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‘A Common Word’ in the News

‘Common Word’ Muslims, Christians Press for ‘Common Deeds’

Relevance, aggressive secular
attacks, and the threat of extremism are challenges for all people of faith,
said former British Prime Minister Tony Blair at a major Muslim-Christian
dialogue conference this past week.

“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,
the former U.K. leader added, is that people of faith confront all of this

“This is not because we intend to have the same faith. We
don’t,” 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,” Blair said, “and also speak to
the world about faith.”

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 peace.

Like the conferences before it, the Oct. 7-8 gathering
focused on the message of The Common Word Initiative, which supporters hope
will give Muslims and Christians 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 the Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop, Evangelical Lutheran
Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

In a message to the attendees, 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
recognized 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 I’m 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,” he concluded.