Muslim letter draws replies

by
17 October 2007

by Bill Bowder

CHRISTIAN LEADERS have been responding to an open letter from an “unprecedented” number of world Muslim religious leaders. It calls for dialogue for the sake of international peace.

The open letter from 138 Islamic figures, “A Common Word between Us and You” (a quotation from the Qur’an), invites Christians “to come together” with Muslims on the basis of the two commandments of love for God and neighbour, found in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scriptures.

From its main addressee, Pope Benedict XVI, there was no immediate response. The letter was published near the anniversary of the Pope’s talk in Regensburg, Bavaria, an occasion of protests by Muslims.

The letter, to 25 named Orthodox, RC, and Protestant Church leaders links the call for peace with a warning. “With terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and Christians intertwined as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world’s inhabitants. Thus our common future is at stake. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake.”

In response, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that the letter underlined the need to respect minorities in contexts where either Islam or Christianity was the majority presence. It had made clear that belief in the unity of God and love of neighbour were scriptural foundations equally for Jews, Christians, and for Muslims, and the basis for justice and peace in the world.

But each faith had a “distinctive” view of the unity of God, and that had shaped them differently, he

said.

Dr Joel Edwards, director of the Evangelical Alliance, welcomed the letter, but said that the Christian faith was built on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Samuel Kobia, said that the letter was signed by an “unprecedented” number of Muslim leaders, and the WCC would co-operate

with them. All humanity looked to religious leaders for ways to re-

spond to violence in the world, he said.

Another recipient, the Revd Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Lutheran Church in America, said it was a call for peace from the sacred texts and professions of faith and should be studied.

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