“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
“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
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 Christianity.
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.
|Esposito says memories of conflicts and extremist elements in both sides remain a major challenge.|
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
“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
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
“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.”