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
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
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
“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.