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Muslim-Christian Dialogue in a Globalized World

Prof.  Dr. Francesco Zannini

The Challenge of globalization

I would like to begin my reflection with the preface of one of the most important documents issued by Muslims in order to foster interreligious dialogue, “A Common Word between Us and You”:

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. The basis for this peace and understanding, already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of both Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity.”

Both Muslims and Christians should bear witness to these values in a globalized world. But then, what is “globalization” and what does it mean for the two religious communities to interact within this current climate?

The term ‘Globalization’ is often understood as a growing global inter-relationship and inter-dependence in financial, social, technological, cultural, political, and ecological fields. In this context, there is always the danger of flattening out cultural differences, customs and beliefs into a sort of melting pot, where particular religious identities may disappear. If we look at the global village from a religious point of view, we may often deal with the prevailing opinion that religious experience has became a sort of marginal fact. It is this kind of reductive interpretation of religious phenomena that calls for deep theological reflection and discernment. The distinction between “the era in which globalization takes-off” with its classical socio-cultural interpretations (Max Weber and Émile Durkheim) and the “contemporary epoch of globalization” with its interpreters in the socio-religious fields (Clifford Geertz, Roland Robertson, Samuel Huntington), helps at least to partially understand and to register the marginalization of religious factors, but it does not help us to understand whether such a process is inherent in reality itself or is rather inserted (and therefore is provoked) in the perspective that the literature on the matter proposes from time to time.[1] Yet, in the twenty-first century we are witnessing a revival in, and globalization of religions. We also see that World Religions are now playing an increasingly vital role in both personal and public life. Both Christianity and Islam live in a rapidly changing world, where people increasingly interact though the Internet and various other forms of mass media. They are faced with the challenge of globalization that requires intercultural and inter-religious dialogue as a necessary means to building a peaceful future for our world.[2] Thus, the cooperation of cultural and religious groups is absolutely necessary in order to overcome every kind of tension and to pave the way to coexistence and peace. The increasing economic competition and individual freedoms in the sphere of economic globalization may bring about the risk that human beings will be treated as instruments or objects, which may cause many people to suffer from serious material deprivation. In this context, all Religions and religious communities are called to work together and to commit themselves to raising awareness about belonging to a single human family for which all bear a common responsibility.

For Christians, this is wonderfully expressed in a Vatican II document on the Church in the Modern World entitled “Gaudium et Spes”, where globalization is mentioned as one of the “signs of the time”:

Today, the human race is involved in a new stage of history. Profound and rapid changes are spreading by degrees around the whole world”.[3] And states that: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.[4]

Another effect of globalization is that people from different religions, cultures, and societies will inevitably move closer to each other and become acquainted with many religious and cultural realities. We live in a pluralistic and multi-religious society, both in the East and West. Even in Middle East, where at one time we could see only Christianity, Islam and Judaism, (but due to recent immigration) we are now seeing people arriving from other cultures and religions. Consequently, we are witnessing an end of the polarizing clash between Islam and Christianity with the manifestation of the quest for wider dialogue among the world religions. In this context, an assertion of Benedict XVI in Ankara is of particular relevance:  “The religions are able to do their part in tackling the numerous challenges that our societies are currently facing. Surely, recognizing the positive role involving the religions within the bossom of the social body can and must encourage our society to explore more deeply their knowledge of humanity and to better respect its dignity, placing humanity at the center of political, economic, cultural, and social action. Our world must become more aware of the fact that all humanity is profoundly connected and we must invite them to put aside their historical and cultural differences, not in order to clash over them, but rather to foster mutual respect.”[5]

This reflects what had been already expressed in the Encyclical letter “Caritas in Veritate” where the Pope affirms:

