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Christian Responses

Response from Dr Paul D. Murray

Shaped by the past, creating the future

The Centre for Catholic Studies

A Common Word Between Us and You

A Common Word Between Us and You does not assume to be either the first word or the last word in constructive exchange and cooperation between Muslims and Christians.  Rather, its significance lies in its recalling each to the respective word that is both prior and promised in their traditions and, with this, in calling each to find significant resonance with what can be heard in the other.  That is, its significance lies in the dual recognition that at the heart of the Islamic and Christian – and, indeed, Jewish – traditions is the resonant conviction that the first word uttered and the last word promised, the given destiny and anticipated gathered end of creation, is one of love, peace, blessing, gift and flourishing in the hospitality of God and that between these points the calling is to be drawn into service of and existence within this word for our common flourishing.

It is important to state clearly that attending closely in this way to resonance between significantly differing traditions is neither to collapse nor to reduce such difference.  On the contrary, even whilst advocating a hospitable mutual hearing, A Common Word is clear that there are indeed real and identifying differences between the traditions.  As such, the intention behind A Common Word is to be distinguished from a “lowest common denominator” approach that would collapse differences and necessarily, if unconsciously, constrain the commitments of others to those of the authors themselves.  This is a beginning of a demanding “listening and speaking between” particular words and distinct voices that might fruitfully presage an even more demanding “listening and speaking together” of such distinct traditions.  By calling Muslims and Christians to hear the resonant word of God’s love and peace differently expressed and variously lived within and between their particular traditions, A Common Word seeks to promote the necessary confidence to turn from fear and caricature of the other, to viewing the other as held in God’s love.  This will, hopefully, extend to asking also after the particular gifts that God has bestowed upon the other.

The fundamental word offered here is that our flourishing in God cannot be had alone but only in common; in communion.  As the Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions each recognise, for all the emphasis on the absolute unity and uniqueness of God, the simplicity of God is a highly complex affair when transposed onto and understood within the conditions of finite, created reality.  Here, relatedness in difference is properly viewed not as frustration and shortfall but as the only possible means of entering into common flourishing in God.

Blessed be God for this initiative;
May it open fresh avenues of scholarly and practical engagement;
May it help promote the confidence of charity within and between Christian and Islamic traditions;
May it show the way beyond the mutually assured destruction of conflict, terror and violence
And water the ground of our common flourishing in the peace and love of God.


Dr Paul D. Murray,
Director of the Centre for Catholic Studies.

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