I welcome the letter from the Muslim scholars and leaders and commend it as a groundbreaking initiative which could make a major contribution to a better understanding in Christian-Muslim relations, the cause of religious liberty and global peace.
As one of the Christian leaders named in the letter, I would emphasize that this is my personal and initial response, and the Baptist World Alliance will want to consult with its member bodies and in time make a considered reply to the letter.
I am not surprised by the tone of the letter calling for respect, peace and goodwill, as during my recent visit to the King Abdullah II of Jordan (September 23, 2007) we discussed The Amman Message (2004) and the King informed me that the letter from the Muslim scholars would be issued in early October.
The Amman Message is a significant document and emphasises that the true message of Islam is built on the principles of tolerance, moderation, coexistence, openness, dialogue. It renounces violence and terrorism and stands up to the extremists’ false allegations and precepts.
The letter from the Muslim scholars builds on The Amman Message and it is impossible not to respond positively to its key message that differences should not cause hatred and strife between Christians and Muslims.
Having just returned from a visit to the Middle East, I am deeply conscious of the need to affirm the call of the Muslims scholars to “Respect each other, be fair, just and kind to each other and live in peace harmony and mutual good will.”
I am concerned wherever Christians or those of any faith are denied full religious liberty. Religious liberty includes the right for all persons to freely worship and live their faith without fear and prejudice. I know the BWA will be seeking to foster and develop the understanding of tolerance and respect expressed in the letter and that any future conversations will truly advance the cause of religious liberty and global peace.
(October 16, 2007)
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