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Copyright: ©2007 Rusty Wright
MODERATE MUSLIM LEADERS BUILD BRIDGES TO CHRISTIANS
By: Rusty Wright
You need to watch out for those Muslims! cautioned my concerned Christian friend.
I had told him my writing about Islam distinguished radical Muslims from moderate ones. He didn’t seem to grasp the distinction.
My wife has a friend with similar spiritual myopia. He’s a well educated Christian pastor who warns that Muslims threaten peaceful society. He’s resisted acknowledging moderate Islam.
Our post 9/11 world has left many in the West confused about a religion quite new and puzzling to them. No wonder, when terrorists wreak death and destruction in Allah’s name. But radical Muslims don’t speak for all of Islam any more than the Ku Klux Klan, with cross burnings and Bible quoting, speaks for all Christians.
An impressive global array of Muslim leaders now is extending the hand of friendship to Christians. 138 Muslims of diverse stripes and nationalities recently issued A Common Word, an open letter to Christian leaders emphasizing common themes of loving God and loving your neighbor as the hope for peaceful world survival.
Noting that Muslims and Christians compose over half the world’s population, the leaders say, “Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.”
Georgetown University Islam specialist John Esposito calls the document an “historic … crystal clear message of peace and tolerance.” George Washington University Islamic Studies professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr says the letter represents “profound knowledge of Islam … [and] is signed by major scholars across the spectrum of Islamic thought.”
Signatories include Muslims from Shi'a, Sunni, Salafi and Sufi traditions and hail from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and North America. There are religious and political leaders, professors and social advocates. Cambridge University professor of divinity David Ford notes that many of the leaders have “large followings, often numbered in millions.”
Addressees include the Pope, Eastern patriarchs, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and “Leaders of Christian Churches, everywhere.” Jordan’s Royal Academy facilitated the project.
The letter emphasizes important parallels between Islam and Christianity. The Koran stresses devotion to God: “So invoke the Name of thy Lord and devote thyself to Him with a complete devotion.” Muhammad said, “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour what you love for yourself.”
Similarly, the letter notes, Jesus affirmed, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart … soul … mind, and … strength.’ … ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The letter displays conciliation. It emphasizes Koranic admonitions that Muslims should treat Christians and Jews with kindness and justice, and acknowledges that love of God and neighbor also are foundational to Judaism. A Common Word website alludes to a future document addressed to Jewish scholars.
Certainly significant differences exist among Muslims, Jews and Christians and – within each faith – among their own adherents. For instance, differences include the nature and character of God and Jesus. But all three faiths teach that we should love God and love our neighbors. These can be useful starting points for interaction.
“Terrorists don’t have the right to speak for Islam, that is the point that is urgent for the Muslim world to get across,” signatory and Cambridge lecturer Timothy Winter declared, reported The New York Times.
“By going back to fundamentals – the authors hope to undermine the fundamentalists themselves,” observed BBC News. My wife’s and my friends should take note.
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer with Probe.org who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively.
"Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091; firstname.lastname@example.org
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