Muslim leaders call for peace

As Ruth Gledhill among others reports, 138 Muslim leaders are calling for peace between Christians and Muslims, but are also warning that if there is no peace

The “survival of the world” is at stake.

How should Christians react to this call? The issue is not a simple one because the Muslim leaders are calling for this peace to be based around “the common essentials of our two religions”. In their letter they claim to describe these essentials, but in controversial terms. Christians can surely agree with these Muslims that the two great commandments to love God and love one’s neighbour are central. But many will share the reservations of the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, who points out the real differences between the two faiths.

Specifically, the Muslim leaders write:

Finally, as Muslims, and in obedience to the Holy Qur’an, we ask Christians to come together with us on the common essentials of our two religions … that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God … (Aal ‘Imran, 3:64).

Let this common ground be the basis of all future interfaith dialogue between us, for our common ground is that on which hangs all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:40).

But this concept of the unity of God seems to contradict the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and so can hardly be described as common ground, let alone “the common essentials of our two religions”.

One reaction to this, suggested by Dr Nazir-Ali, is to take this letter as an attempt by Muslim leaders to “dictate the terms on which dialogue must be conducted”, indeed more or less to expect that Christians become Muslims. Some have even inferred a threat to world peace if the terms are not accepted.

But there is a more positive response which can and should be offered. We should assume or at least hope that these Muslim leaders are genuine in seeking world peace and dialogue with other religions. We as Christians should then continue this dialogue with Muslims in the hope of finding some points which we can really agree as “the common essentials of our two religions”. In the process we will also find some issues on which there are irreconcilable differences. But hopefully we can find enough common ground that we can agree to pursue peace and not war.

But as Christians we need to ensure that any peace terms are even-handed. We can offer to Muslims the right to worship and express their beliefs freely in Christian countries, but we should insist also that Christians have the right to worship and express their beliefs in Muslim countries – but both sides should renounce coercive and manipulative tactics. If they expect that Christians should be free to convert to Islam, we must also insist that Muslims have the right to become Christians. We should insist that a condition for world peace is a level playing field on matters like this. From then on, perhaps we should say, let the best man, or the best God, win! If as Christians we believe our faith is superior to Islam, we should expect it to have the greater success in attracting human hearts, minds and spirits.

0 thoughts on “Muslim leaders call for peace

  1. Insist this , insist that …..ohhh it really sounds like it will work towards peace …Where is the faith ? .

    Sounds more like a swap meet to me ….After all we already give muslims free rights to their beliefs so what do we have to lose ? .Other than a break down in peace talks by so called christians with such strong faith in christianity that they feel the need to make the talks into some kind of barter and trade off sanction .

    Yes that type of thinking would just play right into the hands of the radical muslims who dont want any peace to happen .Wonderful huh ? .

    Do you reckon that would be Jesus`s stance huh ?.

  2. Wayne, if your point is that as Christians we should not insist on anything, I understand it. It is a very respectable position that we should not defend ourselves against our enemies except by prayer in faith.

    However, I do think there are some things that we should insist on, which include that we do not compromise our faith. So we should insist on not accepting this proposed Muslim definition of what we have in common with Muslims because it goes against biblical and orthodox Christian belief.

    As for matters of freedom etc, I don’t propose that we as Christians restrict the rights of Muslims. However, I do think we should refuse to come to any agreement with Muslims which is one-sided. Arguably (see 2 Corinthians 6:14) we should refuse to come to any agreement with them at all. On the other hand Jesus did say “Blessed are the peacemakers”, and if we can make peace by making a just agreement with Muslim leaders that is surely a good thing.

  3. Jeremy, there is not peace in Iraq between any of the Muslims there and the countries which in their perception are Christian. What “those Muslims who are willing to acknowledge commonality with Christians” are looking for is an end to “Christian” invasions and occupations of their countries. And I hope we can offer this in return for a commitment to oppose international terrorism, in addition to some more religious aspects to any agreement.

  4. We might not be able to stop terrorism, given the fact that terrorists have no interest in peace anyway. A more hopeful goal might be to work towards an understanding of freedom of religion with those who are fair and clear minded.

  5. Terrorism can be stopped in the countries where it is based, gradually and maybe not perfectly, if the peace-loving majority in each country has the will to do so. Currently the situation in some countries is so inflamed because of western intervention that the will to do so is lacking in some places. In the absence of any other hope of a just peace even peace-lovers can see terrorism as the only way of moving towards it.

    Of course we should also work towards an understanding on freedom of religion.

  6. You write, “…this concept of the unity of God seems to contradict the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and so can hardly be described as common ground, let alone ‘the common essentials of our two religions’ “.

    Does the doctrine of the Trinity contradict “hear O Israel, the LORD your God is one”? Does that admonition contradict the doctrine of the Trinity?

    Is God three-in-one or one-in-three? The best minds ever have not come up with an answer. And they’re no more likely to than to discover what was before the Big Bang.

    The unity of God in Islam was a response to polytheism. The Muslim scholars know this, they also know all about trinitarian doctrine, its history and the definitions of God in the Bible. They also know that the Qur’an’s titles for Jesus, “Messiah” and a “Spirit from God” are mysterious and skirt very close to who we believe he truly is.

    The kinds of suspicions presented here, including that of Bishop Nazir-Ali, are contrary to the spirit of open, reasoned dialog and fearless pursuit of truth.

    The proposal, “Let this common ground be the basis of all future interfaith dialogue between us, for our common ground is that on which hangs all the Law and the Prophets” should be taken at face value, as all its implications are plain, deep and must be dealt with by both sides.

  7. John, we should indeed let what the Muslim leaders say be the future of interfaith dialogue. But they can hardly expect Christians to throw away 1700 years of Trinitarian theology (whether it makes sense or not) just on their say-so. If they indeed understand this Trinitarian theology, the implication of their appeal must be that they are trying to overthrow it by stealth. I prefer to be more charitable and suggest that they don’t understand it, and honestly but wrongly believe that what they have written is common ground.

  8. In my experience most Chistians struggle to understand the Trinity, let alone muslims. I once received a little booklet from the local mosque describing their position on Christianity. I can honestly say I have never read anything on our faith with so many errors. It was laughable, and blashpemy at the same time. After a good laugh, I threw it away in disgust! Since then, I have always thought that some iner-faith dialogue would really help, if only to understand what the other “side” believes. This is, surely, the starting point of any ongoing good relations.

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