To mark the end of Ramadan this year ‘An Open Letter and Call from Muslim Religious Leaders’ was published dated 13th October 2007. The letter called A common word between us and you was addressed to Pope Benedict XVI and 26 other named heads of Christian denominations as well as to ‘leaders of Christian churches, everywhere’.
In it, 138 Islamic leaders, including some of Islam’s most influential scholars and the Grand Muftis of Egypt and Syria, call upon Christians and Muslims to work together for world peace. ‘If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace’, it said.
It continued, ‘With the terrible weaponry of the modern world, with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world’s inhabitants’.
The letter urged religious leaders to acknowledge the essential similarities between their faiths. The similarities listed included the unity of God in Islam and Christianity, and the necessity of love for God and love for our neighbour.
Some of the signatories are Muslim leaders well known for moderation and peaceful intentions. However, the signatory list also includes some who have made aggressive statements in favour of global jihad.
Responses from church leaders and Christian groups have been predictably conciliatory, with the letter being welcomed as constructive and helpful.
The Pope has formally invited the signatories to Rome to meet with him for discussions and a large number of Protestant leaders have responded positively. These include over 300 predominantly American theologians, authors and pastors, who took out a full page advert in the New York Times announcing themselves deeply encouraged and challenged by the ‘open letter’.
They pledged to undertake a series of major joint conferences and workshops involving many of the letter’s signatories and other members of the international Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities.
What has not been mentioned in all these responses is the absolute uniqueness of Jesus Christ as God’s only way of salvation. As Evangelicals we believe that efforts to find common threads and themes in mutually exclusive religions can never forge true unity.
We do not call upon Muslims and Jews to bow before Christianity, but all men everywhere to repent of sin and bow before the Lord Jesus Christ. True peace will only be found in reconciliation between God and man through faith in Jesus Christ.
We plan to report further on this significant matter in next month’s ET.