ISLAMIC and Christian leaders and scholars condemned religious violence in a communiqué issued on Wednesday at Lambeth Palace, at the end of a three-day conference to mark the first anniversary of the Muslim letter “A Common Word”. In a two-page text, 17 religious leaders and scholars from Europe and the Middle East say they are “deeply troubled” by the threats to the Christian community in Mosul, northern Iraq. “We find no justification in Islam or Christianity for those promoting the insecurity or perpetuating the violence evident in parts of Iraq.” The conference, entitled “A Common Word and Future Muslim-Christian Engagement”, built on the letter sent by Muslim scholars to Western and Eastern church leaders last year. It proposed that the two faiths draw together on the basis of all that they had in common. In the communiqué, they also announce that in the coming year they will translate “significant texts” from each tradition to be used by the other; promote educational material that provided “a fair reflection of our faiths”; and link academic institutions together to work on shared values. During a press conference on Wednesday, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Dr Ali Gomaa, rejected press reports that he had praised suicide- bombers in Palestine. The reports were wrong and had “muddied the picture. . . We are against any persecution of any minorities,” he said. If the two faiths worked together they could do more to help the poor. “We are not doing a good enough job,” he said through his interpreter. He hoped the “good character” of the two religions would prevent the crisis from proliferating. Dr Williams said that there were many examples of small-scale activities by both faiths, based on “ a very clear religious ethic”.
Full text of the communiqué
We, the Christian and Muslim leaders and scholars gathered for the Conference on A Common Word and Future Muslim-Christian Engagement from 12 to 15 October 2008AD/1429AH, give thanks to Almighty God for the opportunity to meet together and grow in mutual understanding, trust and friendship.
We wish to express our particular gratitude to the His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, for convening the conference in partnership with the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme and the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Foundation, and for hosting us at Lambeth Palace. We are grateful too for the extraordinarily generous hospitality offered by the Colleges and University of Cambridge. We are especially appreciative of Emmanuel College’s hosting our opening lectures and dinner, Jesus College for offering facilities for our plenary and group discussions and providing meals, Clare College for dinner and fine music, as well as the great number of students and staff of the Colleges who never tired of offering cheerful assistance.
We are conscious that our meeting represented the most significant gathering of international Muslim leaders ever to take place in the United Kingdom, matched by a similarly wide diversity of traditions and geographical backgrounds amongst the Christian participants. We were greatly stimulated by the opening addresses to the conference by the Archbishop and His Excellency Dr Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, and the responses to their addresses by His Eminence Dr Mustafa Ceriã, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia Herzegovina and His Beatitude Gregorios III, Melkite Greek-Catholic Patriarch of Antioch & All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem.
We live in an increasingly global world that brings with it increased interdependence. The closer we are drawn together by this globalisation and interdependence, the more urgent is the need to understand and respect one another in order to find a way out of our troubles. Meeting at a time of great turbulence in the world financial system our hearts go out to the many people throughout the world whose lives and livelihood are affected by the current crisis. When a crisis of this magnitude occurs, we are all tempted to think solely of ourselves and our families and ignore the treatment of minorities and the less fortunate. In this conference we are celebrating the shared values of love of God and love of neighbour, the basis of A Common Word, whilst reflecting self-critically on how often we fall short of these standards. We believe that the divine commandment to love our neighbour should prompt all people to act with compassion towards others, to fulfil their duty of helping to alleviate misery and hardship. It is out of an understanding of shared values that we urge world leaders and our faithful everywhere to act together to ensure that the burden of this financial crisis, and also the global environmental crisis, does not fall unevenly on the weak and the poor. We must seize the opportunity for implementing a more equitable global economic system that also respects our role as stewards of the earth’s resources.
Our gathering was timed to coincide with the first anniversary of A Common Word Between Us and You. We unanimously welcomed this letter from Muslim leaders and scholars and the Archbishop’s letter A Common Word for the Common Good, noting both their historic, ground-breaking nature and the collegial processes from which they issued. The generous spirit that characterises both letters allowed us, carefully and honestly, to begin exploring areas of potential agreement as well as some of the difficult issues which have sometimes become the focus for misunderstanding and hostility. We discussed our understanding of scripture, shared moral values, respect for foundational figures, religious freedom and religiously motivated violence.
As we were meeting together, we were deeply troubled to learn of the situation in Mosul (Iraq) where threats to the Christian community have further added to the tragic Iraqi refugee situation. These threats undermine the centuries-old tradition of local Muslims protecting and nourishing the Christian community, and must stop. We are profoundly conscious of the terrible suffering endured by Iraqi people of every creed in recent years and wish to express our solidarity with them. We find no justification in Islam or Christianity for those promoting the insecurity or perpetrating the violence evident in parts of Iraq. We call upon the religious, political and community leaders to do all in their power to promote the return of all persons and communities, including the ancient Christian communities, and ensure a stable environment in which all citizens can flourish. We unequivocally declare that, in Iraq as anywhere else in the world, no person or community should be persecuted or threatened on account of their religious faith. We must all have a particular concern for religious minorities in our midst. We pray that Iraq may find peace and that our two religions may work together to overcome divisions in society, demonstrating faithfulness to the dual commandment to love God and love neighbour.
One of the most moving elements of our encounter has been the opportunity to study together passages from our scriptures. We have felt ourselves to have been together before God and this has given us each a greater appreciation for the richness of the other’s heritage as well as an awareness of the potential value in being joined by Jewish believers in a journey of mutual discovery and attentiveness to the texts we hold sacred. We wish to repeat the experience of a shared study of scriptural texts as one of the ways in which we can come, concretely, to develop our understanding of how the other understands and lives their own faith. We commend this experience to others.
