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   Conferences / The Tenth General Conference :Islam and The 21st Century

Ambassador Nabil M. Badr
The subject of "Christian Islamic dialogue" is of particular interest
and significance. It reflects the mounting importance on the international
level over the importance of dialogue, in general, and dialogues between
religions. This stems from a philosophy that believes in establishing, more
harmony and better understanding between peoples, nations, and creeds,
belonging to different backgrounds. The term dialogue itself covers a
wide span of ideologies cultures, and civilizations, and politics. It is a
serious effort on the international level, to bring about better
understanding and develop mutual respect, and in so doing, furnish a
climate more favourable to peace. It is indeed important that the common
man senses the positive outcome. Peace and virtues are best served by
deeds, perseverance patience and the right attitudes. One of the main
bastions of security in the world order is collective security. The
international society has to work real hard not just to prevent the use of
force, or threats to use it in international relations, but to help as well,
provide favourable economic, social, and political conditions in the
human society, to prevent its deterioration. The role of religion in that
connection is paramount. Differences of religions and cultural tradition
cannot destroy the natural association of mankind. To bring this to the
limelight, now, is particularly important because of the following reasons:
Many feel now a world phenomenon of spiritual revival. It has
expressed itself in many ways. It reflects, especially after the fall of
communism, the urge to satisfy the spiritual needs of man, in face of the
crisis in the "Values" system. The faithful, review their religious
permanent values to find comfort and hope. God the Almighty is
Merciful, Compassionate and Fair. His values are not relative, biased or
temporary. Based on divine inspiration, on what should or should not.
Our actions in this world are related to what God has ordained and how
they reflect on our eternal life.
The factors related to the complex web of socio-economic problems,
frustrated political aspirations, double standards in the management of
crucial world conflicts and crisis, has augmented the challenge to values,
law, and international order on many issues and instances. Even in our
every day life, experience demonstrates that laws or regulations to be well
implemented, need a moral foundation, tolerance, and mutual
Dialogues between civilizations, cultures, religions should stem from
mutual respect, with the target of extending better understanding. Beliefs
and their specialties would be respected, paving the way before vast areas
of cooperation for the human good, and in a favourable climate.
This, in particular, should be a focus of special attention. In certain
cases, we have felt that Islamic issues have been subjugated to superficial
treatment, or pre-conceived ideas and stereotyped modalities of thinking
that would be ready to issue a Judgement without adequate information.
What makes this even more important and sensitive are invitations
by some propagating religious polarization. Islam has been called the
"green danger" as a substitute for the "red danger" that collapsed. Is
there an Islamic threat? John Esposito put the question and answered
quote "In one sense, yes. Just as there is a western threat or a Judeo -
Christian threat. Islam, like Christianity and Judaism, has provided a
way of life which has transformed the lives of many. At the same time
some Muslims, like some Christians and Jews have also used their
religion to justify aggression and warfare, conquest and persecution in
the past and today. "Unquote, hence the parties to the dialogue would
learn from past experiences, but look forward to the future in a world
which has grown smaller and more interdependent.
Refuting such concepts that breed mutual suspicion and fear within
dialogues is important not less are actions related to them, directed
against peace and freedom. Some have tried to theorize unhealthy
concepts. We have read in some of that literature what amounts to
atonement at the fact that there were "non westerners participating more
in world affairs and noticing that they have their own "indigenous"
models as compared to the "Western Way" Huntington, itemized; the
components of progress common in western societies and that they are
based on classical legacy-Western Christianity, European languages,
separation of the spiritual and temporal authority, rule of law, social
pluralism and civil society, In his analysis of the "western way" which he
called "the west unique not universal".
Aurthur. M. Schlesinger Jr wrote "quote" Europe is the source - the
unique source of the ideas of Individual liberty political democracy, the
rule of the law, human rights, and cultural freedom... these are European
ideas, not Asian, nor African, nor middle Eastern ideas except by
adoption. Huntington adds "I quote" These concepts and characteristics
are also in large part the factors that enabled the West to take the lead in
modernizing itself and the world.
