other, respect each other, act with
each other; and in doing so, show why humanity is not made poorer by faith, but
immeasurably enriched.’