Friday, October 12, 2007

Once-in-history chance?

A group of 139 Muslim scholars and clerics has issued an open letter to Pope Benedict and other Christian leaders inviting Christians and Muslims to dialog. Issued to coincide with the festival at the end of Ramadan, "A Common Word between Us and You" argues: "Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world's population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians," according to the U.K. Guardian.

The question for Catholics is how the pope will respond. There is another significant anniversary coming up, that of B16's Regensburg speech that deeply offended many Muslims because of his association of Islam with violence. This letter is an olive branch, and the Holy Father would do well to hang on. And it is significant for the number of its Muslim signatories: Islam has no centralized authority, but the dozens of scholars and muftis have tens of millions of followers.

Wouldn't it be great if the Vatican convened an ecumenical (all Christians) and inter-religious (including not only Christians and Muslims, but Jews and other interested religious parties as well) for a peace conference? Such an effort may work wonders for the inter-religious effort, as well as counter the "new atheist" (Hitchens, Dawkins, and the rest) claim that religion sows only dissension.

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