They make Western civilization unique, and western civilization is
precious, not because it is universal but because it is "unique" unquote.
Beside historical and conception serious flaws - and non recognition
of others, only one stereotype was set, whatever the reasons of the
sponsors of that thought, a lot has to be learnt correctly-we know that
Islamic "Shari'a" has gone far beyond what was referred to. We know as
well that Christianity and Islam in letter and spirit talk otherwise. I am
well aware that there have been many comments arguing, against this, I
am well aware as well of the Vatican's views against such concepts.
I am just referring to this to show how mutual recognition and
respect is important by all concerned.
A dialogue naturally is not a monologue. It is only natural that the
parties to the dialogue cherish their civilizational stands, while they feel
proud of their culture; they would respect concepts and particularities
entertained by others. In so doing they would visualize and re-emphasize
the common moral foundation and address themselves as well, to present
problems, and futuristic challenges in a swiftly changing world.
They can scan a wide spectrum of issues, identify the core of values
of a civilization and a culture and share in common concerns at a
civilizational level.
The moral references of the dialogue would bring to focus many
vital concerns and add to the international efforts to combat them.
Whether that be famine, environment, ethnic cleansing, antiracial
action... etc. We hope as well, that these common causes that concern all
of us, would gain more on the decision making level, because of the moral
element, and the impact of a favourable public opinion.
The targets of the dialogue are multiple and important in a phase of
international informatics and communications revolution. The voice of
righteousness must be heard. We cannot distance ourselves from
campaigns directed to promote suspicion, indeed try to misuse religion
against its correct concepts, plant dissidence in the world, do not
recognize pluralism in religions or civilizations, maintain an altruistic or
prejudiced attitude vis a vis religions or cultures that are not their own,
ignore the basic human rights and dignity of man, and in so doing,
deprive others of a homeland or independence, promote racism and
discord within societies on alleged basis that try to relate themselves to
religious concepts.
Identifying basic elements in the framework of the dialogues might
be worth considering. After all, the dialogue is a distinguished forum to
pool efforts, for a new outlook to Islam and Christianity both have made
undeniably important contributions to human societies and their welfare
and to world civilization.
Christians and Muslims have a significant responsibility to the
human family, through their cooperation with others according to their
doctrine. Their followers are wide - spread in the world in growing
numbers, and their messages maintain their appeal and claim the minds
and hearts of believers. They both emerge on the eve of the 21st century as
potent global religions that should contribute through their teachings and
doctrines, to alleviate sufferings and maintain their high profile, when it
comes to establishing wholesome values for the good of man.
We all know that the "Qur'an" the "Sunnah" and the Holy Bible,
the Apostles words and deeds are resplendent with references to people,
as one nation without discrimination.
Indeed, human versatility is all God's creation. There is a basic
unity within diversity; I quote from the Qur'an,
Which means, I quote:
"You people we created you from the union of a twain, male and
female, and we divided you into nations and communities, and dispersed
you over the earth to get to know each other and not to boast your
descent or rank".
It is a direct clear order to Muslims, any practice that does not
reflect this concept is considered odd, and would be a denial of what God
has commanded, from an Islamic point of view. Indeed, the Holy Qur'an
has addressed all peoples with " ", which means "Oh people" in
its verses without distinction or discrimination. Islam - has recognized
heavenly religions and prophets before its emergence. Indeed, a Muslim is
required to recognize all the messengers of God and all their scriptures as
they were inspired. They are asked to speak on behalf of their religions to
others but there is no compulsion on others to comply. I quote from the
" "
"Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation"
Islam has stressed peace all throughout the word "peace" was
referred to in the Qur'an more than one hundred times. The origin of the
human relationships is just peace not aggression. War is only a last resort
to repel aggression against country, self, or religion and in self-defence I
quote from the Qur'an:
"Allah forbids you not those who warred not against your religion
and drove you not out from your homes, that you should show them
kindness and deal justly with them".