Love in truth — caritas in veritate — is a great challenge for the Church in a world that is becoming progressively and pervasively globalized. The risk for our time is that the de facto interdependence of people and nations is not matched by ethical interaction of counsciousness and minds that would give rise to truly human development. Only in charity, illumined by the light of reason and faith, is it possible to pursue development goals that possess a more humane and humanizing value. ……The Church does not have technical solutions to offer and does not claim ‘to interfere in any way in the politics of States’. She does, however, have a mission of truth to accomplish, in every time and circumstance, for a society that is attuned to man, to his dignity, to his vocation”.[6]

 It is a teaching which is in continuity with what he wrote, as a scholar, in a previous book where he stated that: “the relationship of Christianity with the religions of the world has become today an internal necessity for the faith: it is not a game of curiosity, which would like to construct a theory about destiny of others—only God decides this destiny, and He does not need our theories … But today, there is more at stake: the sense of our being able and having to believe. The religions of the world have become a question to Christianity. This demands fresh ways of self-reflection in front of them about its claim and thus receives from them, a service of purification“.[7]

There has been great progress in the last fifty years in the field of interreligious dialogue, which has been facilitated by the emergence of a “global village” through easy travel facilities, internet, and through the openness to dialogue and inter-exchange offered by several religious institutions. The Catholic Church, with the Second Vatican council, especially through its Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate), 1965, created a new climate of openness toward dialogue with the major religions of the world. Within this situation the Catholic Church singled out the unique position of the Jewish and Muslim religions.[8] Besides the Roman Catholic Church, the World Council of Churches has also greatly contributed to interreligious dialogue with important meetings, papers, and theological reflections that have dealt with this very important topic.[9] The shared emphasis between Catholics and Protestants in many of these documents has been that charity should be shown to all, without distinction of race or creed, without proselytism and without any type of pressure being exerted.[10]

Toward a common understanding of human rights

Muslims and Christians both live in secular and religiously influenced countries, where the separation between religion and society is still an issue and where the issue of human rights is treated differently. But do human rights have a religious origin or are they based on the universal structure of human nature? Both Muslims and Christians are asked to answer to this crucial question in order to avoid communalism and to work together for a better world. In fact, this has been one of the main concerns of the Catholic Church in its effort towards renewal that began at the Vatican II Council. In this document there is support for the promotion of human rights and the condemnation of all forms of discrimination. [11]The basis of these rights is in creation itself, when God created man in His own image and likeness.[12] In fact, just as it is said in another manner, more recent pronouncement from the Congregation for the Family:

The concept of the dignity of a human being must always be the key to interpreting the 1948 Declaration… All the affirmations, principles and rights mentioned in the Declaration were written and must be interpreted in the light of the dignity of a human being”.[13]

A similar attitude can be found in the Muslim world, where we can see certain claims arising within fundamentalist circles that adhere to the strictest vision of Islam and have worked for an alternative, through some Declarations of human rights in Islam, to the 1948 Declaration of human rights. Yet, there are many Muslim intellectuals that see a constant evolution in the traditional vision of society. It is true that one may detect a certain uneasiness by many Muslims to welcome the 1948 Declaration which was born in a European or Western cultural context. But it is also true that among Muslims there is a growing interest for these rights and their relation with the Islamic legal tradition. The differing points of view about their nature and their application testify to a lively debate that leads to the fundamental issue of the philosophical and theological justification of those rights. In fact, a better analysis of the sharî‘a and the rediscovery of the original intentions of the divine Lawgiver (maqâsid al-sharî‘a) could lead to a concept of “natural law” which emerges from “human nature” (fitrah) and is created by God in the “best way”. This dynamic perspective may allow space for dialogue between the West and the world religions. This would overcome the so called “Clash of Civilizations” and increase internal dialogue between Shiites and Sunnites (taqrîb)[14], in Islam, and on through the “ecumenical movement”, among the Christians.


