Dialogue With Islam

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Most importantly, the signatories were theologians, representatives of the two great Sunni and Shiite groups; there are also representatives from smaller groups, and even diverging trends. This indicates a broadening of consensus within a certain Islamic quarter, a step towards what Islam calls ijmaa (consensus). In the Islamic tradition, every point of faith is based on three sources: the Koran, on the Muhammadian tradition (hadith or that is the sayings and life of Mohammad), and community consensus, in other words, ijmaa. This letter does not say that there is an agreement among all Muslims, but it shows a concerted move towards a certain consensus. 

Christian leaders answered in a different way. The Catholic Church invited a group of Islamic scholars to Rome, where they discussed different points of understanding God, loving God and loving one’s neighbors. More meetings followed, all of them in a good atmosphere.

Certainly, this initiative is not representative of the whole Islam. While this dialogue proceeds, many terror groups fight in the name of Islam. Every day, we hear of churches bombed or torched in Nigeria by Boko Haram terrorists. Often, we come to know of the oppression of Christians in Muslim countries. 

It is important to note one, and not forget the other. Islam and Christianity have often clashed. When we complain of the Islamic attitude towards us, we should not forget that similar complaints are recorded by Muslims against us. The dialogue opened by the letter is a glimpse of hope for all. It will take many years before the theological conclusions and the agreement reached by theologians sifts through to the grassroots. However, this is the beginning of a new understanding, to which we should all give our support.

While international media always reports cases of religious war, violence against Christians, and similar occurrences, there are many occasions of dialogue and communal work between Christians and Muslims. In Israel, where the conflict between Israelis (identified as Jews) and Palestinians (both Muslims and Christians) is high, the village of Neveh Shalom (Oasis of Peace) is an important testimony of faith. People in Neveh Shalom live together, respect each other’s faith and are capable of going beyond differences to build a peaceful community. In Nigeria, many Muslim communities have taken to peacefully surround Christian churches on Sundays. In this way, any terrorist wishing to attack the church would have to kill as many fellow Muslims as Christians. This human ‘bumper’ has brought back confidence among many communities.

The road of dialogue with Islam is still long and perilous. Yet, we cannot refuse to try and reach out to people of other faith. Whenever we are able to learn more about God with our brothers and sisters of other faith, we have taken one more step towards the unity God has planned for us.  

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