Monday, October 15, 2007

Muslim-Christian dialogue

An open letter from a large number of prominent Muslim leaders and scholars has been sent to Christian leaders across the world. The full text is here, and there's an article here on Ruth Gledhills blog, with other links and quite a good discussion going. Cranmer also has a view - see posting on Fri 12th Oct.

It's encouraging to see signs of interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Christians, it's also good to see the letter recognising that oppression of people because of their religion, driving them out of their homes etc. is a bad thing. Perhaps Islamic leaders in Nigeria, Sudan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia who've signed the letter could encourage Muslims in their own countries to apply these precepts.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, an expert on Islam, is cautious - noting that the letter spends most of its time expounding the unity of God. This rings alarm bells to anyone who knows the Islamic critique of Christianity, that we've compromised the unity of God by worshipping Jesus and the Holy Spirit. A suspicious reading of the letter makes it a call to dialogue based on acceptance of the Muslim understanding of God. A charitable reading sees it as an acknowledgement by a significant section of the Ummah (the global Muslim community) of the validity of the testimony of the Bible (it quotes the gospels at various points) and of Christian understandings of God.

The thing missing for me though, is any mention of God's love for us. The tone of the letter is about our two main duties - to love God and love each other. This seems very Islamic, to see religous expression as principally about our duty to God. But if we love because He first loved us, then the starting point is the loving nature of God, and how He created us in love, saved us in love, and offers us the gift of His Spirit so that we can love the way Jesus did.

What would really stun me, is if all the church leaders the letter is addressed to (the Pope, various patriarchs, the AB of C, the secretary of the World Council of Churches 'and all church leaders everywhere') could agree on a Christian statement of faith to put in a reply.......!!!!!

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