Home /

‘A Common Word’ in the News

Muslim-Christian Common Word Needs Action

‘I think what’s missing is that the
ideas being discussed need to be brought to the masses,’ Mogahed told IOL.
Religious scholars, politicians and experts agree that a Muslim dialogue
initiative for the Christian world needs action to address all the challenges
still standing between the followers of the two Abrahamic faiths. ‘I think what
we are addressing is how to develop out of A Common Word a common work together
and common partnership,’ John Esposito, professor of International Affairs and
Islamic Studies at Georgetown
University, told IslamOnline.net.

Esposito was among a galaxy of international religious
scholars and experts participating in a two-day conference sponsored by Georgetown‘s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal
Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and the office of Georgetown University President. The
conference, ‘A Common Word Between Us and You: A Global Agenda for Change’, is
a follow-up on an October 2007 letter from Muslim scholars to the world’s
Christian clergy urging dialogue to declare the common ground between Islam and

But many believe that it is high time to move forward from
ideas and initiatives to action. ‘I think what’s missing is that the ideas
being discussed need to be brought to the masses,’ Dalia Mogahed, an advisor on
President Barack Obama’s Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood partnership,
told IOL. ‘It is something that has been discussed over and over, though it is
the difference between success and failure.’ The 2007 letter, signed by 138
Muslim scholars and dignitaries from 43 countries, called for the two faiths to
reach a better understanding based on two common principles: love of God and
love of one’s neighbor. Evangelical Lutheran Church Bishop of Palestine and
Jordan Munib Younan recognizes the need for an action plan. ‘What we have to
put together is a program over action,’ he told IOL. ‘We have to speak together
for example on how can we Christians and Muslims work together to eradicate
poverty and combat extremism, all kinds of extremism Muslim Christian and
Jewish,’ he asserted. ‘The more we have joint activities the more we can show a
love of God and love to our neighbor.’ But the scholars and experts are under
no illusions that despite the strenuous efforts for dialogue, the road still
has many blocks. ‘The main challenge is the lack of trust between the two
communities,’ regrets Mohamed Elsanousi, Director of Communications &
Community Outreach for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

He believes that the two sides on the dialogue table are
still not speaking with one language. ‘We also do not need to have hidden
agenda or hidden intentions. Our dialogue should be based on honesty,’ insists
the Muslim activist. ‘It must say to the other it is not my intentions to
convert you to Christianity but my intentions is to reach with you a level of
understanding and trust that let us together serve humanity at large.’ Mogahed,
a senior analyst and executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim
Studies, believes history and the lack of trust could be a very dangerous
combination for interfaith dialogue. ‘These things that we found in our
research shape the perception of the other more than theological problems. ‘We
found in our research that in the Muslim world, people say that they want
better relations with the West but don’t believe the West cares about them. In
the same time Americans and Europeans while they care about better relations,
they don’t believe the other side cares.’ Dr. Esposito recognizes that history
is one of the issues that separate followers of the two faiths. ‘There are also
memories of conflicts. There are the fundamentalists, those who are very
dismissive of the other side. We have people who are anti-Muslims, anti-Jewish
and anti Christians.’ But Sheikh Mustafa Ceric, the grand Mufti of
Bosnia-Herzegovina who has won international recognition for his efforts to
promote understanding among the world’s religions, remains optimistic. ‘The
idea of a common word is more of opening the door for challenges more than
closing the door on challenges,’ he told IOL. ‘Dialogue is a process of life.’