Comments on “A Common Word for the Common Good” by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams

It is with great appreciation and gratitude that we acknowledge receipt of the Response of the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams to A Common Word Between Us and You, which is a call of Muslim scholars to all Christians of the world to establish respect and peace among them. We believe that the Archbishop’s response, entitled “A Common Word for the Common Good”and dated July 14, 2008, is a most welcome statement and a major contribution to the deepening of relations between Muslims and Christians in the 21st century.

In his extensive and profound response, the Archbishop has reciprocated our call for a serious and sincere dialogue between the two faith communities and reiterated the urgent need for working towards global peace and harmony. We are deeply appreciative of the fact Dr. Williams’ response is extremely thoughtful and engaging, its spirit and tone reflecting a seriousness and erudition which one needs in order to engage in result-oriented and constructive dialogue.

Given the current grievances and state of our world, the response comes at an opportune time and points to the urgency of having open lines of communication between Muslims and Christians. As a token of appreciation, we also would like to state that of the numerous Christian responses to theCommon Word, the Archbishop’s response is the most extensive, profound and comprehensive one and represents a major stage for the religious and theological encounter of Muslims and Christians.

We take the Archbishop’s response as a call to further Christian-Muslim understanding and establish mutual respect and cooperation. While not ignoring or downplaying the existence of theological differences between Muslims and Christians, the Archbishop’s response underscores the fundamental unity of the sources of the two faith traditions and provides an excellent framework for spiritual interaction, theological dialogue, and social cooperation. It draws attention to the multiple levels of religious dialogue and asserts that each level of interaction ought to be addressed with the same degree of care and complexity.

In a unique and masterful fashion, the Archbishop shows the possibility of explaining some of the most difficult theological issues including the Christian trinity in ways that can build bridges of understanding and sympathy between the two communities rather than alienate them from one another. The emphasis on protecting the absolute unity of God, the common root and ground of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, is extremely significant for all followers of Abraham, and it lays the groundwork for a deep and comprehensive engagement between the Islamic and Christian faiths.

The Archbishop’s response embraces and elaborates on the two themes of the Common Word, i.e., the love of God and love of the neighbor in a way that opens up further venues for theological discourse. By defining God as love in an unconditional way, we are reminded of the infinite love and mercy of God for His creation in the ontological and theological senses of the term. As stated by the Archbishop, love of God in both Christianity and Islam goes beyond the ordinary notions of love as sentimentality and establishes a state of ontological fullness, dependence, bliss, and fulfillment.

We recognize in the Archbishop’s response the important fact that loving God is the fundamental component and ground of loving one’s neighbor. The universal call to love God is the way of bringing Divine love to our earthly existence and our interactions with other fellow human beings regardless of their religion, race, culture, language, ethnicity or nationality. The Archbishop makes it abundantly clear that loving the neighbor is a sine qua non of upholding human dignity and protecting the God-given right of every human being to life, justice and equality. This, we believe, is an essential tenet shared by all people of faith. We find in this common belief of Christians and Muslims as well as Jews and people of other traditions the universal principle of loving the created for the sake of the Creator.

In addressing such difficult issues as religious diversity, pluralism and the religiously sanctioned violence, we believe the Archbishop has made an important philosophical and theological contribution and expanded on how we can sort out and articulate theological differences while maintaining the common goal of serving God and humanity.

In addition to laying the framework of a serious theological encounter and engagement between Muslims and Christians, the Archbishop’s response also provides important guidelines for continuing and deepening dialogue and cooperation aÍt the practical level of community engagement and partnership. We fully agree with the Archbishop to sustain and promote the common good for all citizens of the world and provide a good example for our communities as well as others.

We concur with his suggestion to continue dialogue, partnership and cooperation at the grass-roots level to promote peace and harmony between our communities whether they live in UK and the West or the various parts of the Muslim world. We also extend our support to the Archbishop’s call to maintain and strengthen the momentum of the current Muslim-Christian encounters, find and expand safe places for articulating differences and for gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation of the other’s faith, and finally ensure that our encounters have a positive impact on the society as a whole.

In conclusion, we would like to reiterate our deep appreciation and gratitude to the Archbishop of Canterbury for his engaging, profound and compassionate response to our call that we have outlined in the Common Word. We hope and pray to the Almighty that our efforts to create better understanding between Christians and Muslims will be an important step towards creating harmony and affection not only among our communities but among all members of humanity.

Ibrahim Kalin, Ph. D.
Spokesperson for the Common Word
July 15, 2008