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‘A Common Word’ in the News

Letters to the Telegraph

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s letter to Muslim leaders looked like appeasement

Sir- However well-meaning Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was in seeking “understanding between the faiths” (“Williams: Christian doctrine offends Muslims”, report, July 16), his letter to Islamic leaders was ill-conceived, as it sends out a message of appeasement at a time when Christians are suffering persecution in certain Muslim countries.

In the absence of a similar letter to Jewish leaders, the letter is bizarre, as Jews were murdered and expelled from England, not for being offended by the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, but for allegedly murdering the Christian God.

All faiths have the right to their convictions. The only thing that should offend is an instruction to adherents to terrorise those who don’t share their own. So long as religious people respect the faith of others, they need not apologise for the intolerance of their forbears, for which they are not responsible.

Rabbi Dr Sidney Brichto, The Athenaeum, London SW1

Sir- Dr Williams has sent a masterly and very important letter in response to the unprecedented 2007 message on love of God and love of neighbour from 138 Muslim leaders called A Common Word (see www.acommonword.com).

Dr Williams’s letter faces such tough issues as religious violence, pluralism and religious freedom. It is both deeply Christian and constructively engaged with Islam, and sets a challenging and realistic agenda for engagement between Muslims and Christians. It also shows how they can co-operate for the common good.

The letter deserves more careful consideration by Christians, Muslims and others than your report provided.

Professor David Ford, Director, Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme, Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge

Sir- I admire the sincere Christian love and profound scholarship of Dr Williams, but I cannot recall a single passage in Scripture where, before or after his earthly incarnation, God fusses about “building bridges” with the worshippers of Baal, Chemosh or Zeus.

I only hope that our church leaders at the Lambeth Conference keep the “unique and universal Christ” before them, and do not dissolve the Church of England in Islamic appeasement.

Dr Allen Chapman, Oxford

Sir – Ben Farmer in his report helpfully tried to explain the Trinity in 20 words.

Walking on a beach pondering the Trinity, St Augustine came on a child who had dug a hole in the sand and was trying to pour the sea into it with a shell. Augustine realised his efforts to understand the mystery of God were as futile as the child’s to get the sea into the hole. If only Augustine had taken The Daily Telegraph.

John Capel, Shinfield, Berkshire

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2008/07/18/nosplit/dt1801.xml#head1

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