The new facet of Islamic-Christian encounter

The new facet of Islamic-Christian encounter

By Fr. Rif'at Bader

A universal message titled, "A Common Word between Us and You" was launched in Jordan in 2007. This message still inspires several researchers in the field of dialogue among followers of religions particularly between Muslims and Christians who constitute more than 58 per cent of the world population.

In light of this, the Catholic-Muslim Forum was launched and was given a "permanent status'' so as not to be affected by political developments, either regional or international, and consequently serve as a source of support and backing at times of tension and human disasters. The forum, that held several meetings, consists of 24 Christian intellectuals and 24 Muslim intellectuals. Furthermore, it is chaired by His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi Ben Muhammad, the chief advisor to His Majesty King Abdullah II for religious and cultural affairs.

The first meeting was held on November 4-6, 2008 at the Vatican. We had the honor to host the second meeting at the Baptism Site on November 21-23, 2011. The third meeting was held in Rome on November 11-13, 2014. The fourth meeting was held a few days ago under Royal patronage at the Zaytuna College, located in Berkeley, California, USA. It focused on several issues that would cement “friendship” between Christians and Muslims in the world and through them to the entire world. It was also asserted that Christianity and Islam share the view that God is the creator of humans and that He gave them precedence over all His creations, so that they would wisely respect nature by administering the resources of Earth gifted by the Almighty God to all generations. God also granted human beings inalienable dignity, from which they derive their fundamental rights with governments committed to protect it.

The conferees underlined the importance of equality in maintaining dignity regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion or social status. They categorically condemned any attempts to blame persons for any act committed by the party they belong to.

It is worthy to assert explicitly and directly that the "freedom of conscience and religion” tops all human rights. Thus, “it is our incumbent duty to respect, preserve and promote these rights."

The final statement stated that as believers, we call for exerting our utmost effort to address whatever hinders the integral development of humanity, including the interpretations or misinterpretation of our sacred texts and traditions. The statement also expressed “the moral commitment of Muslims and Christians to denounce wars, arms trade and arms sales as well as to exploit human resources in promoting prosperity at the individual and collective levels of humanity.”

This important fourth meeting coincided with the second visit of Grand Imam of Al Azhar Ahmed Al Tayyib to Pope Francis' at his “house” in the Vatican, They walked hand-in-hand and sat at the dining table spontaneously; it is something we have not been accustomed to in the past. A few days earlier, Patriarch Bechara Rai paid a historic visit to Saudi Arabia. He met with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and senior officials. It is something that history did not record since 1975 when Patriarch Elias IV Al Muawad visited Saudi Arabia, and congratulated King Khalid bin Abdul-Aziz on taking office.

Thus, we are enjoying atmospheres that exude optimism, especially with the emerging reports on the "start" of the end of the extremist, terrorist movements that call for the exclusion of others; such movements which used religion to carry out violence and killing. Thank God, we are experiencing new atmospheres that provide new forms of encounter, not only by dialogue, between Muslims and Christians in a new form of a world which maps out a new form of cooperation between followers of the two religions that have many things in common among which is summing up religion in one sentence: Love of God and love for neighbours.

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