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‘A Common Word’ in the News

OP-ED: KHALEEJ TIMES

Peaceful relations between Muslims and Christians stand as one of the central challenges of this century, according to leading Christian leaders. Responding to an open letter in October signed by 138 leading Muslim scholars, clerics, and intellectuals from around the world, the Christian leaders also asked the Muslim world for forgiveness.…

Following is the text of the letter:

As members of the worldwide Christian community, we were deeply encouraged and challenged by the recent historic open letter signed by 138 leading Muslim scholars, clerics, and intellectuals from around the world. “A Common Word Between Us and You” identifies some core common ground between Christianity and Islam which lies at the heart of our respective faiths as well as at the heart of the most ancient Abrahamic faith, Judaism. Jesus Christ’s call to love God and neighbour was rooted in the divine revelation to the people of Israel embodied in the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18). We receive the open letter as a Muslim hand of conviviality and cooperation extended to Christians worldwide. In this response, we extend our own Christian hand in return, so that together with all other human beings we may live in peace and justice as we seek to love God and our neighbours.

Muslims and Christians have not always shaken hands in friendship; their relations have sometimes been tense, even characterised by outright hostility. Since Jesus Christ says, “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye” (Matthew 7:5), we want to begin by acknowledging that in the past (e.g., in the Crusades) and in the present (e.g., in excesses of the War on Terror) many Christians have been guilty of sinning against our Muslim neighbours. Before we shake your hand in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world.

“Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world.” We share the sentiment of the Muslim signatories expressed in these opening lines of their open letter. Peaceful relations between Muslims and Christians stand as one of the central challenges of this century, and perhaps of the whole present epoch. Though tensions, conflicts, and even wars in which Christians and Muslims stand against each other are not primarily religious in character, they possess an undeniable religious dimension. If we can achieve religious peace between these two religious communities, peace in the world will clearly be easier to attain. It is therefore no exaggeration to say, as you have in “A Common Word Between Us and You”, that “the future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.”

What is so extraordinary about “A Common Word Between Us and You” is not that its signatories recognise the critical character of the present moment in relations between Muslims and Christians. Rather, it is a deep insight and courage with which they have identified the common ground between the Muslim and Christian religious communities.

What is common between us lies not in something marginal, nor in something merely important to each. It lies, rather, in something absolutely central to both: love of God and love of neighbour.

Surprisingly for many Christians, your letter considers the dual command of love to be the foundational principle not just of the Christian faith, but of Islam as well. That so much common ground exists – common ground in some of the fundamentals of faith – gives hope that undeniable differences and even the very real external pressures that bear down upon us can not overshadow the common ground upon which we stand together. That this common ground consists in love of God and of neighbour gives hope that deep cooperation between us can be a hallmark of the relations between our two communities.

This article from the Khaleej Times is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

http://www.metimes.com/Opinion/2007/12/08/op-ed_khaleej_times/6744/

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