Dialogue emerging from both sides

Certainly a common doctrinal basis makes it possible for Christians and Muslims to consider themselves as sharing in one and the same religious heritage, as the common faith in God, in His angels, and in eternal destiny after death and resurrection. There is some convergence with regard to essential realities and they both believe that God has sent prophets and has communicated the divinely-revealed Word in sacred books, though there is still a divergence of thought between the beliefs of Muslims and Christians on many substantial points. The suggestion for mutual cooperation expressed by the Vatican Council becomes most relevant when it states:

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Muslims, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom”.[15]

With the increasing establishment of new dialogue organizations, institutions, and the emergence of several interreligious initiatives for dialogue continues to show a growing interest for Muslim-Christian dialogue, which was once considered a unilateral concern from the Christian side. However, in the last few years, there has been the appearance of several Muslim intellectuals that have started to express themselves on the topic of inter-religious and multi-religious dialogue. In fact many Muslims have discovered that the roots of dialogue can be found in the Qur’ân itself.[16] Muslims are asked to dialogue with people of other religions, and particularly with the Christians,[17]  in a pluralistic world:

“… If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single People, but His Plan is to test you in what He has given you. So strive as in a race in all virtues. The return of you all is to Allah; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which you dispute”.[18]

Besides that, the Qu’rân seems to suggest a code of behavior for interreligious dialogue based upon the awareness of the high value placed on their religious experience.[19] This should help to avoid any kind of discussion about their Holy Text,[20] even though Muhammad himself is invited to discuss with the Christians on basic religious matters.[21]  A good Muslim should carry on dialogue with fairness[22] and respect for the freedom of the other person,[23] according to the teaching of the Qur’ân, which states: there must be “No compulsion in Religion”.[24]

There is an continuous debate about Muslim-Christian Dialogue among Muslim intellectuals, which emerges from an interesting study done at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies in Rome: “Le dialogue vu par les musulmans”.[25] The publication is a collection of both the original Arabic texts and the French translations of relevant contributions to the debate by authors like the Lebanese professor Ridwân al-Sayyid, the Grand Mufti of Lebanon Shaykh Hasan Khaild, the Shiite Ayatollah Muhammad Husayn Fadlallâh, spiritual guide of the Hizb Allâh, Su’ûd al Mawlâ, professor of Sociology at the “Universitée Lebanaise”, the Egyptian Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazalî, Shayk ‘Atiya Saqar, who writes in the Minbar al-Islâm, the official journal of the Ministry of Waqfs in Egypt, the Egyptian diplomat Husayn Ahmad Amin, the Tunisian scholars Abdelwahab Boudhiba, Sa’ad Ghrab, Muhammad Tâlbî, the palestinian intellectual Munîr Shafiq and other relevant Muslim authors. It is interesting that Sheykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawî, who is well known for his fatâwâ and for his success in the Arab Media addressed the issue of Muslim-Christian dialogue: “As we come together through dialogue we need to remember the points on which we have common ground, not those on which we differ. There are Muslim extremists who claim that there is no common ground between us and Christians and Jews, but this is a wrong perception of the Islamic viewpoint.”.[26]

But Muslim-Christian dialogue is not only a concern of Arab scholars. Muslim institutions all over North Africa and the Middle East are promoting encounters and studies on the matter.

We must not forget that one of the first Muslim-Dialogue meetings after Vatican II was organized in Libya in 1976, followed, in several Arab countries, by relevant initiatives for interreligious dialogue have been made. Let us have a look at some of them.