We read in the Holy Bible and in the life and holy actions of Jesus
references to his dialogues. So did the apostles. We read of dialogues of
the apostles St. Paul and St. Peter. Dialogue then is in the spirit and
practice of faith between Christianity. It is all the more important, both
being monotheistic inspired by God, and both being universal.
We have also read in "Nostra Aetate" quote "Even if over the
course of centuries Christians and Muslims have had more than a few
dissentions and quarrels, this sacred council now urges all, to forget the
past, and to work towards mutual understanding as well as towards the
preservation and promotion of social justice moral welfare, peace, and
freedom for the benefit of all mankind. We have read as well in "Nostra
Aetate 3 "The church also has a high regard for the Muslims, who
worship one God, living and subsistent, Merciful and Omnipotent, the
Creator of Heaven and earth".
We feel that the references in the "Qur'an and Sunnah", which are
plentiful, as well as the references in the Bible and the life of the apostles
lay credible, inspiring, and hopeful targets for what the dialogue can
achieve. They constitute the framework of facts based on truth and
reality of the many common beliefs, ideals and targets leading to a better
understanding and cooperation, between the parties concerned
Reading this from the right perspective means that, Islam and
historicity, do both entertain dialogue as a means of promoting peace
based on justice, we are all human created by one God, without
The good of man cannot be fulfilled, unless it is alienated from
hatred, and animosity, justice and the virtuous values should prevail. The
criteria that God has ordained should be implemented, to say the least,
clearly heard, without exclusivism or double standards, that colours
many world current policies. In so doing helping to balance policies, and
areas so important to the world and human future, in political, economic
and social domains. Especially when more and more is heard about
globalism, and developments that might lead to a world order hopefully,
just and peaceful, are emerging. The component of religious
understanding healthy dialogue would be helpful. Especially because
universality of Islam and Christianity trespasses specific geographical
areas. This adds to their contributions to world order.
The Islamic Christian dialogues are not indeed a new phenomenon.
They have been pursued in many ways, through history, and since the
emergence of Islam. The "Muhajereen" or early immigrants of Islam
dialogued with Christian clerics in Ethiopia the Prophet received the
Christian delegations of Arab Christians of "Najran" which is in the
North of "Arabia Felix". They were permitted to pray in his mosque. In
the middle ages we read about dialogues between the Khalif, "Harun El
Rasheed" and "Timus" the patriarch of the Assyrians or between
Abdullah Al Hashemi and Al Kindi. We are aware that both Islam and
Christianity stand on common grounds, favourable to dialogue.
Raymond, bishop of Toledo from 1130 to 1150 contributed to
transmitting knowledge of Islamic culture, Frederick the second who was
crowned Emperor in 1220 founded the University of Naples, where
Thomas Aquinas was later to study his son Manfred helped also to
transmit better knowledge of Islam to the Christian world.
On the other since the time of the "Abbasids", Muslims have been
demonstrating many examples of openness to other cultures for example
"Ibn Rushd" went to the extent of declaring that" quote "It was an
Islamic duty to study classical book that covered everything"
"Ibn Rushd Said" quote "when we read the books of earlier
thinkers, we see their thoughts in their books. If there is something there
that corresponds to the truth, we accept this and rejoice over it... and if
we find something in their thoughts that does not correspond to the truth,
we call attention to it and warn against it" I have referred to but some
examples, and philosophies favouring the dialogue.
