Thursday, December 6, 2007

A Call for Muslim-Christian Dialogue

I Am A Muslim
138 Muslim scholars have called for an Islamic-Christian dialogue. The dialogue is to be based on the shared foundations of love of God. This was an extraordinary step. Many faiths have clear key leaders, Islam has no unifying leader. This call appears to be the result of a building consensus that rejects a radicalized faith. 300 Protestant leaders from the U.S. have already responded positively to this call for dialogue.

The Pope has accepted the invitation and reciprocated by inviting the scholars to the Vatican. "Without ignoring or downplaying our differences as Christians and Muslims, we can and therefore should look to what unites us, namely the belief in one God," the Vatican wrote in a message signed by Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone.

Franciscans have long had contact with Muslims. During the Fifth Crusade St. Francis went to Damietta, a city in Egypt, near the Mediterranean. There he met with “the enemy”, Sultan Malik-al-Kamil. Francis entered the camp of “the enemy” without any weapons. Francis had long ago given up a desire to be a warrior and viewed others as his brothers and sisters. It is speculated that Francis and his traveling companion, Brother Illuminato were accepted into the camp because the Muslims viewed them as Christian Wise Men.

The Sultan and the Fool for God, talked, and talked and talked. Francis talked of the joys of being a Christian. However, he did not criticize Islam or the Prophet. Instead, the Sultan was impressed with Francis and Francis was impressed with the fervor and style of worship Muslims displayed. It was real dialogue made possible by authentic and mutual respect.

And so today the process begins again. This time initiated by our Muslim brothers. The price of failure would be high. It is true that there are new Christian martyrs every day. We must remember and honor those martyrs. At the same time we must remember that Muslims do not have a monopoly on religious fanaticism. Protestant and Catholic Christians had been making martyrs in Northern Ireland for decades. Intra-Christian fighting has had a long and infamous history in almost every continent. We would not want to confuse Christians with the fanatics who have killed in Christ name. We must apply the same restraint and understanding with our Muslim brothers who have stretched out their hands to ours.We must view our brothers and sisters as brothers and sisters.

It is time to put at least as much effort into building bridges as we have all put into blowing them up. It is time to pray for peace.It is time to talk.

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