Friday, October 12, 2007

Islamic scholars send open letter to Pope Benedict

More than 130 Muslim scholars have written to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders urging greater understanding between the two faiths. Entitled A Common Word Between Us and You, the historic letter compares passages in the Koran and the Bible, concluding that both emphasise "the primacy of total love and devotion to God", and the love of the neighbour.

The message, which coincides with Eid celebrations marking the end of Ramadan says world peace could depend on improved relations between Muslims and Christians. It identifies the principles of accepting only one god and living in peace with one's neighbours as common ground between the two religions.

It was also sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the heads of the Lutheran, Methodist and Baptist churches, the Orthodox Church's Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I and other Orthodox Patriarchs.

With Muslims and Christians making up more than half the world's population, the letter goes on, the relationship between the two religious communities is "the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world".

"As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them - so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes," the letter says.

It adds: "To those who nevertheless relish conflict and destruction for their own sake or reckon that ultimately they stand to gain through them, we say our very eternal souls are all also at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony."

One of the signatories, Dr Aref Ali Nayed, a senior adviser at the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme at Cambridge University, told the BBC that the document should be seen as a landmark.

"There are Sunnis, Shias, Ibadis and even the... Ismailian and Jaafari schools, so it's a consensus," he said.

Professor David Ford, director of the programme, said the letter was unprecedented. "If sufficient people and groups heed this statement and act on it then the atmosphere will be changed into one in which violent extremists cannot flourish," he said in a statement.

The letter was signed by prominent Muslim leaders, politicians and academics, including the Grand Muftis of Bosnia and Hercegovina, Russia, Croatia, Kosovo and Syria, the Secretary-General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the former Grand Mufti of Egypt and the founder of the Ulema Organisation in Iraq. To read the full letter see:


Paulinus said...

"so long as they do not wage war ...... on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes,"

Sounds like the fate of many Christians in Pakistan, Egypt, Palestine, Iraq...

gemoftheocean said...

I've got a bridge for sale too. Any takers?

Anonymous said...

Aw, come on guys why the scepticism???

Hmmmmm - ponders image of mufti with AK47 in one hand and a letter of peace in the other. "You WILL believe us when we say we are the religion of peace - or we'll cut your heads off"!

It's not that we don't believe them (much) it's just that the historic record since the 8th Century tells a bit of a story.

I think it will take a lot more than a bunch of muslim scholars and a letter. How about leaving Israel alone, how about stopping the butchering of their own people in Iraq, stopping the suicide-bomb culture among their youth, teaching their own people about hope and peace and love, leaving the Buddhists alone in Myanmar, allowing Catholic Church building in the Middle East, stopping the persecution of Christians, spending $zillions of their oil revenue on improving the civil infrastructure and business development in their own countries etc... etc....etc....

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

I would love to support this letter - but I find the irony in it too strong. In Pakistan after the the quake Christians were forced from their homes to make way for muslim families whose homes had been damaged.
I have friends in Indonesia who had to run for their lives and hide in the hills while Muslims tried to burn down their homes and churches. People were hurt and killed.
I could write about oppression very very close to me-but I am not sure that would be safe; but let me say this I am celebrating Eid tomorrow with someone in appalling circumstances and my husband is helping another couple of families in equally appalling circumstances; one because a family member has become Christian.

I hope these clerics receive strong replies. Clean up YOUR act and then we'll talk.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

Fine words.

Is this a belated Muslim condemnation of 9/11 and 7/7 ?

Anonymous said...

Fr. Ray,

Paulinus is quite right. But this is an excellent opportunity for the Holy Father to put Islam on the spot, as it were, by referring to the outright oppression of Christians in the Islamic world as part of the Vatican's official response to this letter.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, these scholars are in the main right. Islam has very very few ideological enemies.

There is only Christ and anti-Christ. At the moment anti-Christ looks unassailable all over the globe. So what if the heads of the many headed beast spend a little time headbutting each other for supremacy. That's its nature. It is worth remembering it is still one beast whose every head denies Christ. Sometimes, when we focus on defending ourselves against one head, we find that we've been attacked from behind by a far more vicious one.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Ray,

On more comment on this topic if I may. The great religious contest in the world today is between Christianity and Islam for winning the hearts and minds of the billions of people in Asia who are neither Christian nor Muslim.

It is beginning to dawn on moderate Muslims everywhere that Islamic terrorism and the connotation of violence are doing incalculable harm to the credibility of the Islamic faith in an evangelizing sense. So this initiative by the Islamic scholars must be seen in that context.

The average God-seeking Chinaman or Korean, for example, who is becoming ever more Westernized in lifestyle and in tastes, is hardly likely to be attracted to a religion like Islam - not just because it isn't the religious culture that produced the technological revolution and not just because of its Arabist bias, but because it looks like a dangerous and atavistic anachronism.

Christianity faces a great struggle with Islam during the 21st Century, but I am convinced that the outcome is assured, because "you will know them by their fruits" and the pagan billions in India, China and the rest of the Far East are working this out for themselves.

Physiocrat said...

The idea that Muslims and Christians should get together and emphasise the common essentials of the two religions is an interesting one.

Some years ago Muslim missionaries from Birmingham set up a stall locally for a few weeks, with literature promoting Islam and attacking Christianity. What was said the in anti-Christian books demonstrated that the authors had only the haziest notions of Christian theology and what they were attacking bore little resemblance to Christianity as it actually is.

The same applies to the anti-Christian references in the Koran itself; since Islam largely defines itself by spelling out its differences from an imagined version of Christianity, it is curious that there should now be a desire to emphasise the similarities.

Can we therefore expect the signatories of the petition to start by taking instruction in Christianity so that they understood what it was actually about?

Anonymous said...

what whitestonenameseeker said about indonesia was true
becos i am from indonesia...sometimes the groups of islamic people stil burning churches and ran people who believe in Jesus away from their home.what they said about being so tolerant to other religion isnt all true.but theres no protection from the gov.such incident rarely being put in the news so the world will never know the truth or eventho my christian brothers know they will never help us ...they too busy being a hero in iraq just for their OIL

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