Dec 19, 2011
Late last month, 24Catholic and 24 Muslim leaders, scholars, and educators met on the east bank of the Jordan River for the second of the two Catholic-Muslim forums, inaugurated by Benedict XVI in 2008 to encourage dialogue between the world's two largest religions. How much can be gained from such encounters is hard to say. But the extremely astute Father Samir Khalil Samir has said, "dialogue is better than indifference and reciprocal silence."
The forum's subject was "Reason, Faith, and Mankind," a highly important topic. King Abdullah saluted the participants: "the forum is the outcome of ongoing initiatives to foster concepts embraced by both Muslims and Christians. . . ." There certainly are things in common, principally in morals, but the sources of those morals differ significantly in terms of the authority on which they draw.
I often reflect upon the moving episode that my wife experienced in Cairo during the 1995 U.N. Population Conference. She and her colleagues from the National Institute of Womanhood were busy assembling papers opposing the U.N.'s pro-population control and abortion policies. The Muslim women staff of the hotel would voluntarily help my wife collate the sheets and assemble them for distribution. After several days, she tried to thank them. They responded, "Please don't thank us; we should thank you for coming here to help save our country."
I have also worked closely with Muslims both in the United States and in the Middle East. If they discern you are primarily motivated by moral concerns which they share, the walls of separation quickly come down.