An important development in modern times is the Vatican's
document "Nostra Aetate" which reads, Quote "even if over the course of
centuries Christians and Muslims have had more than a few dissentions
and quarrels, this sacred council now urges all to forget the part and to
work towards mutual understanding, as well as towards the preservation
and promotion of social justice, moral welfare, peace, and freedom for the
benefit of all mankind. His holiness pop-John Paul 11 refers as well in his
book "crossing the threshold of hope" to that document and its reference
to non Muslims, I quote "the church also has a high regard for the
Muslims, who Worship one God, living and subsistent, Merciful and
Omnipotent, the Creator of Heaven and earth" and he continues "as a
result of their monotheism, believers of ALLAH are particularly close to
us" We realize that there are certain issues that cover sensitive areas,
beliefs and dogmas related to them, the doctrinal dialogue, would not he
the ideal area of discussion - I think. Indeed, the dialoguing parties if they
so desire, might conduct them on an adequate base of knowledge and
expertise and within intimate circles sensitivities extend as well to Islamic
"DA'WA" and Christian "missionary work". Both religions are
universal; both are asked to propagate their beliefs. We have welcomed in
that connection Cardinal ARINZ'S remarks condemning "proselytism".
in his book "Meeting other believers" he has indicated as well, the
domains of dialogue under the headlines of life, action, discourse and of
religious experience. He referred as well to "Doctrinal dialogue". The
parties concerned would identify their agenda of the dialogues and their
precedence in accordance with their wills.
I personally think that identifying the areas of common interest is a
practical procedure, good will, reciprocity and a constructive attitude is
appreciated. Since the establishment of the Pontifical Council of Inter-
religious dialogue in the Vatican, many significant sessions of dialogue
have taken place with many Islamic organizations. We refer in particular
to the meetings and contacts held with "AL AZHAR" and welcome
concluding the protocol establishing a committee of inter-religious
dialogue between them. Permit me here, to refer to the distinguished and
high profile of both. Their Prestige on the International level, their
history and role, their religious and theological impact, and their
worldwide presence are important assets. Their meetings would be
effective and welcome.
Looking into the future, we realize the need to exert more efforts,
that are closely related to the dialogues, their consequences, and our
mutual aspirations, as well as, the international trends associated with the
Following the Christian-Islamic dialogues, that attracted attention,
in the last three decades in particular, in varying degrees, it would be
useful that the climate favouring it, and providing the broader
framework of its movement, would be equally studied. This becomes even
more important in an era where religious dialogues are gaining more on
the international level. We recall in that respect the Unescos conference,
in Catalonia, Spain, on the "contribution of religions in the culture of
peace" 1993 The importance aligned to the cultural dialogue, with its
religious component in the "Barcelona declaration" in November 1995,
the references to it within the framework of "the Organization of Islamic
States" including references in the summit of Casablanca, and most
recently in Teheran, 1997. Also, through the work of some non-
governmental organizations, we refer to the world parliament on religion,
which was held in Chicago. All of this should be responded to, not
through superficial participation but with, a clear vision and
committment to the principles of legality, justice, equality and balance vis
a vis the different international issues touching on our future, free from
duplicity, or contrasting positions.
I suggest that education would reflect an understanding of the
rulings of our religions and cultures objectively. This would deepen our
understanding and mutual respect. We think, that the dialogues can also
convey some important messages as that related to education and the
media. It should sponsor the education of Justice, brotherhood and our
common human heritage, without fanaticism or exculsivism. The role, as
well, of the clergy and the "ulamaa" with in society, which could bear a
deep impact on widening the circles of better understanding, mutual
respect, and a climate of cooperation. This would pave the way for a
greater impact of dialogues in the future.
Special attention should be directed to issues related, as well as to
current problems, to deepen the impact of the dialogue, and relate it to
existing problems such as racism, violence, crime, drugs, human rights,
the environment, families, social equilibrium, human development are
but some examples. They invite study and the respected beneficial impact
on our societies.
We all believe in constructive dialogues, based on the right concepts,
con ducted through credible, respectable non-biased organizations, that
embark from the grounds of Justice and peace, ready to define their
standpoints and contribute through their actions to a better world, that
needs the valuable religious contribution.

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