A Communiqué by Muslim Scholars on the Occasion of the Encounter “FOR A WORLD WITHOUT VIOLENCE: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue”

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
May Blessings and Peace be upon Prophet Muhammad,
and upon all the Prophets and Messengers of God

A Communiqué by Muslim Scholars on the Occasion of the Encounter “FOR A WORLD WITHOUT VIOLENCE: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue”, Naples 21-23 October 2007

We greet you with God’s peace. We wish to thank the hosts and organizers from the community of Saint Egidio. They have been working very hard for many years now, and we appreciate and support their peace-loving endeavors.

Muslim scholars are with you today in response to the kind invitation of the community of Saint Egidio, hoping to keep alive the memory and momentum of the Assisi interfaith work of the late Pope John Paul II. His attitudes and gestures towards Islam were always gracious and were always very much appreciated by Muslims. We are here to grow the positive work of John Paul II and of the Saint Egidio Community.

The hearts of many Muslims today are full of appreciation for the enlightened and friendly responses Muslims have already received from many Church leaders of various denominations, and from some of the world’s top seats of theological learning (such as: Cambridge, Georgetown, Yale, and Princeton Universities) as can be seen on the dedicated website acommonword.com.

These responses welcomed the recent letter, signed by 138 Muslim scholars representing all the schools of mainstream Islam, and proposing Love of the One God and Love of Neighbor as the basic foundations for Muslim-Christian relations and dialogue.

However, Muslims are still awaiting a proper response from H.H. Pope Benedict XVI for this unprecedented initiative. An initial cautiously positive response from the re-established Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, quickly turned negative a few days later. His Eminence Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the Head of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue speaking in an interview on Friday October 19th with the French Catholic daily La Croix, said: “Muslims do not accept that one can discuss the Koran [sic.] in depth, because they say it was written by dictation from God. With such an absolute interpretation, it is difficult to discuss the contents of faith.”

This attitude, it seems to Muslims, misses the very point of dialogue. Dialogue is by definition between people of different views, not people of the same view. Dialogue is not about imposing one’s views on the other side, nor deciding oneself what the other side is and is not capable of, nor even of what the other side believes. Dialogue starts with an open hand and an open heart. It proposes but does not set an agenda unilaterally. It is about listening to the other side as it speaks freely for itself, as well as about expressing one’s own self. Its purpose is to see where there is common ground in order to meet there and thereby make the world better, more peaceful, more harmonious and more loving. It is thus that the scholars proposed a mutual common ground for this dialogue based on Love of God and Love of the Neighbor. Unfortunately, even the annual ‘Id greeting gesture, kindly established during the time of John Paul II, has been made polemical of late.

We call upon His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to continue the principles of Assisi and the legacy of the much-beloved John Paul II. We call upon him to embrace the initiative that our scholars made with the same good will that has already marked its reception by so many Christians: leaders, theologians, and ordinary believers.

Meanwhile, we will Deo Volente work with all sincere men and women of good will, including Catholics, like our colleagues from the Community of St. Egidio toward a peaceful and harmonious world.

May the Lord embrace the whole world and all our lives with His peace and compassion.

God knows best.