Christians, Muslims Gather to Build a Common Future

Christian and Muslim leaders are gathered in Geneva for a high-level interfaith dialogue on how to build strong and sustainable relationships between the two groups and how the religious communities can use their resources to transform their communities.

The four-day event titled, “Transforming Communities: Christians and Muslims Building a Common Future,” is inspired by the historic 2007 letter by 138 Muslim scholars called, “A Common Word.” Dr. Muhammad Ahmed Al-Sharif, general secretary of the World Islamic Call Society, and His Royal Highness, Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal of Jordan, the initiator of the letter, are attending the event that is being hosted at the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Center.

“The central theme of our conference affirms that dialogue is important but that we also need to address issues of common concern and act together – putting the common good at the heart of our joint initiative so as to promote ‘dialogue in action,” said the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC, in his welcome address on Monday.

Four key challenges facing the Muslim-Christian communities are: how to build a wider sense of the understanding of the word “we” that focuses on everyone being part of one humanity rather than excluding people; how to build strong and sustainable relationships between Muslim and Christian leaders that prevent crises and address challenges together; how to transform communities through wise use of spiritual and religious resources; and how to build good and peaceful relationships between Christians and Muslims, according to Tveit.

“My strong belief is that we are called together to become peacemakers, respecting the will of our Creator and our Creator’s love for the entire creation,” said the WCC head. “It is our task to make sure that religion is not a synonym with conflict in the eyes of people, but a synonym for justice and peace.”

Meanwhile, Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal of Jordan noted that while Muslims and Christians do not share the same theology, they are “all in the same boat.” The prince, who serves as personal envoy and special adviser to King Abdullah II or Jordan, said people of faith face the same problems and opportunities. He highlighted, as in the “Common Word” document, that Christians and Muslims share the common commitment to love God and love one’s neighbor.

In his address Monday, Prince Ghazi said “for both our religions harming religious minorities among us is evil, is absolutely forbidden and is ultimately a rejection of God’s love and a crime against God Himself.”

The Jordanian prince pointed out that while Christians are “clearly severely oppressed” by Muslims in countries such as Pakistan, Iraq and Sudan, there are places where Muslims are oppressed by Christians, such as in the Philippines. There are also places where it is unclear who is oppressing who, such as along the Muslim-Christian “fault line” in Sub-Sahara Africa.

“It should be possible in most of these cases to know and agree on what and who is wrong, and what must be said and done,” said Ghazi. “This, God willing, will be the substance of the deliberations taking place here over the next three days.”

The “Transforming Communities” consultation was joined by representatives of Christian world communions, including the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant Evangelical and Pentecostal traditions.

A joint statement will be issued at the end of the consultation on Nov. 4.