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Christian Responses

Response from the OASIS group, Italy

    The
first seminar of the Catholic-Muslim Forum belongs to a long line of
meetings that have been promoted above all since the Declaration of
the Second Vatican Council Nostra Aetate, a point of reference
for inter-religious dialogue. The visit of John Paul II to the mosque
of Damascus and the visit of prayer of Benedict XVI to the Blue Mosque
of Istanbul remain emblematic.

    But
the meeting of these days has two new features – one relating to method
and the other to contents. At the level of method, the Forum appears
on the Muslim side no longer as an initiative of individual personalities
or States but as the expression of a general agreement. From the initial
response to the Ratisborn address with its 38 signatories to the subsequent
declaration A Common Word with the adherence of 138 personalities,
which was subsequently expanded, the tendency on the Muslim side has
been to achieve basic agreement to dialogue with Christians. This is
not a secondary question because agreement for a large part of Muslim
theology is one of the sources of the elaboration of doctrine.  

    The
second new feature is that in this Forum, as in the open letter, the
emphasis has been placed in a decisive way on the religious dimension,
if not even on the strictly theological dimension. In the communiqué
that preceded this event one reads that the composition of the delegations
is ‘religious and not political’, ‘is separate from the diplomatic
relations of States and was constituted on the basis of sapiential authority’.
Indeed, it is evident that the statement of principle contained in the
open letter must be verified in the light of its concrete translation
into a context which is increasingly difficult for Christian minorities,
as the continuing exodus of Christians from the Middle East demonstrates.
However, the wish of the two parties is not to dissolve the specificity
of the religious fact into, albeit important, geopolitical considerations.

    One
of the moving spirits of Islamic-Christian dialogue, Father Georges
Anawati, loved to repeat that in this field it was necessary to arm
oneself with ‘geological patience’. It would, therefore, be illusory
to imagine that wounds that go back more than a thousand years can be
healed in the space of a few months. The aim of the Forum is to explore
the affirmation of love of God and neighbour in its theological and
spiritual aspects but also in relation to its practical consequences
for the defence of the dignity of the human person and the defence of
religious freedom. The fifteen points of the final document offer different
points of departure in this direction. It is certainly the case that
today there are many questions which must be answered, but for a believer
the most burning question is perhaps the simplest one: do Muslims and
Christians worship the same God? Without this mutual recognition everything
becomes more difficult. The answer on the Catholic side is clear and
was proposed by Lumen Gentium, in n. 16: ‘But the plan of salvation
also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place
amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the
faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who
on the last day will judge mankind’. This was an answer emphasised
yesterday by Benedict XVI in his audience to the participants: ‘I
am well aware that Muslims and Christians have different approaches
in matters regarding God. Yet we can and must be worshippers of the
one God who created us and is concerned about each person in every corner
of the world’

    On
the Muslim side Seyyed Hossei Nasr stated: ‘For both, God is both
transcendent and immanent, the provident creator of the world…the
lover whose love embraces the whole created world’. This is the basic
belief that inspires the continuation of dialogue.

Oasis Centre

Venezia www.oasiscenter.eu 

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