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‘A Common Word’ in the News

Muslims and Christians seek common ground in dialogue

“Our theology is not the same,” Prince Ghazi bin
Muhammad bin Talal of Jordan said to Christians, “but we are all in the
same boat.”

The prince was addressing an assembly of Christians and Muslims
gathered in Geneva, Switzerland this week as part of a four-day
international consultation on relations between the faiths.

People of faith face the same problems and opportunities in the
contemporary world, according to Prince Ghazi. Coming together to
fulfill our shared commitment to love God and love one’s neighbour, he
added, “is the right thing to do.”

Prince Ghazi was one of two keynote speakers on the theme
“Transforming Communities: Christians and Muslims Building a Common
Future.” The prince serves as personal envoy and special advisor to King
Abdullah II of Jordan and as chairperson of the Royal Aal al-Bayt
Institute for Islamic Thought.

The second keynote address was given by the Rt Rev Dr Anders Wejryd,
archbishop of Uppsala in the Church of Sweden. He affirmed the two great
commandments of love as common teachings of the religions descended
from Abraham, although he suggested that people of different cultures
could also find inspiration in the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, “a grand achievement and a piece of good theology.”

Archbishop Wejryd observed that “there is no relevance for our
religions without identity – but on the other hand, there is no identity
without relevance. It is part of the identity both of the Prophet and
of Jesus Christ that they were totally relevant for the people they
met.”

The “Transforming Communities” consultation has been organised under
the leadership of the Consortium of A Common Word, the Royal Aal al-Bayt
Institute of Jordan, the World Islamic Call Society based in Libya and
the World Council of Churches (WCC).

The dialogue is taking place at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, site
of the WCC central offices. Delegates to the conference and diplomats
invited to the opening session were joined by representatives of
Christian world communions who are meeting in Geneva this week. Church
bodies and organisations represented on Monday included the Roman
Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, Evangelical and Pentecostal
traditions.

At the start of the proceedings, a welcome was offered by the Rev Dr
Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the WCC. He commented on the
varying situations of the many societies from which participants have
come.

Dr Tveit remarked, “We are living in communities locally, nationally
and globally that are changing rapidly. More than that: as religious
leaders we are ourselves transforming communities. The question to all
of us is not whether we have an influence in the transformation of
communities, but what kind of influence do we have? We are here to talk
to one another to discover the kind of influence that we want to have
together.”

Another welcoming statement was read from Dr Muhammad Ahmed Sharif,
General Secretary of the World Islamic Call Society (WICS), whose
arrival at the consultation had been delayed. The statement was read by
Dr Ibrahim Ali Rabu, the WCIS director of conferences and institutions.
Dr Sharif encouraged participants in the dialogue to express their
concerns clearly and frankly: “Make sure that we understand each other.”

Greetings also were offered to the consultation members by leaders of
the Protestant and Muslim communities in Switzerland. Sheikh Yousef
Ibram, imam of the Geneva mosque, and the Rev Dr Thomas Wipf, president
of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches as well as of the Swiss
Council of Religions, welcomed participants and briefly described the
current state of Muslim-Christian relations across Switzerland.

On Thursday 4 November 2010, the Inter-religious Platform of Geneva
will facilitate orientation sessions on local interfaith relations
during group visits to St Pierre cathedral (Protestant Church of Geneva)
and the Geneva mosque.

The opening events were moderated by Metropolitan Mor Gregorios
Yohanna Ibrahim, archbishop of Aleppo in the Syrian Orthodox Church of
Antioch.

[Ekk/3]

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