Islam scholars to Pope: What's so funny about peace, love, and understanding?
More than 100 senior Islamic leaders from around the world sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders proposing theological similarities as a basis for peace and understanding.
"Finding common ground between Muslims and Christians is not simply a matter for polite ecumenical dialogue between selected religious leaders," said 138 Muslim leaders in a letter released October 11 in Washington, according to the Catholic News Service.
Christians and Muslims "make up more than 55 percent of the world's population, making the relationship between these two religious communities the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world," they said. "If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace."
As Muslims, "We say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them -- so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes," they said.
The leaders from Asia, Africa, Europe and North America called for Christians and Muslims to "vie with each other only in righteousness and good works."
The letter analyzed particularly two theological similarities found in the Quran and the New Testament: belief in one God and love of neighbor.
French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, called the letter "a very encouraging sign because it demonstrates that good will and dialogue are capable of overcoming prejudices."
"It is a very interesting letter," said the cardinal, indicating that it is "a new document because it comes from both Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims." It is also "a non-polemical document with numerous quotes from both the Old Testament and the New Testament," he added.
Tauran added that religious leaders must prevent the fusion of violence and religion, underlining the need "to invite the followers [of religions] to share the three convictions contained in the letter: that God is One; that God loves us and we must love Him; that God calls us to love our neighbor.
"I would say that this represents a very encouraging sign because it shows that good will and dialogue are capable of overcoming prejudices, This is a spiritual approach to inter-religious dialogue which I would call dialogue of spirituality. Muslims and Christians must respond to one question: in your life, is God truly One?"
The message, which coincides with Eid celebrations marking the end of Ramadan says world peace could depend on improved relations between Muslims and Christians. It identifies the principles of accepting only one god and living in peace with one's neighbours as common ground between the two religions.
It was also sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the heads of the Lutheran, Methodist and Baptist churches, the Orthodox Church's Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I and other Orthodox Patriarchs.
With Muslims and Christians making up more than half the world's population, the letter goes on, the relationship between the two religious communities is "the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world".
"As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them - so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes," the letter says.
It adds: "To those who nevertheless relish conflict and destruction for their own sake or reckon that ultimately they stand to gain through them, we say our very eternal souls are all also at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony."
One of the signatories, Dr Aref Ali Nayed, a senior adviser at the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme at Cambridge University, told the BBC that the document should be seen as a landmark.
"There are Sunnis, Shias, Ibadis and even the... Ismailian and Jaafari schools, so it's a consensus," he said.
Professor David Ford, director of the programme, said the letter was unprecedented. "If sufficient people and groups heed this statement and act on it then the atmosphere will be changed into one in which violent extremists cannot flourish," he said in a statement.
The letter was signed by prominent Muslim leaders, politicians and academics, including the Grand Muftis of Bosnia and Hercegovina, Russia, Croatia, Kosovo and Syria, the Secretary-General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the former Grand Mufti of Egypt and the founder of the Ulema Organisation in Iraq. To read the full letter see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/11_10_07_letter.pdf