Looking towards the future, mindful of the crucial importance of education and inspired by our presence in a great seat of learning, we have also been keen to identify specific ways in which our encounter might be broadened and deepened. We have, therefore, committed ourselves to the following over the coming year:
· To identify and promote the use of educational materials, for all age-groups and in the widest possible range of languages, that we accept as providing a fair reflection of our faiths
· To build a network of academic institutions, linking scholars, students and academic resources, with various committees and teams which can work on shared values
· To identify funds to facilitate exchanges between those training for roles of leadership within our religious communities
· To translate significant texts from our two traditions for the use of the other.
As we prepare to return, each to our own countries and contexts, we resolve to act on the oft-repeated desire to find the means of ensuring that the two letters we have discussed and the wonderful fruits of our time together are spread amongst our co-religionists; that the spirit of collaboration, mutual respect and desire for greater understanding may be the mark of our relationship for the benefit of all humankind.
To God be the glory for that which has been achieved in these days together, and may God guide us in the right path as we carry forward the work begun.
Participants List – Muslims
H.E. Shaykh Prof. Dr Ali Gomaa Mohamed Abdel Wahab, Grand Mufti, Republic of Egypt
Prof. Dr. Allamah Shaykh ‘Mohammad Said’ Ramadan Malla Al-Buti Dean, Department of Religion, University of Damascus
H.E. Prof. Dr Allamah Shaykh Abdallahi Ould Cheikh El Mahfoudh Ould Boye Professor, King Abdul Aziz University, Saudi Arabia, Vice President of the International Union of Muslim Scholars Founder and President, Global Center for Renewal and Guidance
Shaykh Al-Habib Omar bin Mohammed bin Salem Ban Hafedh Dean, Dar Al-Mustafa, Tarim
H.E. Shaykh Prof. Dr Mustafa Ceriã, Grand Mufti Head of Ulema of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Prof. Dr H.R.H. Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin TalalPersonal Envoy and Special Advisor of H.M. King Abdullah II, Chairman of the Board, Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought
Prof. Dr Ingrid Mattson, Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations Director, Islamic Chaplaincy Program, Hartford Seminary President, Islamic Society of North America
Shaykh Al-Habib Ali Zain Al-Abidin Al-Jifri Founder and Director, Taba Institute, United Arab Emirates
Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad Winter Shaykh Zayed Lecturer in Islamic Studies, University of Cambridge Director of the Muslim Academic Trust, UK
Prof. Dr. Aref Ali Nayed Former Professor, Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, RomeFormer Professor, International Institute for Islamic Thought and Civilization, Malaysia, Senior Advisor, Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme
Shaykh Amr Mohamed Helmy Khaled Islamic Missionary, Preacher and Broadcaster Founder and Chairman, Right Start Foundation International
Ayatollah Prof. Dr Seyyed Mostafa Mohaghegh Ahmad Abadi DamadDean of Department of Islamic Studies, The Academy of Science of Iran, Professor of Law and Islamic Philosophy, Tehran University Fellow, The Iranian Academy of Sciences
Prof. Dr Abderrahmane Taha President, Wisdom Circle for Thinkers and Researchers, Director, Al-Umma Al-Wasat Magazine International Union of Muslim Scholars
Dr Muhammad Suheyl Umar, Director, Iqbal Academy, Lahore, H.E. Dr. Abdulaziz Otham Al-Twaijri Director-General, Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Mr Sohail Nakhooda, Editor-in-Chief, Islamica Magazine
Mr Fuad Nahdi, Radical Middle wayChristian-Muslim Forum, UK
Participants List – Christians
His Grace Dr Rowan Williams Archbishop of Canterbury
His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III Laham Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch & All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem
The Rt Revd Michael Nazir-Ali Bishop of Rochester, Co-President of the Anglican Communion’s Network for Inter Faith Concerns
The Rt Revd David Hamid, Bishop in Europe
The Rt Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Bishop of Kaduna, Nigeria Co-President of the Anglican Communion’s Network for Inter Faith Concerns
Professor Frances Young, Professor Emeritus, Formerly Pro-Vice-Chancellor, University of Birmingham
Professor Miroslav VolfHenry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology, Yale Divinity School Director, Yale Center for Faith and Culture
Revd Dr Mindawati Perangin-angin, Head of the Ecumenical Bureau of the Karo Batah Protestant Church of Indonesia
Prof Oddbj¸rn Leirvik, Professor of Interreligious Studies, University of Oslo
Revd Prof. Christian W. Troll SJ Honorary Professor, Kolleg St Georgen
The Revd Dr Daniel Madigan SJ Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University
Professor Iain Torrance President, Princeton Theological Seminary
Dr Nicholas Adams, Academic Director, Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme
Professor David Ford Regius Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge
Director, Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme, Revd Canon Anthony Ball
Archbishop of Canterbury’s Secretary for International and Inter-Religious Relations
Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, Syria
Metropolitan of Aleppo, Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo
Abbot Timothy Wright OSB
Advisor on Inter Religious Affairs to the Abbot Primate of the Order of St Benedict
Pfrin. Susanna Faust Germany
Representative for Interreligious Dialogue, Ecumenical Center,
Evangelical Church of Germany
Prof. Fr Emmanuel Clapsis
Professor Ordinarius, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology