A large group of Muslim scholars recently wrote an open letter to leaders all throughout Christianity. It is an interesting read, and I have a few thoughts.
Let's assume for the sake of this discussion that the arguments they make for the similarities and, essentially oneness, of our two faiths are valid. Where does this leave Judaism? Christianity is, after all, simply a cult of Judaism. Yet this letter only mentions the Jews in passing as "the people of scripture." It's almost as if they are a character in the Biblical stories, but a non-entity for the purposes of modern discussion. While I think that every true Christ follower applauds and agrees with the call here for peace and understanding between our two faiths, I think that this call is essentially irrelevant if there is not also peace and understanding between the Muslims and the Jews. Is there a similar letter addressed to Jewish leaders worldwide?
I fully understand that before peace can occur in the real world, this type of dialogue must take place in the abstract. Yet this letter does not really discuss a practical application for our faiths to coexist in this tumultuous world. I agree with the reasoning that loving God and others is the absolute fundamental tenant of the two religions, and this should be reason enough for both of us to choose to live in a spirit of love with the other. Furthermore, the 2 religions comprise 55% of the world's population, making peace imperative or non-peace unviable over the long term. Yet I'm not sure I saw a clear idea of what this looks like in practical terms. Certainly there is a call for a change in attitude towards one another, a call to which I agree fully. Perhaps we are not yet at the stage to work this out in practical terms. Maybe we're only at the point where we can peacefully "agree to disagree," so to speak.
In the end, I'm quite amazed that this letter was put together and agreed upon by a group as diverse as the authors listed, a group whose beliefs are as diverse as the group of Christian leaders to whom it is addressed. This is an accomplishment to be commended. It brings me much shame and disappointment to think of the chances of the Christian leaders listed all agreeing and signing off on anything, let alone a response to a letter as important & certainly controversial as this. I guess that it is my hope and prayer that they can/will agree and that this type of understanding and dialogue can filter down into our churches in a meaningful way.