Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Common Word Between Islam and Christianity?

I ran across this because I get email news feeds from the ELCA, and a recent one mentioned that the Rev. Mark Hansen, Presiding Bishop of the ELCA and current President of the Lutheran World Federation, made an official reply to a document sent to all of Christianity's leaders from 138 Islamic leaders and scholars. I was surprised that the Anglican news services haven't picked this up yet. The open letter begins (with the usual apologies about formatting):

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

A Common Word between Us and You

(Summary and Abridgement)

Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. 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.

The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity. The following are only a few examples:

Of God’s Unity, God says in the Holy Qur’an: Say: He is God, the One! / God, the Self-Sufficient Besought of all! (Al-Ikhlas, 112:1-2). Of the necessity of love for God, God says in the Holy Qur’an: So invoke the Name of thy Lord and devote thyself to Him with a complete devotion (Al-Muzzammil, 73:8). Of the necessity of love for the neighbour, the Prophet Muhammad r said: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour what you love for yourself.”

In the New Testament, Jesus Christ u said: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. / And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. / And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

The entire open letter is here. It bears a careful reading. I think there is a good basis for future understanding. I confess my own lack of trust, not in the 138 Muslim leaders who signed this, but in the fulfilling of it. The fact remains that there are no Christian terrorists who target Muslims merely because they are Islamic. There are, of course, Christian terrorists who target other Christians; the IRA and The Troubles come immediately to mind. And God knows that Christianity's hands are dripping with the blood of the ages. Just think of the Crusades. But I think it a curious omission that neither the word "terror" or "violence" appear directly in the English text of the Open Letter. The theological basis for commonality according to the Letter is the Summary of the Law that Jesus articulates, for example at Mark 12:29-31, and similar injunctions in the Quaran. And clearly the Second Commandment "Love your neighbor as yourself" enjoins violence against one's neighbor. At the same time, I wish the Open Letter had repudiated violence maore clearly. Maybe it does and I just need to read it again.

Do take the time to read the Open Letter.


PS - Bishop Hansen's reply is more irenic, and studied, than mine.

1 comment:

Troglodyteus said...

Those who do not
condemn violence
condone violence.

The silence of
muslim clerics
echoes around the world.