In Egypt, in the early 1990s, “Al-Azhar ” University set up The Permanent Committee of al-Azhar for Dialogue with the Monotheistic Religions. On the 28th of May 1998, a special agreement was signed setting up a joint committee between Al- Azhar and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The head of the university Al-Azhar, Dr. Mohammed Sayed Tantawi is himself one of the main promoters of Muslim-Christian dialogue. After Pope Benedict XVI’s speech in Regensburg, Dr. Tantawi gave an interview with the al-Jumûriyya newspaper (21/9/2006). He stressed the importance of Muslim-Christian dialogue by saying: “Dialogue is going on despite the mistake committed by Pope Benedict XVI of Vatican” and in other occasions he repeated: “We believe in dialogue…Muslims will not be affected by dialogue with anyone.” He also often expresses his openness to dialogue with “whoever wants to talk to us”, and his opposition to fundamentalism and terrorism, and he has the conviction that ties of friendship could grow between Muslims and the rest of the world in the name of tolerance. In a long interview published in the French edition of the Egyptian weekly, Al-Ahrâm, he also said: “We will not close the door of dialogue with anyone; our doors remain open for those who want to talk to us”. He also denies the ‘clash of civilizations theory’ between Islam and the West: “Civilizations are not about to collide. Civilizations confront each other but they do not clash. We are always for the confrontation of points of view, with the scope of showing that Islam is an open and peaceful religion. Each attack on Islam will receive an appropriate response from us. Differences between people have existed since God created man. This does not frighten me at all.”[27]

In Lebanon, the “Islamic-Christian National Dialogue Committee”, whose General Secretaries are Emir Hares Chakib Chehab and Mr. Mohammad As-Sammak, through the “The National Center for Dialogue” carry on an unique experiment through the interaction of the numerous religions and cultures present in the country. They are aware that “Muslim-Christian coexistence is Lebanon’s greatest value and the cornerstone of national unity that we ought to take special care to develop and protect from all dangers which might threaten it”.[28]

The “Higher Institute of Islamic Studies” was established in 1981, during the Civil War, which divided the people of Lebanon into warring fragments. It was created to promote a better understanding of Islam and to prepare modern scholars to meet the challenges of modernity with an open mind, a respect for others, and a determination to overcome the obstacles which stand in the way of the development of a healthy civil society in Lebanon. The Higher Institute of Islamic Studies is a forum of thought and freedom of expression. It is also a center for Muslim-Christian dialogue and cultural exchange in general.

In Jordan, “The Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought was established in 1980 under the name of “The Royal Academy for Islamic Civilization Research (Aal al-Bayt Institute)” by the late King Hussein Bin Talal. It has as its main objectives “to serve Jordan, Arabs, Muslims and humanity at large”. It was this institution that promoted the letter “A Common Word between Us and You” written by 138 of the world’s most senior Muslim leaders to the heads of all Christian churches proposing a solid basis upon which the two global faiths can cooperate in creating peace and understanding in the world.

“The Royal Academy for Islamic Civilization Studies” is in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It carries on various activities such as: the Independent Commission for the Islamic-Christian Relations in Windsor (Great Britain); the Center for Orthodoxy in Champisi (Switzerland); the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (Vatican). Under the patronage of Prince Hassan, meetings have taken place in Amman and the Vatican, such as the conference on “Religious education in contemporary society” (Vatican, 6-8 December 1989) and the conference on “Religion and the utilization of Earth’s resources” (Rome, Italy, 17-20 April 1996). Another important institution in Jordan is “The Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies (RIIFS)”, which was established in 1994 in Amman, Jordan, under the patronage of the Prince El Hassan bin Talal. It “provides a venue in the Arab world for the interdisciplinary study and rational discussion of religion and religious issues, with particular reference to Christianity in Arab and Islamic society”.[29] More recently, the RIIFS has broadened its focus to include all issues pertaining to religious and cultural diversity, regionally and globally. For this purpose, it maintains relations with similarly concerned academic institutions in different parts of the world.

In Libya, several conventions have been organized by the “The World Islamic Call Society” and sponsored by the local governement. The above mentioned First Islamic-Christian Congress in Libya (1-5 February,1976), the Islamic-Christian Symposium (2002 ) , the 14th Session of the International Council of the Islamic Call Societies, dealt with the Islamic concept of getting to know each other, in a constructive dialogue which consolidates reciprocal respect, rejects oppression, and establishes a mutual relationship among peoples and nations. The final communiqué stated that common moral values of Islam and Christianity reject violence, extremism and collective punishment. An “Inter-religious Meeting” in Rome (2004), had a session on “Interreligious Dialogue at the service of integral development for the individual and society” (2006), which was a meeting of the “Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa (IFAPA)” (2007).

