Tuesday, July 29, 2008

This week, a global bid to connect Muslims and Christians

by Jane Lampman
The Christian Science Monitor

Top-tier religious leaders in the Muslim world are emerging as major proponents of dialogue with Christians and other world faiths. With two distinct initiatives this month, they are breaking new ground and sending signals to Muslims and others globally that interreligious understanding and joint action are Islamic values.

Those involved see the initiatives, if sustained, as breaking down misperceptions, strengthening mainstream religious voices on the world stage, and diminishing the influence of extremism.

This week, Yale University hosts the first of four meetings between prominent Muslim and Christian leaders from across the globe, with discussions rooted in foundational principles of the two faiths. The conference beginning Tuesday is the first fruit of "A Common Word between Us and You," the letter sent last fall by 138 Muslim leaders from 40 nations to the leaders of the world's Christian churches.

It follows a separate initiative, held earlier in July in Madrid, called by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who surprised the world by urging 200 Muslims, Christians, Jews, and people of Eastern religions to gather together for purposes of dialogue and reconciliation. While some people expressed skepticism because of the Saudi kingdom's continued restrictions on other faiths, many conferees were encouraged.

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