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‘A Common Word’ in the News

Christians, Muslims Gather to Build a Common Future

Christian and Muslim leaders are gathered in Geneva for a high-level interfaith
dialogue on how to build strong and sustainable relationships between
the two groups and how the religious communities can use their resources
to transform their communities.

The four-day event titled, “Transforming Communities: Christians and
Muslims Building a Common Future,” is inspired by the historic 2007
letter by 138 Muslim scholars called, “A Common Word.” Dr. Muhammad
Ahmed Al-Sharif, general secretary of the World Islamic Call Society,
and His Royal Highness, Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal of Jordan,
the initiator of the letter, are attending the event that is being
hosted at the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Center.

“The central theme of our conference affirms that dialogue is
important but that we also need to address issues of common concern and
act together – putting the common good at the heart of our joint
initiative so as to promote ‘dialogue in action,” said the Rev. Dr. Olav
Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC, in his welcome address on Monday.

Four key challenges facing the Muslim-Christian communities are: how
to build a wider sense of the understanding of the word “we” that
focuses on everyone being part of one humanity rather than excluding
people; how to build strong and sustainable relationships between Muslim
and Christian leaders that prevent crises and address challenges
together; how to transform communities through wise use of spiritual and
religious resources; and how to build good and peaceful relationships
between Christians and Muslims, according to Tveit.

“My strong belief is that we are called together to become
peacemakers, respecting the will of our Creator and our Creator’s love
for the entire creation,” said the WCC head. “It is our task to make
sure that religion is not a synonym with conflict in the eyes of people,
but a synonym for justice and peace.”

Meanwhile, Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal of Jordan noted that while Muslims and Christians do not share the same theology,
they are “all in the same boat.” The prince, who serves as personal
envoy and special adviser to King Abdullah II or Jordan, said people of
faith face the same problems and opportunities. He highlighted, as in
the “Common Word” document, that Christians and Muslims share the common
commitment to love God and love one’s neighbor.

In his address Monday, Prince Ghazi said “for both our religions
harming religious minorities among us is evil, is absolutely forbidden
and is ultimately a rejection of God’s love and a crime against God
Himself.”

The Jordanian prince pointed out that while Christians are “clearly severely oppressed” by Muslims in countries such as Pakistan, Iraq and Sudan, there are places where Muslims are oppressed by Christians, such as in the Philippines.
There are also places where it is unclear who is oppressing who, such
as along the Muslim-Christian “fault line” in Sub-Sahara Africa.

“It should be possible in most of these cases to know and agree on
what and who is wrong, and what must be said and done,” said Ghazi.
“This, God willing, will be the substance of the deliberations taking
place here over the next three days.”

The “Transforming Communities” consultation was joined by
representatives of Christian world communions, including the Roman
Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant Evangelical and Pentecostal
traditions.

A joint statement will be issued at the end of the consultation on Nov. 4.

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