Tunisia distinguished itself very early on by taking initiative as early as 1974 with the CERES (Centers Etudes Economiques and Social) under the inspiration of the Abdelwahab Bouhdiba, which constituted, in his time, a very important forum of expression.

In Morocco a series of meetings have been organized in Rabat (19-23 June 1995; 18-22 June 1997. Within the framework of this project of the UNESCO, a “Day of Reflection on Dialogue Between the three Monotheist Religions” was organized in Rabat, in 1998, under the Patronage of the late King Hassan II and ended with the issuing of a document calling for the establishment of a gathering place in Morocco, for reflection and action. Representatives of the three monotheistic religions will seek to define activities targeting various factions and try to encourage mutual understanding and movement towards the establishment of a culture of peace.

Several organizations aiming at promoting interreligious dialogue have been established in Saudi Arabia recently. The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), in Hay Riyad, Madinate Al-Irfane, was set up by member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The idea here was that of the Islamic renaissance movement at the dawning of a new age with the awakening of Muslim Ummah. The strategy of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization starts by taking as a premise that: “(a) the Islamic culture has characteristics amongst which are globalism and universality, (b) it has a credibility and a power stemming from its divine origin and its taking as basis – for its starting points, goals and values – human nature and principles pertaining to rights, justice and human dignity. This was readily accepted by people with sound minds and no human will question its validity.”[30]

The ISESCO sees in the possibility to have Islam and Christianity engage in a dialogue an opportunity to attain the goal of building a reciprocal confidence, laying out bridges for intellectual coexistence and to establish natural relations between the followers of the two religions. However, this goal must be tied to the important interests of the Islamic Ummah, as it endeavors to focus on human values and coordinate between the various Islamic parties that are concerned with dialogue.

The director of the ISESCO, Dr. Abdulaziz Othman Al-Twaijri, has taken part in several meetings organized for this purpose, stressing the importance of developing the approach of Islamic-Christian dialogue. This is evident in a meeting in Egypt (17 January 2010) attended by Dr. Muhammad Sayed Tantawi, Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Lord Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, Chairman of the Papal Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Pope Chenouda III of Egypt and other delegates, where he said: “We are maintaining a truthful, straightforward and honest discourse, as part of our keenness on bringing the kind of dialogue in which we strongly believe to a most effective and practical conclusion“.[31]

Another important institution in Saudi Arabia is the “International Islamic Forum for Dialogue” located in Jeddah, whose objectives are stated in its mission statement: “Goals of the Council : guiding the Islamic work and its activities, organizing the efforts of the Islamic Omah (nation) to be in service of the fair Islamic issues, and developing Islamic act to be on level of mission of the Islamic civilization, which calls on; assuring unity of the human family , achieving the acquaintance among people, and activating the divine values to achieve human dignity, security and justice in the eart,h according to the will of Almighty ALLAH”.[32]

Prof. Dr. Hamid Bin Ahmad Al-Rifaie, the President of the “International Islamic Forum for Dialogue”, referred to the speech by Pope Benedict XVI, whom he considered determined in order to pursue a policy of dialogue with other religions, by saying: “There is no doubt that the Pope’s statement is a reassurance that the Vatican will continue the policy of serious and objective dialogue which began in 1972 as a shared initiative between Muslims and Catholics……. In the name of the international Islamic organizations which are members of the International Islamic Forum for Dialogue, I would like to congratulate his Holiness, the Pope, and state that I share his determination to move forward together the process of dialogue in Life, which is the best and the most useful way to realize a shared human culture for the sake of justice and peace for all; in order to protect the environment of the corruption and to achieve peaceful co-existence between societies and to guarantee a life of dignity for all mankind.[33]

Another important step taken by Saudi Arabia is its involvement in the “World Conference on Dialogue” held in Madrid (16-18 July 2008). It was promoted by the Saudi king, Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, “The custodian of the two sacred Mosques” of Mecca and Medina the most sacred places of the Islam. The king seems to have overcomed all the hindrances of the past by making, for the first time, an appeal for interreligious dialogue and meeting Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 with a historically unprecedented visit. The Convention was organized by “The World Muslim League”, a worldwide Muslim Organization, which directs and finances, directly or indirectly, many mosques in Europe and all over the world.

