More than 130 Muslim leaders, politicians, and scholars have addressed a letter to Pope Benedict XVI in an attempt to improve Christian-Muslim relations, BBC News reports.
The letter, titled "A Common Word Between Us and You," seeks to build on common ground shared between the two faiths. It compares texts from the Bible and the Koran to argue that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Both believe in "the primacy of total love and devotion to God," and both value love of neighbor and a peaceful world.
Christian and Muslims Are Indispensable for Peace
The letter stresses world peace as an especially important theme. Christians and Muslims comprise more than half of the world's population, which makes good relations between the two religions "the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world."
"As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them - so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes," the letter says.
The letter makes a special condemnation of violence: "To those who nevertheless relish conflict and destruction for their own sake or reckon that ultimately they stand to gain through them, we say our very eternal souls are all also at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony."
The Muslim leaders who signed the letter include the Grand Muftis of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia, Croatia, Kosovo and Syria, the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the former Grand Mufti of Egypt and the founder of the Ulema Organization in Iraq.
Letter is Historic
One of the signatories, Dr Aref Ali Nayed, a senior adviser at the Cambridge Inter-faith Programmed at Cambridge University, told the BBC the letter was representative of the Islamic world. "There are Sunnis, Shias, Ibadis and even the... Ismailian and Jaafari schools, so it's a consensus," he said.
The letter was released on the anniversary of another letter by Muslim clerics who wrote to the Pope after his remarks at Regensburg provoked controversy and violence. In the course of his speech about religion and reason, the Pope had quoted a medieval Byzantine text that depicted Islam as violent.
In a recent development, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue responded to the letter calling it “a very interesting letter," and indicating that it is "a new document because it comes from both Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims."
It is also "a non-polemical document with numerous quotes from both the Old Testament and the New Testament," he added.
Drawing upon the letter’s recommendations, Cardinal Tauran invited Christians and Muslims to to prevent the fusion of violence and religion by to share the three convictions contained in the letter: that God is One; that God loves us and we must love Him; that God calls us to love our neighbor.”
The prelate also noted that the letter is “a very encouraging sign because it shows that good will and dialogue are capable of overcoming prejudices, This is a spiritual approach to inter-religious dialogue which I would call dialogue of spirituality. Muslims and Christians must respond to one question: in your life, is God truly One?"
The letter was also sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the heads of the Lutheran, Methodist and Baptist churches, the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I and other Orthodox Patriarchs.