The Catholic Bishop of Arabia has published an article examining the call to dialogue made by 138 Muslim scholars in an open letter to Christian leaders worldwide.
Swiss-born Bishop Paul Hinder, based in Abu Dhabi, has responsibility for Catholics in the entire Arabian Peninsula. He has called for more freedom and security for minority Christians in Saudi Arabia and more freedom for foreign priests to enter the country to administer to them.
There are about 1.2 million Christians in Saudi Arabia, most of them Catholic Filipino migrant workers.
Bishop Hinder wrote the article responding to the Muslims’ letter in Oasis, a Venice-based multilingual magazine dedicated to Catholic-Muslim dialogue. His article examined several points the Muslim scholars raised.
The Muslims' letter, titled "A Common Word Between Us and You," sought to build on common ground shared between the Muslim and Christian faiths. It compared texts from the Bible and the Koran to argue that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. It said both religions believe in "the primacy of total love and devotion to God," and both value love of neighbor and a peaceful world.
The bishop asked for clarification about whether the love of God and the love of neighbor have the same meaning in both religions. He linked Christian love of neighbor to the human dignity of each person and his or her right to grow in freedom.
He noted that for Christians love of neighbor extends to love of enemy, even if that person is of a different religion.
Bishop Hinder linked the questions about love of neighbor to the lack of any Jewish leaders addressed by the Muslim scholars' letter. "I am surprised that it is addressed to Christian leaders only and not also to the Jewish leaders. Is it not a missed opportunity?" he asked.
Further, he emphasized the uniqueness of Christ against Muslim interpretations, which see him as one of many prophets. "Christians cannot simply see Jesus Christ as one among other prophets, but profess him in his divinity as the living Son of God within the belief in One God in three Persons," he wrote.
Alluding to some of the letter signatories' past words, Bishop Hinder worried the contents of their earlier statements and publications discredited the letter they had signed.
However, he said he would be "more than happy" if their previous statements instead should be interpreted or revised in light of the recent letter's contents.