‘A Common Word’ 10 years on: Christians and Muslims must work together for peace

CNS-Catholic Islam CPeople today still need to hear document’s message that Christians, Muslims share two great commandments

On Oct. 13, 2007, 138 Muslim leaders signed “A Common Word Between Us and You,” a document stating that Christians and Muslims share two great commandments — love of God and love of neighbor — and should work for peace together.

Now 10 years later, the influence of the document continues through the projects and relationships it inspired, but experts on Muslim-Christian relations say many people still need to hear its message.


“When Catholics in the U.S. are hearing about Islam and Muslims, they’re not hearing about the heart and soul of the tradition,” said Scott Alexander, director of the Catholic-Muslim studies program at the Catholic Theological Union. “They’re hearing about different events in which there was conflict or if ISIS sponsored some sort of terrorist attack.”

“A Common Word” “gives people a way to see that Muslims are taking action all the time on the local and global stage for the good of humanity,” Alexander said. “The actions of a relatively small minority get so much more publicity that it leads to people having a distorted image of Islam and Muslims.”

Prior to the publication of “A Common Word,” Pope Benedict XVI exacerbated interfaith tensions during a 2006 address at the University of Regensburg by quoting a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who said that Mohammed only contributed “things evil and inhuman,” such as spreading his faith by violence.

While the pope did not endorse the emperor’s view, the Regensburg address provoked outrage from Muslims around the world. Amir Hussain, professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University, says it was also the “impetus” for “A Common Word.”

The authors of “A Common Word” could have written about how offensive and concerning the pope’s words were, said Hussain, but instead they took a positive approach and wrote about the connections between Muslims and Christians.



Muslims finding common ground with Christians: The path to peace


Christians and Muslims united#3#This week, my Muslim friend Raheel Raza asked me to come to Toronto’s Pakistani Consulate with her to protest her faith’s violent extremism against Christianity. It was an unexpected reach of kindness from Islam to me, a Christian, in response to a horrific attack days earlier at All Saints Anglican in Peshawar, which saw 85 Christians die when obscurantist suicide bombers rushed church doors as worshippers left. Like many, I’m angry that a powerful religion cannot correct its jihadism, and I don’t trust its ethos.

Hamid Ghassemi-Shall is a Muslim-Canadian who this week was finally released from Iranian prison after both Muslims and Christians lobbied five years for his freedom. Interfaith high-fives and hugs occurred between those working behind the scenes for his safe return to Canada – and then wise words were exchanged on the need for discretion over just how deep the co-operation really went.


These are two small illustrations from the salient truth that “A Common Word,” a ground-breaking initiative by Muslim leaders, has been exporting: “The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.”