Fri, Nov. 23 2007 09:18 AM ET
Christian leaders across denominational lines responded to the unprecedented open letter signed last month by 138 representative Muslim leaders with their own letter, calling on the two Abrahamic faiths to love God and neighbors together.
Over 100 theologians, ministry leaders, and prominent pastors have thus far signed the response letter issued by the Yale Center for Faith and Culture.
Signers include Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners; Rick Warren, founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church; John Stott, rector emeritus of All Souls Church in London; and Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
The Christian signatories said they “share the sentiments” of the Muslim leaders who pointed out that Muslims and Christians make up over half of the world’ population and therefore true peace cannot occur as long as conflict persists between the two religious communities.
“Peaceful relations between Muslims and Christians stand as one of the central challenges of this century, and perhaps of the whole present epoch,” wrote the Christian leaders.
“If we can achieve religious peace between these two religious communities, peace in the world will clearly be easier to attain.”
In October, 138 Muslim clerics, scholars and intellectuals from all the major sects signed a letter calling for peace between Muslims and Christians. The letter entitled, “A Common World Between Us and You,” urged followers of the two faiths to find “common ground” and not simply just for “polite ecumenical dialogue” between certain religious leaders.
In the Christian response, Muslims have been asked to forgive Christians for their past sins – such as the Crusades and excesses of the “war on terrors” – as taught by Jesus Christ who said to “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out your neighbor’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).
Christian leaders urged for an interfaith dialogue that moves beyond “polite” ecumenical talks between selected leaders. Instead, leaders of both faiths should hold dialogues to build relations that will “reshape” the two communities to “genuinely reflect our common love for God and for one another,” the Christian letter stated.
“Given the deep fissures in the relations between Christians and Muslims today, the task before us is daunting. And the stakes are great. The future of the world depends on our ability as Christians and Muslims to live together in peace,” the letter added. “If we fail to make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony you correctly remind us that ‘our eternal souls’ are at stakes as well.”
The letter’s main emphasis is the “absolutely central” commonality between both religions: love of God and love of neighbor.
Other signers of the letter include Miroslav Volf, founder and director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture; Dr. Martin Accad, academic dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (Lebanon); Robert E. Cooley, president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; Harvey Cox, Hollis professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School; and Bill Hybels, founder and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church.