In order to pave the way for Muslims and for the acceptance and legitimization of interreligious dialogue, the Saudi king and the Ligue organized a preparatory intra- Muslim Convention on the dialogue in Mecca (4-6 June 2008) to which approximately 500 persons were invited.

The final result of the convention is “the Appeal from Mecca for Interreligious Dialogue”, a document that clearly confirms the legitimacy and necessity of dialogue for worldwide peace. It clearly condemns violence and terrorism, as it will in the final declaration of the convention in Madrid.

What has been said so far shows that Muslim-Christian dialogue is an enterprise that is not only led by Catholics or Christians in general, who call the Muslims to be partners. On the contrary, single individuals and scholars, as well as official institutions in North Africa and the Middle East have now become active organizers and promoters of Muslim-Christian dialogue. Initiatives like the document “A Common Word between Us and You” issued by Muslims and the many lectures, conferences, seminars and conventions organized by Muslims remind us that the Call for Dialogue is now coming from a part of the Islamic world, which is often wrongly perceived as the source of the conflict and clash of civilizations.


The Gülen Movement: an open vision of inter-religious dialogue

 The call for “Muslim-Christian unity” by Said Nursi to oppose godless tendencies in modern societies as well as oppression of all kinds coupled with the universal vision of the modern Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen[34] in order to extend dialogue to the conscientious followers of all religions are at the roots of the Gülen Movement. One of the main characteristics of the founder is his “ardent endeavor to strengthen bonds among people. He maintains that there are more bonds bringing people together than those separating them. Based on this belief, he works without rest for a sincere, sound dialogue and tolerance. He was one of the founders of the Foundation of Journalists and Writers, a group that promotes dialogue and tolerance among all social strata and which has received a warm welcome from almost all walks of life. He regularly visits and receives leading Turkish and international figures: the Vatican Ambassador in Turkey, the Patriarch of the Turkish Orthodox Community, the Patriarch of the Turkish Armenian Community, the Chief Rabbi of the Turkish Jewish Community, as  well as leading journalists, columnists, television and movie stars, and also thinkers of varying views”[35]. Being deeply involved in interreligious dialogue,[36] he argues that dialogue between Christians and Muslims is indispensable in light of the now prevailing materialist worldview.[37] He also recommends it as a way of overcoming all kind of rationalistic positivism in order to create a bridge between faith and reason by enhancing peace and understanding among people, as he clearly states: “Humankind from time to time has denied religion in the name of science and denied science in the name of religion, arguing that the two present conflicting views. All knowledge belongs to God and religion is from God. How then can the two be in conflict? To this end, our joint efforts directed at inter-religious dialogue can do much to improve understanding and tolerance among people.”[38] These principles of tolerance, faith and great respect for human reason emerge in the eminent role of Fethullah Gülen as an educator[39] and in the network of schools that he created around the world, to help youth to be grown up with solid human values. This is also one of the reasons why the movement, as a community of predominantly young Muslims, is committed to interreligious dialogue and interfaith cooperation for interreligious harmony. It was Fethullah Gülen himself who stated: “It is my conviction that in the future years, the new millennium will witness unprecedented religious blooming and the followers of world religions, such as Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and others, will walk hand-in-hand to build a promised bright future of the world.” This is the central inspiration of many dialogue institutes all over the World like the Rumi Forum, which is in the United States, as well as many others spread throughout Western and Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa and even in the heart of Christianity, with the “Istituto Tevere” in Rome. In order to enhance interreligious dialogue, the Gülen movement has also created the Intercultural Dialogue Platform as a project of the movement’s Istanbul-based Writers and Journalists Foundation. The IDP has been particularly active in sponsoring and organizing “Abrahamic” dialogue meetings with eminent representatives of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Gülen movement has also supported associations for the promotion of interreligious activities at the local and regional level, such as the Cosmicus Foundation in the Netherlands, the Australian Intercultural Society in Melbourne, the Friede-Institut für Dialogue in Vienna, the Interfaith Dialogue Center of Patterson, New Jersey, the Houston’s Institute of Interfaith Dialogue, the Niagara Foundation of Chicago and the Pacifica Institute in southern California, all of which take independent initiatives toward promoting inter-religious understanding and cooperation.



