“The common understanding here is that we have different theological languages but the ultimate object of our discussion is the same,” Kalin. (Google photo)
NEW HAVEN — More than 150 Muslim and Christian scholars are meeting this week in Yale University to foster better understanding under a Muslim initiative on commonalities between Islam and Christianity.
“The common understanding here is that we have different theological languages but the ultimate object of our discussion is the same,” Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for co-organizer Muslim Common Word group, told Reuters Sunday, July 27.
He said participating scholars would focus their discussions on common religious grounds.
“There is only one God but we approach God with different languages.”
The conference, themed “Loving God and Neighbor in Word and Deed: Implications for Muslims and Christians,” started Friday with closed-door talks among 60 theologians.
It will expand to 150 in public sessions during the period of July 28-31.
The conference is the first public dialogue since 138 Muslim scholars and dignitaries from 43 countries sent an open letter to the world’s Christian clergy last October.
The letter, themed “A Common Word Between Us and You,” calls for dialogue to declare the common ground between Islam and Christianity.
“We have broken the ice of mistrust between the West and Islam with this initiative,” said Mustafa Ceric, the grand mufti of Bosnia who is taking part in Yale meeting.
“In world affairs today, the rule should not be the argument of force but the force of argument.”
The conference is also distinguished by the participation of evangelical leaders, including Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO and international director of World Evangelical Alliance.
“One of the most interesting places of Christian-Muslim confrontation in the world is where evangelicals meet Muslims,” said John Stackhouse, a Canadian evangelical theologian from Regent College in Vancouver.
“Evangelicals want other people to convert and in Islam, the worst thing you can do is convert.”
While neither side denies the differences between their faiths, they agree that better understanding can help defuse tensions that often spill over into violence.
“If you’re just trying to get along and not fall in love with each other, that is a practical agenda,” Stackhouse said.
The Muslim group has also invited some Jewish scholars to join the Yale conference.
“At the end of the day,” Kalin said, “we are really talking about a Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition.”
The Yale conference is one of a series of interfaith workshops and events planned by the Common Word group.
Other conferences will take place in Cambridge University in October, the Vatican in November, Georgetown University in March and Jordan in October 2009.
Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz sponsored earlier this month a groundbreaking interfaith conference in Madrid with an appeal for “constructive dialogue” and search for common ground.