A 29-page letter (pdf document) drafted by 138 prominent Muslim leaders to leaders of the world’s Christian churches has been met with enthusiasm and encouragement. (Steve G. recommends this report: CS Monitor) The historic Muslim document, entitled, "A Common Word Between Us and You," received a warm embrace from leaders of the Yale Divinity School in the form of a response that has been cosigned by the Harvard and Princeton seminaries…
The lengthy response released yesterday by the Yale scholars, entitled Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to A Common Word between Us and You says, “We receive A Common Word as a Muslim hand of conviviality and cooperation extended to Christians worldwide. In this response we extend our own Christian hand in return, so that together with all other human beings we may live in peace and justice as we seek to love God and our neighbors.”
The Yale document says the open letter, signed by 138 Muslim scholars, clerics, and intellectuals and released worldwide on Oct. 11, "identifies some core common ground between Christianity and Islam which lies at the heart of our respective faiths as well as at the heart of the most ancient Abrahamic faith, Judaism. Jesus Christ’s call to love God and neighbor was rooted in the divine revelation to the people of Israel embodied in the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18).”
The statement was issued by Harold Attridge, dean of Yale Divinity School and Lillian Claus Prof of New Testament; Miroslav Volf, director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture and Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology; Joseph Cumming, director of the Reconciliation Program at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture; and Emilie M. Townes, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of African American Religion and Theology and president-elect of the American Academy of Religion.
Adding their names to the statement, among others, were Iain Torrance, president of Princeton Theological Seminary, and William A. Graham, dean of Harvard Divinity School. More scholars are expected to endorse the statement as it continues to be circulated at Yale Divinity School and at other academic institutions across the country.
Volf, whose latest book is The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World, said he was “deeply encouraged and challenged” by the open letter, which he called “historic, courageous, and marked by deep insight and generosity of spirit.” The Yale authors praised the depth of A Common Word, particularly the degree to which the signatories identified important common ground between Muslim and Christian communities, in a time when relations between these communities are so often strained. While the Yale reply acknowledges the undeniable differences between Islam and Christianity, Volf believes that A Common Word “opens new possibilities for dialogue and cooperation between Muslims and Christians.”
A Common Word, endorsers of the Christian response hope, will lead to a new level of open communication and honest cooperation between Muslims and Christians, although much work remains. The statement concludes, “We are persuaded that our next step should be for our leaders at every level to meet together and begin the earnest work of determining how God would have us fulfill the requirement that we love God and one another. It is with humility and hope that we receive your generous letter, and we commit ourselves to labor together in heart, soul, mind and strength for the objectives you so appropriately propose.” (source: The American Muslim)