Amman/Rome – For the sake of world peace there must be greater contact and understanding between the Muslim and Christian faiths, a group of Muslim leaders said Thursday in an open letter addressed to Christian leaders including Pope Benedict XVI. Both religions accept that there is a sole God and both stress the importance of living in peace with neighbours, said the more than 130 scholars and clerics in the letter coinciding with the Eid al-Fitr celebrations marking the end of Ramadan.
“As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them – so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes,” the letter said.
The letter, organized by the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, a non-governmental organization based in Amman, came on the anniversary of one sent to Pope Benedict by 38 top Muslim clerics, after the pope made a controversial speech on Islam.
The new letter, entitled “A Common Word Between Us and You,” was signed by prominent Muslim leaders, politicians and academics, including the Grand Muftis of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia, Croatia, Kosovo and Syria, the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the former Grand Mufti of Egypt and the founder of the Ulema Organization in Iraq.
Apart from Pope Benedict, it was addressed to Anglican leader the Archbishop of Canterbury, the heads of the Lutheran, Methodist and Baptist churches, the Orthodox Church’s Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I and other Orthodox patriarchs.
“This historic document is a crystal clear message of peace and tolerance from 138 Muslim leaders from across the Islamic world,” Dr John L Esposito, a professor director of the Centre for Muslim- Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington, said in a statement.
The letter stressed that Muslims and Christians made up more than half the world’s population, making their relations “the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world.”
It added: “To those who nevertheless relish conflict and destruction for their own sake or reckon that ultimately they stand to gain through them, we say our very eternal souls are all also at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony.”