Response to A Common Word from Building Bridges, Cambridge

We are really happy to receive the good message from 138 leading Muslim scholars and clergy. We are grateful to be reminded of the two Great Commandments which Jesus taught, love for God and love for our neighbours. We agree that these two commandments provide a good basis for Christians and Muslims to establish common ground and work for peace and understanding in our world. We admire the courage of these leaders in preparing ‘A Common Word’. We believe truly God-fearing Christians and Muslims will find it an encouragement to work for peace and understanding. This ‘Common Word’ clarifies three things we suggest are important to take forwards into practical action by both Christians and Muslims in particular:

  • We need to avoid ‘hatred and strife’ and encourage ‘justice and freedom of religion’. This requires much courage, understanding, and perseverance of working together for those situations in our world where justice and freedom of religion are not yet a reality.
  • We need to teach and model in our lives loving devotion to God and rejection of the false gods of materialism and pleasure. We need much strength and courage to challenge the influence of the secular world around us.
  • We need to love those who oppose us and seek to do us harm. Such love will challenge them to think again about their evil intentions. God will enable us to overcome evil with good.

In a small way, some of us in Cambridge UK – representing a variety backgrounds as Muslims and a variety of evangelical Churches as Christians – have already been attempting to do what a number of the responses to the ‘Common Word’ suggest should be done at this particular time. We have sat down together and listened to each other, respecting differences (which are of course significant) but sharing common issues (which we suggest are much more significant than are generally understood).

We believe that this ‘Common Word’ provides a new spirit of opportunity for ordinary Christians and Muslims to work together afresh. We have a dream that in the wake of this something good and new can grow:

  • We have a dream that Christians and Muslims will be able to trust and love each other as never before, understanding and respecting each others’ differences.
  • We have a dream that those parts of the Muslim community, which feel isolated or marginalized in British society, will be able to be fully engaged, contributing and participating, as indeed many British Muslims already are.
  • We have a dream that many bridges of friendship and trust will be built across the communities.

How can we do this? By encouraging particularly young Christian and Muslim people to meet together, to talk together, to listen to each other, to understand each other’s beliefs and culture. By Christians opening up our homes to invite Muslims in, and Muslims inviting Christians in to eat together, talk together, pray together.

Over the past few years, we have held several public meetings attended by both Muslims and Christians from different churches, listening speakers from both sides, answering questions and having discussions. In planning these events, together we have worked out a “Joint Statement” which we have read out together at such meetings, as follows:

“We would like to make a joint expression of sorrow and sympathy for those who have suffered either as a direct result of recent incidents which have been attributed to extremists or conflicts in the Muslim world, or indirectly due to hatred arising from such incidents and conflicts.

  • “We commit ourselves – with God’s help – to resist hatred, bitterness, fear and prejudice which would affect or destroy relationships between people of different communities, and acknowledge that to achieve this we all need to be inwardly changed by God’s grace.
  • “We commit ourselves to helping build bridges of friendship across the different communities with Cambridge. To do this may require a willingness to open our homes to each other, to get to know each other better, to show practical care, to share each other’s pains, problems and concerns and to pray to God to bring comfort and encouragement.”

We submit this as a response to the ‘Common Word’ as an idea that we believe can be developed further by other Christians and Muslims across the UK and beyond who are willing to find practical ways to work together.

Most important of all, we need to learn to pray in a God-pleasing way. Jesus himself prayed, as he faced crucifixion, ‘Not my will but Yours be done’. If we pray humbly with a listening heart, God will show us, Muslims and Christians, how we can work together, laying aside prejudices and misunderstandings – in this way we will discover the most practical ways to do God’s will.

John Martin (Building Bridges – Cambridge)

Stuart Anderson (Building Bridges – Cambridge)