‘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.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER 

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When Muslims come to the Jewish-Christian table

study-862994_1280-771x514(RNS) — I spent the 16th anniversary of 9/11 at the 16th annual meeting of the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations, held under the joint auspices of the Union and Jewish theological seminaries in New York City. Appropriately, the central question before the group was how best to expand long-standing Jewish-Christian interfaith encounters in America to include Muslims.

My assignment was to discuss the use of “Judeo-Christian” language to reinforce the idea of a clash of civilizations. As in when Tony Perkins said on the Family Research Council’s “Washington Watch” in 2014, “We are a nation that was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, that’s the foundation of our nation, not Islam, but the Judeo-Christian God.”

Or when, last year, retired Air Force Col. Tom Snodgrass, a contributor to a website called Right Side News, referred to “the overt and covert war being conducted by the political forces of Islam in order to subjugate the Judeo-Christian religions and their societies.”

A fellow panelist was Columbia’s distinguished Middle East historian Richard Bulliet, who spoke about his “Islamo-Christian” conception, first published in 2004 as “The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization.” Bulliet’s idea is that theologically, doctrinally, and historically, Islam and Christianity have far more in common than most adherents of either faith tradition realize.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGIOUS NEWS SERVICE 

Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus Walk for Unity

B2C36025-6EDD-4F4A-A15B-29BBFAD24264_cx0_cy10_cw0_w1023_r1_sIn a Washington synagogue, Susan Katz Miller sat beside an atheist, a Muslim and a Christian on Sunday.

No joke.

After listening to a Zoroastrian prayer, Miller – a Jew from an interfaith family – and two friends (an atheist and a Muslim), walked down leafy and elegant Embassy Row in Washington. They paid their respects at various churches, broke for an Indian lunch at the Sikh Gurdwara temple, and wound up at the Islamic Center of Washington, where they heard remarks by Imam Abdullah Khouj and listened to the famous Hindu “Gayatri Mantra.”

Close to a thousand people – members of different faiths, most of them residents of Maryland, Virginia or the nation’s capital – joined Miller and her friends at Unity Walk 2017, an annual celebration of diversity and culture held in Washington for the past 12 years. They carried a message of solidarity, caring and inclusiveness on this sunny Sunday afternoon.

“We want to model that people do care about each other and want to learn about each other,” said Rabbi Gerald Serotta, executive director of the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington.

“We believe God intends us to learn from each other,” he said.

According to Rasit Telbisoglu, program director at the Rumi Forum, a cosponsor of the DC Unity Walk, the event will help open eyes to the plight of others.

“These events are actually helping us build trust in each other,” Telbisoglu said. “You slowly build up a relationship. … When you do that, it’s hard to harbor prejudice against another community.”

Music director David North conducts interfaith singing group Mosaic Harmony at closing ceremony for Unity Walk 2017 on Sunday 09/10/17 in the U.S. capital. (B. Bradford/VOA)

Music director David North conducts interfaith singing group Mosaic Harmony at closing ceremony for Unity Walk 2017 on Sunday 09/10/17 in the U.S. capital. (B. Bradford/VOA)

 

Interfaith events excellent way to thwart senseless violence

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Guest columnist Zohaib Zafar is a graduate student at Cleveland State University and a member of the Muslim Writers Guild of America.

A few weeks ago, in the Portland train attacks, three people were stabbed after they tried protecting two teenage girls from a terrorist named Jeremy Christian. One of the two girls was Muslim and wore the hijab. Christian told the girls they were nothing and that they should kill themselves, and he also reportedly said, “Muslims should die.”

It took three days for any condemnation of this terrorist attack to be displayed on President Trump’s social media. Furthermore, Trump’s response was tweeted using the Twitter account that he inherited from President Obama and not his own account, thus he did not reach many of his supporters.

Trump is very quick to condemn terrorist attacks that Muslims perpetrate in the West, but when they are perpetrated by those who are not Muslim, the response is not immediate, and often there is no response at all. If Trump continues to do this, he will leave a legacy in which he was more committed to serving his political interests than the safety of Americans.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CLEVELAND.COM

Peace will require leaders, Christian and Muslim, to address real grievances

Afghans perform prayers at the funeral for the victims killed by an air strike called in to protect Afghan and U.S. forces during a raid on suspected Taliban militants, in Kunduz(RNS) We are living through dangerous times. Christians and Muslims cannot afford more misunderstanding.

