THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, today welcomed a letter from more than 100 of the world’s most senior Muslim leaders calling for greater dialogue and co-operation between Christianity and Islam.
The clerics base the letter on the shared belief of both Muslims and Christians in the principles of ‘love of one God’ and ‘love of the neighbour’, and it is hoped that the recognition of this common ground can act as a catalyst to diffuse tensions around the world.
As well as Dr Williams, the letter has been sent to the heads of all other Christian denominations, including Pope Benedict XVI, head of the Catholic Church, the global heads of the Lutheran and Methodist churches in America, and leaders of the Orthodox and Eastern Churches.
The letter originated from the Royal Academy based in Jordan, which last year sent an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI from 38 Muslim scholars. Dr Anas Al-Shaikh-Ali, Chair of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists, and one of the signatories to the letter, presented the letter to the Archbishop at Lambeth Palace today.
The Archbishop welcomed the letter, and said: “The theological basis of the letter and its call to ‘vie with each other only in righteousness and good works; to respect each other, be fair, just and kind to another and live in sincere peace, harmony and mutual goodwill’, are indicative of the kind of relationship for which we yearn in all parts of the world, and especially where Christians and Muslims live together.
“It is particularly important in underlining the need for respect towards minorities in contexts where either Islam or Christianity is the majority presence.
“There is much here to study and to build on. The letter’s understanding of the unity of God provides an opportunity for Christians and Muslims to explore together their distinctive understandings and the ways in which these mould and shape our lives.
“The call to respect, peace and goodwill should now be taken up by Christians and Muslims at all levels and in all countries and I shall endeavour in this country and internationally, to do my part in working for the righteousness which this letter proclaims as our common goal.” The Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, also responded to the letter, and said: “I welcome this open letter and the proposal for a global conversation between religious scholars which it contains. Such a conversation could be a significant contribution to building the peace between the billions who follow a spiritual path in their lives.”
• Meanwhile the Archbishop has sent a greeting to Islamic communities for the coming festival of Eid, marking the end of Ramadhan.
The Archbishop included in his greeting the hope that the year to come would be one of ‘love of neighbour’ amongst Christian and Muslim communities, both in the UK and the Middle East.