There is no doubt that Christians and Muslims share many common values. It is this search for common values, as well as the cooperation in building a better global human community, that makes up the core of Muslim-Christian dialogue. It is a dialogue that implies reciprocal respect and appreciation for the other’s faithfulness to his/her own religion. It avoids any form of fundamentalism or fanaticism or a flippant attitude that overlooks differences in order to build up a sort of pseudo-pacifism, which is the opposite of serious spiritual dialogue. “Values” can only be shared if there is a deep and genuine agreement on them and this cannot be the result of any kind of compromise. Many Christian and Muslim institutions have engaged in this essential work in our world, which is everyday becoming more and more globalized. This is an enterprise that should involve not just Christians and Muslims but all religious people and all people of good will.


[1]  See: G. Lorizio “Globalizzazione religiosa: periferia e centralità nella Chiesa”, in I fondamentalismi nell’era della globalizzazione, I. Sanna Ed., Roma 2011, pp. 84-85, V. Cesareo, Il ruolo della religione nel processo di globalizzazione, in La religione nella società dell’incertezza. Per una convivenza solidale in una società multireligiosa, R. De Vita – F. Berti Eds , Milano 2001, pp. 245-256.

[2] For more on “globalization” in reference to Christianity and Islam: see: The Holy See, a face of another globalization, Barcelona 2007, Islam, Globalization and Postmodernity, Akbar S. Ahmed and Hasting Donnan Eds., London-New York : Routledge, 1994, “Interreligious dialogue in an age of Globalization” , in Interreligious dialogue, A short Introduction, pp. 116ff, Oxford 2001, Kurtz, Lester R., Le religioni nell’era della globalizzazione : Una prospettiva sociologica, Bologna 2000, Peter Beyer, Religion in the Process of Globalization, 2001.

[3] Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World “Gaudiun et Spes”, promulgated by His Holiness Pope Paul V on December 7, 1965, n. 4

[4] Ibid. n. 1

[5] Meeting of His Holiness The Pope Benedict XVI with the Diplomatic Corps in the Apostolic Nunciature of Ankara, November 28, 2006.

[6] Encyclical letter “Caritas in Veritate” of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict VI to the Bishops, Priests and Deacons, Man and Women Religious, the Lay Faithful and all people of Good Will on integral human development in Charity and Truth, June 29, 2009, n. 9

[7] J.Ratzinger, Das neue Volk Gottes. Entwürfe zur Ekklesiologie, Düsseldorf 1969, pp. 362-363.

[8] Declaration on the reealation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions”Nostra Aetate” proclaimed by his Holiness Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965, n.4, n.3; Dogmatic Constitution on the Church “Lumen Gentium” solemnly promulgated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on November 21, 1964, n. 5

[9] 75 For instance, see Dialogue between Men of Living Faiths (New York: World Council of Churches, 9173); Christian-Muslim Dialogue (New York: World Council of Churches, 1972); Jewish-Chistian Dialogue: Six Yew of Christian-Jewish Consultations (New York: World Council of Churches, 1975); and Toward World Community (Now York, World Council of Churches, 1975).

