Christian-Muslim dialogue should focus on mutual interpretation of each other’s religion, discussion of the history of violence, the notion of jihad and “just war” and the impact of global religious confrontation on local relations.
These were the main proposals made in December in Cairo on the final day of a seminar featuring 45 scholars and leaders engaged in Christian-Muslim dialogue from the Arab world, the united States, Europe and Asia.
“We need to reflect on religion and violence, knowing very well that violence is not grounded in religious texts but in the history of people who interpret those texts,” said Dr. Tarek Mitri, team coordinator of the Inter-religious and Dialogue Team in the World Council of Churches (WCC).
The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) and the WCC facilitated the three meetings which ended in December.
As well, “Christians and Muslims together – a charter for a dialogue of life and common action” was adopted at the meetings by the Arab Christian-Muslim Working Group, which has been working closely with the Middle East Council of Churches.
The charter (which in Arabic is called mithaq) comes during a particularly turbulent climate that is reflected in an especially critical way in the Arab world, said a WCC press release.
It is a product of more than two years’ research and study. The WCC said that it is an expression of a shared commitment to engage energetically in “working together to promote religious freedom.”
The charter urges the development of “a variety of action plans aimed at standing together in the face of the challenges confronting our societies in the spheres of social, educational, moral and cultural arenas.”
Affirming unity and the common heritage of Muslims and Christians, the charter rejects “any foreign influence that is part of a hegemonic design over the Arab world.”
It also cautions against disregard for cultural and religious identities, which leads “to mutual exclusiveness and antagonism.”
The charter opposes the confusion of genuine religious commitment with fanaticism that leads to extremism and violence. It says this is an “invitation” to a living dialogue that reaffirms an Arab stance of Muslims and Christians who declare to the world a common commitment to defend their common Arab causes.
Convened in 1995 and continuing to collaborate with the MECC, the group is composed of Arab Muslim and Christian intellectuals, religious leaders and people engaged in public life.