Response from the Bishop of London to the Open Letter from 138 Muslim Scholars and Addressed to the Spiritual Leaders of the Christian World

Richard Chartres

I welcome this open letter and the proposal for a global conversation between religious scholars which it contains. Such a conversation could be a significant contribution to building the peace between the billions who follow a spiritual path in their lives.

Last year 38 Muslim scholars addressed the Pope to propose a dialogue. This year 138 scholars have written this open letter to a wider group of Christian leaders including the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Certainly the signatories come in the main from parts of the world in which the dialogue has already started but the significance of this “open letter and call” should not be underestimated.

Students of religions might look with some humility at the success of the world’s scientists who have established a global conversation on matters vital to human flourishing such as climate change. The spirit in which a life is lived is also an essential contribution to human flourishing. In promoting a global conversation on the love of God and neighbour religious scholars will be rising to the challenge of the 21st century.

This is substantial letter which speaks of the unity of God from a Muslim perspective. It demands a substantial response which approaches the same theme from a Christian perspective. That response will also provide a valuable stimulus to building the kind of institutions capable of maintaining and developing not only conversation but also cooperation between religions. Clearly the role of the Vatican in this work of institution building is pivotal. The work may also offer a welcome way of deepening ecumenical relations at a time when the old methodologies seem rather tired.

I am also a trustee of Co-exist a charity which exists to promote inter-religious dialogue among the three religions which in their different ways look to Abraham as a seminal figure. Co-exist helped to fund and sponsor the recent successful exhibition at the British Library which was mounted under the title “Sacred”. The number and engagement of the visitors to the exhibition show that there is a huge appetite for the kind of constructive engagement proposed by the authors of the letter. “Sacred” also included the Jewish part of the Abrahamic tradition and it is very important that we do not go ahead in a way that marginalises the Jewish community.

Richard Londin. 11-x-2007.