India: Islam: Indian expert: Al Azhar should return to dialogue

A Divine Word missionary, who worked for many years on initiatives of understanding between the two major world faiths submit his comment on the decision of the University of Cairo. “This is the moment when we must overcome our differences and focus on the good of humanity. We can achieve something...


Mumbai – Fr A. Ambu, Divine Word missionary and an expert on Islam, comments on the decision of the Islamic University of Al-Azhar Cairo to suspend the ongoing dialogue with the Vatican in protest at the alleged ” interference “of Pope Benedict XVI in the internal affairs of Egypt. (1/20/2011 Islamic Al Azhar University suspends dialogue with Vatican). Fr. Ambu is secretary of the Association of Islamic Studies, an organization formed to create a bridge between Muslims and Christians in India, and organizes conferences every two years in various parts of the country to help Christians understand Islam. “The decision to freeze dialogue with the Vatican by the Islamic University of Al- Azhar is quite disappointing. I am very much shocked and perturbed by this news, as a person sincerely involved in Muslim – Christian dialogue. Since a few years the dialogue partnership between the two religions is in a progressive movement, while this decision could bring down the entire efforts of all the committed people in dialogue.

In the recent past we have witnessed to positive efforts made to establish peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians, such as ‘The Common Word’ and ‘The C1 World Dialogue’ initiatives. A Common Word between Us and You is an open letter dated October 13, 2007, from leaders of the Muslim faith to leaders of the Christian faith. It has been the world’s leading interfaith dialogue initiative between Christians and Muslims. It calls for peace between the two communities to work for common ground and understanding among both faiths, in line with the Quranic and Biblical commandment to love God and neighbors. The success of the initiative was acknowledged in its being awarded the “Eugen Biser Award” and “Building Bridges Award” in 2008.

C1 World Dialogue is an initiative, whose mission is to ‘support and promote, propagate and preserve peace, harmony and friendship between the Western and Islamic Worlds’. The initiative has its origins in the Council of One Hundred Leaders (C-100), originally launched by the World Economic Forum in response to the tragedy of 9/11. Since then, the group has evolved into an autonomous body with an institutional base as a Swiss foundation, based in Basel.

With such initiatives in the progress of dialogue between these two communities, I hoped that we were moving in the right direction. But unfortunately the recent decision of Al-Azhar has come as a bolt from the blue. It has taken a number of years to reach to this stage of mutual dialogue, but unfortunately the decision of Al Azhar has shattered the dreams of sincere people from both communities. Islam and Christianity are two major religions of the world, and their contribution to the world progress and growth could be substantial, if these two religions stand together. Division and misunderstanding among the followers of these two faiths could only be detrimental to the progress and development of the world at large.

At this testing period, the need of the hour is more of unity and collaboration. Like-minded people from both communities must come together to facilitate Al-Azhar to revoke its decision and further the dialogue process that it had begun a few years ago. Recently I read an article by Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, who brings out the deeper understanding of the role of Islam and Muslims in the contemporary world. According to him Islam must be a moderate and active player in today’s world and the certified Muslim clerics must be recognized as the one who speak for Islam. This is the time that we go beyond our differences and focus on the good of the humanity. We can achieve something only through involvement and interaction. I wish Al-Azhar comes forward and recommits its efforts towards harmony by becoming the partners of peace”.

(Nirmala Carvalho collaborated)

Source: Asia News