“In our time, when day by day mankind is being drawn closer together, and the ties between different peoples are becoming stronger, the Church examines more closely her relationship to non-Christian religions,” begins the Vatican II declaration Nostra Aetate, written in 1965.
In our own time, a group of scholars are putting these principles into practice in a format that the Council Fathers would never have anticipated: YouTube.
Reasons for Our Hope, a joint project between the Oasis International Foundation and the McGrath Institute for Church Life at Notre Dame, is a YouTube series intended to advance mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims. In so doing, the series seeks to be respectful to Muslim believers (quoting Muslim philosophers and writers, closely studying the words of the Quran and Muslim traditions, and consulting Muslim scholars) while also being honest about the different worldviews that Christianity and Islam present.
The collaborative project traces its roots to a 2017 symposium between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and its Muslim counterpart, the Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue, held in Cairo. At the symposium, Gabriel Said Reynolds, Notre Dame professor of Islamic studies, met Martino Diez, the scientific director of the Oasis International Foundation. Founded with the initiative of Cardinal Angelo Scola in 2004, Oasis aims to foster dialogue and understanding between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East, facilitating research, conferences and public conversation on the topic.
Both Diez and Reynolds realized while attending the symposium that, among Christians, there was both a lack of knowledge about Islam and a lack of resources for attaining that knowledge. Similarly, many Muslims regularly encountered misinformation about Christianity and Catholicism.
John Cavadini, director of the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame, similarly noted the problems facing Muslim-Christian dialogue. A project that would aim to educate Catholics on theological differences between themselves and Muslims was a good fit for the McGrath Institute’s goal to “empower faithful Catholic leaders at all levels.”