The challenges our world is facing are profound: The U.S. has forces engaged in armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, among other places. We have global poverty and starvation, threatening several places such as Yemen and East Africa.

The more wars the U.S. is fighting in Muslim lands, the more grievances Muslims will have. You would think that after decades of fighting these unwinnable wars we would have learned that negotiations will bring better results. But no, we are still expanding our engagement; it seems war is our default position.

In the meantime, organizations with warped ideas about Islam, like ISIS, keep finding new recruits as long as they can claim that Islam is under attack from the U.S. and its allies and that the future of Islam is in grave danger.

Intellectuals of goodwill, both Christian and Muslim, thought peace would begin if we could only identify convincing common ground for adherents of the two religions. They launched the Common Word Initiative. But this was not enough.

People on both sides have grievances and they need to feel their grievances are recognized and properly addressed.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS

Interfaith event sparks misunderstanding, goes viral

news_interfaith_johnson_web-1-696x275Portland State hosted a panel of six students from different religious backgrounds titled “Unpacking Misconceptions” on Wednesday, April 26, 2017 in the basement of Smith Memorial Student Union. A Muslim student who organized the interfaith event and spoke on the panel said he intended it to be an opportunity to convene with people from diverse religious backgrounds, humanize these varying perspectives and educate one another through mutual understanding.

“On a daily basis you interact with people of different religions,” the event organizer said.* “You say hi to them, but instead of asking those people about their religions and beliefs, we rely on the media to teach us about what these people we work with believe. The interfaith event was designed to be a place to share, not debate, personal beliefs with others from different backgrounds. People have misconceptions about what other people believe, and this event was intended to be a productive place to unpack those ideas with fellow students.”

The student organizer made several remarks while on the panel, though a specific comment in response to an audience question has been widely shared on social media and later criticized by far-right media outlet Breitbart.

In spite of outside misconception, faiths unite against killing

During a question and answer portion of the event, the event organizer responded to a question.

A Christian member of the audience asked the organizer to clarify a specific part of the Quran that states killing an innocent person is like killing all of humanity. The audience member wanted to know how the organizer, a Muslim, would respond to rumors that this message refers to Muslims killing Muslims and that non-Muslims, “I suppose the term would be infidels,” were not included in the innocents mentioned.

“So, I can confidently tell you, when the Quran says an innocent life, it means an innocent life, regardless of the faith, the race, like, whatever you can think about as a characteristic,” the organizer stated. “And some, this, that you’re referring to, killing non-Muslims, that is only considered a crime when the country’s law, the country is based on Quranic law—that means there is no other law than the Quran. In that case, you’re given the liberty to leave the country, you can go in a different country, I’m not gonna sugarcoat it. So you can on a different country, but in a Muslim country, in a country based on the Quranic laws, disbelieving, or being an infidel, is not allowed so you will be given the choice.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM PORTLAND STATE VANGUARD 

‘Watu Wote’ film showcases Muslims’ love for Christians

31134-christian-muslim-facebook.800w.tnPeople from different faiths can extend kindness, show respect to one another, and forge friendships, and this is what the new film “Watu Wote,” which means “All of Us,” seeks to prove.

The film, which is set to premiere next month, will share the ordeals faced by a group of Muslims who went out of their way to protect Christians from the al-Shabaab militants, according to Christian Daily.

 The Christian bus passengers were ambushed in Mandera, Kenya in December 2015. Kenya’s northeastern region chief administrator Mohamud Saleh told Al Jazeera that the militants tried to flag the bus down. When the driver refused to stop, they fired shots at it, instantly killing two passengers and injuring several others.

When the militants got inside the bus, they asked the 62 Muslims on board to point out the Christian passengers. However, the Muslims refused to do so. Even though the militants threatened to kill or harm them should they refuse to cooperate, the Muslim passengers bravely protected the Christians and stood their ground.

“Watu Wote” director Katja Benrath, who studies at the Hamburg Media School in Germany, is simply astounded by the kindness and bravery shown by these Muslims to Christians on that fateful day. For her, their actions only prove that there is hope for humanity.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN TODAY