Perhaps it says something about the complexities of Christian/Muslim relations that a recent letter from 138 senior Islamic clerics and scholars to Christian leaders has drawn Catholic reactions ranging from cautious optimism to almost breathless enthusiasm, yet no one seems ready to predict that it will actually make any difference.

Addressed to Pope Benedict XVI and 25 other Christian leaders, including the patriarch of Constantinople and the archbishop of Canterbury, the 28-page letter was released Oct. 11. Signatories include well-known figures from the Sunni, Shiite, Salafi and Sufi branches of Islam, representing more than 40 countries, including Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt and Pakistan.

The document argues that the twin commands of love of God and love of neighbor provide common ground between the two traditions.

“Whilst Islam and Christianity are obviously different religions — and whilst there is no minimizing some of their formal differences — it is clear that the two greatest commandments are … a link between the Quran, the Torah and the New Testament,” it said.

On that basis, the Muslim leaders said, there is no necessary antagonism between the two faiths.

“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 document says, referring to a passage in the Quran.

The Muslim leaders argued that the sheer size of the two faiths makes cooperation essential. (MORE)


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