Christian scholars, religious leaders and laity are reaching to Muslims to create a dialog based on what the two faiths share in the hope of overcoming misunderstanding, mistrust and violence that arises out of an unfamiliarity with the two faiths and the two cultures, publishing a full page ad in yesterdays New York Times and issuing a statement of confession, reflection and vision about the future of Muslim-Christian relationships.
The Yale Center for Faith and Culture has organized a response to a letter last October from 138 Muslim scholars called “A Common Word Between Us and You.” The document called Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to ‘A Common Word Between Us and You.’ says, in part:
As members of the worldwide Christian community, we were deeply encouraged and challenged by the recent historic open letter signed by 138 leading Muslim scholars, clerics, and intellectuals from around the world. A Common Word Between Us and You identifies some core common ground between Christianity and Islam which lies at the heart of our respective faiths as well as at the heart of the most ancient Abrahamic faith, Judaism. Jesus Christ’s call to love God and neighbor was rooted in the divine revelation to the people of Israel embodied in the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18). We receive the open letter as a Muslim hand of conviviality and cooperation extended to Christians world-wide. In this response we extend our own Christian hand in return, so that together with all other human beings we may live in peace and justice as we seek to love God and our neighbors.
The statement begins with an honest word of confession:
Muslims and Christians have not always shaken hands in friendship; their relations have sometimes been tense, even characterized by outright hostility. Since Jesus Christ says, “First take the log out your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye” (Matthew 7:5), we want to begin by acknowledging that in the past (e.g. in the Crusades) and in the present (e.g. in excesses of the “war on terror”) many Christians have been guilty of sinning against our Muslim neighbors. Before we “shake your hand” in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world.
The stakes are high. Together Christians and Muslims make up over half the world’s population, the statement says. Without peace between the two religions, peace in the world is jeopardized.
Recognizing that the two religions share the fundamental command to love God and to love neighbor, the writers of the Christian response propose that
…our next step should be for our leaders at every level to meet together and begin the earnest work of determining how God would have us fulfill the requirement that we love God and one another.
Some of the signatures in the New York Times full page ad included The Very Rev. Sam Candler of the Diocese of Atlanta (a contributer at Episcopal Cafe), Episcopal bishops Lee and Johnson of Virginia, Beisner of Northern California and Gulick of Kentucky as well as Richard Mouw of Fuller Seminary and others from Fuller Seminary and Wheaton College also signed.
You can read about “A Common Word Between Us and You” here.
You can find “A Christian Response to ‘A Common Word Between Us and You” here.