[10] See the Hong Kong Memorandum of 1975, quoted in John B. Taylor, “The Involvement of the World Council of Churches (W.C.C.) in International and Regional Christian-Muslim Dialogue,” Islamochristiana I (1975): 97-102

[11]Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World “Gaudium et Spes” promulgated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on December 7, 1965, nn. 21 , 26 , 29, 41 ff, 59, 73, 76

[12] Gen 1:27, see: Gaudium et Spes, n. 2

[13] Pontifical Council for the Family, October 22, 1983, n. 3,1

[14] see: “Al-Taqrîb : l’Oecumenisme en Islam” in Etudes Arabes n. 102-103, P.I.S.A.I., Roma 2008

[15] Nostra Aetate, n. 3. On this respect see also: M. Borrmans, ”The doctrinal basis common to Christians amd Muslims and different areas of convergenece and action”, in Muslims in Dialogue: The Evolution of a Dialogue, L. Swidler, ed, The Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston, NY, 1992, pp. 182-201

[16] see: M.Arkoun “New Perspectives For A Jewish-Christian-Muslim Dialogue”, In Muslims in Dialogue: The Evolution of a Dialogue, L. Swidler, ed, The Edwin Mellen Press,Lewiston, NY, pp. 224-229, 1992.

[17] Q. 5: 82

[18] Q. 5:51 see also in the Sûra al-Hujurât (Q. 49:13)

[19] Q. 3,110-114

[20] Q. 40:4 see also: Q. 40,35/22,8-9/22,67-69

[21] Q. 3:64

[22] Q. 29:46

[23] Q. 18:29 see also: Q. 28,56 and 14:4

[24] Q. 2,256

[25] Etudes Arabes n. 88-89, P.I.S.A.I., Roma 1995

[26] See: Fatawa: Domains of Muslim-Christian Cooperation, Fatwa Menagment System, Islamic Science University of Malaysia, file=article&sid=10252

[27] See: Sheikh of Al-Azhar: no to fundamentalism, open to dialogue with all, in Asia News 10/21/2006,,-open-to- dialogue-with-all-7543.html

[28] See: The National Center for Dialogue, in “Islamic-Christian National Dialogue Committee”,

[29] See: The Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies (RIIFS),

[30] Dr. Abbas Al-Jirari, “Dialogue from the Islamic Point of View”, in Journal Islam Today N° 18, Rabat 1422H/2001,

[31] “Islamic-Christian dialogue stressed”, in Islamic Affairs & Charitable Activities Department 2008, wsType=4

[32] See: International Islamic Forum for Dialogue,

[33] Press Release of the The General Secretariat of the Forum and the Congress, 20 August 2005,

[34] For a short but thorough biography of M. Fetullah Gülen see: M. Fetullah Gülen, Key Concept in the Practice of Sufim, Emerald Hils of the Heart, Vol 2, summersetl 2004, pp. i-viii. For a deep analysis of his personality, vision and work see: T. Michel, About Fethullah Gulen, in http://

[35] M. Fetullah Gülen, Key Concept in the Practice of Sufim, Op. cit. p. iii

[36] see: T. Michel, “Turkish Experience For Muslim-Christian Dialogue. A Thinker: B.S. Nursi; An Activist: M.F. Gülen.” In: Travelling Together Beyond Dialogue: Peace and Dialogue in a Plural Society, Common Values and Responsibilities (Melbourne: Australian Intercultural Society, 2002), pp. 33-40.

[37] See: Fethullah Gülen‘s essay The Necessity of Interfaith Dialogue:a muslim perpective in the series Windows onto the faith (Somerset N.J.: The Light) in May, 2004.

[38] Key Concept in the Practice of Sufim, Emerald Hils of the Heart, Vol 1, Summerset 2004, pp. i-viii

[39] see in this respect the paper of T. Michel , Fethullah Gülen as Educator , and the article that appeared on the official site of the Gülen Movement, Gulen Inspired Schools: Global Schools serving with Integrity and Sincerity,