Catholic-Muslim Dialogue Hailed

Philippine Islamic Council (PIC) president and United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) commissioner Professor Taha M. Basman, hailed yesterday the creation of a permanent Catholic-Muslim Forum which Pope Benedict XVI had approved early this year during Christendom’s Holy Week.

Pope Benedict’s “historic move” – approving the creation of a permanent Catholic-Muslim Forum, which is the first of its kind – came after three days of talks in Rome between Vatican officials and a delegation of Muslims that represented 138 Islamic scholars who, in 2007, sent a letter to the Pope and other leaders of Christianity seeking a dialogue.

Jordan’s Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad Bin Talal spearheaded the Islamic initiative for dialogue with Christians after the Pope’s controversial speech in Regensburg, Germany, in 2006 that deeply hurt Muslims.

News reports said the Catholic-Muslim Forum’s first summit will be on Nov. 4-6, with the theme “Love God, Love of Neighbor” and the second summit in a Muslim country to be named later.

“Everyone should learn how to recognize and respect differences with integrity. Differences are what we are made of,” said Prof. Abdulhussin “Jo” Kashim, another peace, human rights, and interfaith advocate like Basman, said.

Kashim welcomed the Catholic-Muslim dialogue, saying the hallmark of the 21st century should be dialogue.

He added the Qur’an mentions the foundational concept “lita’arafu,” meaning “so that you may know each other, not that you may despise each other” as the central concept of dialogue.

Basman cited a similar dialogue hosted in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, by then Pope John Paul II, saying the present Pope’s interest in dialogue with the 1.4-billion strong Ummah, the body of Islam’s believers, is a continuation of that landmark initiative.

Basman said the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Allaihi Wassalam had preached tolerance and respect for other religions, adding that Christians and Jews are fondly called “Ahlul Kitab” or “People of the Book” in the Qur’an.

The Kitab or Book refer to the Jews’ Torah (Old Testament), Christians’ Injeel (New Testament), and the Qur’an.