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‘A Common Word’ in the News

Muslim project invites Christians to work towards peace

Can Muslims and Christians work together to bring peace to the world?

That’s
the question raised by A Common Word Between Us and You, a project
supported by almost 300 Muslim clerics, scholars and intellectuals and
more than 450 Islamic organizations.

The project has issued a
letter to Christians around the world, inviting them to find common
ground so that the two great religions can work towards peace.

“Finding
common ground between Muslims and Christians is not simply a matter for
polite ecumenical dialogue between selected religious leaders,” the
letter states. “Christianity and Islam are the largest and
second-largest religions in the world and in history… together they
make up more than 55 per cent of the world’s population, making the
relationship between these two religious communities the most important
factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world.”

If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the letter goes on to say, “the world cannot be at peace.”

For
Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal of Jordan, one of the architects
behind the project, the effort is an “extended global handshake of
religious goodwill, friendship and fellowship and consequently of
inter-religious peace.”

The intent, he adds, is “simply to try to make peace between Muslims and Christians globally.”

The
initiative takes its name from a verse in the Quran, which says: “O
People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and you: that
we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner
unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God.
(Aal ‘Imran 3:64)

It goes on to quote the Prophet Muhammad, who
said: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour what you
love for yourself.”

It also invokes the Bible, quoting the words
of Jesus in the book of Mark after he was asked to name the greatest
commandment. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength,” he
says. “This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this:
‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other
commandment greater than these.”

For organizers of A Common Word,
these verses from the two holy books show that a “basis for this peace
and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational
principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the
neighbour. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred
texts of Islam and Christianity.”

Despite differences, the letter
says, “Islam and Christianity not only share the same Divine Origin and
the same Abrahamic heritage, but the same two greatest commandments.”

More
than 60 Christian groups and leaders have issued responses to the
letter, including Pope Benedict XVI, who expressed his “deep
appreciation for the gesture,” adding that “without downplaying our
differences as Christians and Muslims, we can therefore look to what
unites us.”

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury,
welcomed the letter as “a clear reaffirmation of the potential for
further development of existing dialogue and common action between
Christians and Muslims and other faith communities.”

Other groups
that responded favourably included the Lutheran World Federation, the
Baptist World Alliance, the United Methodist Church, the Canadian
Conference of Catholic Bishops, the U.S. National Council of Churches,
and others.

Close to home, Mennonite Church Canada, which has its
national office in Winnipeg, added its “voice of support and
encouragement to your initiative… we bring to the celebration of the
common word between us the firm conviction that Jesus’ command to love
extends to all of humanity.”

Even U.S. President Barack Obama
seemed to catch the spirit of the letter, invoking the Golden Rule
during his speech about relations between the U.S. and Muslim world
earlier this month in Cairo

“There’s one rule that lies at the heart of every religion — that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us,” he said.

“This
truth transcends nations and peoples — a belief that isn’t new,that
isn’t black or white or brown, that isn’t Christian, or Muslim or Jew.
It’s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization and that still
beats in the hearts of billions around the world. It’s a faith in other
people, and it’s what brought me here today.”

To be sure, there
are differences to be resolved between Christians and Muslims — one
letter won’t make them go away. But it’s a good start towards a journey
that all of us surely want to take, towards greater peace and
understanding.

As Scott Moreau, a professor of missions at
Wheaton College, one of the most pre-eminent evangelical schools in the
U.S., said of the letter: “We have to start somewhere, and at least
opening the door is a critical first step.”

The letter can be found at www.acommonword.com.

jdl562000@yahoo.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 28, 2009 A9

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/life/faith/muslim-project-invites-christians-to-work-towards-peace-49378492.html

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