In the process of interreligious dialogue, we should concentrate on the points of convergence, to show that religions have more similarities than differences. Inter-religious relationships can be enhanced if similarities are highlighted. We should expose our people regularly to the teachings, values and systems of other religious traditions. Direct encounters between people develop and enrich relationships. Face-to-face contact with people can even lead to finding ways of cooperating and collaborating with each other. But if the ‘other’ is not presented in an attractive manner, positive relationships will not develop.
The purpose of our dialogue with Muslims is to establish relationships with them and together to build up a just society where there will be peace, harmony, love and joy. On October 11, 2007, 138 Islamic scholars sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders. This is an historic moment in the history of Muslim-Christian relations. We can no longer remain aloof and segregated but we must work together as genuine partners with a common goal.
The letter reminds us that Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population and that the future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians. The unity of God, love of God and the love of neighbour is common ground between us. These are the points of convergence to be found in the Scriptures of both religions. About God’s unity we read in the Holy Quran: “He is the God, the One! God, the Self-Sufficient besought of all!” (112: 1-2). Of the necessity of the love of neighbour, the Prophet Muhammad said: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour what you love for yourself.” In the New Testament Jesus said: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mk 12: 29-31).
There is a clear invitation in these two religions to worship the one true God and to love him above all things. Moreover, the love of God is extended to the love of neighbour. These two love-commandments lead us into the deeper reality of our commitment to justice and freedom. Every Christian and Muslim is called to practice these commandments sincerely, genuinely, honestly, and truthfully.
In this volume of Salaam, we present to the readers some significant articles. In ‘My Experience in a Muslim Family’, Joseph Raj narrates his live-in experience with a poor Muslim family of rag pickers. Living a life of utter poverty with this family, he has entered into the life situations of the Muslims, gaining their confidence and assurance. In ‘Muslims in Australia’, Herman Roborgh says that many of the 3, 00,000 Muslims in Australia are born here and that others have come from Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Sudan. These Muslims can make a contribution to Australian society by living according to the eternal values and guidance of the Qur’an. S.M. John Kennedy writes about ‘Jesuits making an impact in Afghanistan’. Afghanistan is a male-dominated Islamic country with 98.9% Muslims. Only one Church (within the vicinity of the Italian Embassy) exists in the whole country. Presently there are a few nuns and Jesuits involved in the work of peace-building, conflict resolution, women’s empowerment and improving the quality of the life of the people. Christian Troll has written a scholarly article entitled: ‘Islam lived and perceived from within a pluralistic nation and world: the case of Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad”.
The Patna branch of the Institute of Objective Studies, situated in New Delhi, in collaboration with the Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Patna, organized a one-day seminar on Inter-faith Dialogue: Approaches and Modalities, at the Khuda Bakhsh Library on Sunday, August 12, 2007. Paul Jackson, President of ISA presented a paper during the seminar on this topic.
Recently, Herman Roborgh completed a critical analysis of the nine-volume commentary on the Qur’an by Amin Ahsan Islahi. The Farahi-Islahi school of thought stresses the interconnectedness of all Surahs (or chapters) of the Qur’an. Joseph Puthen reports on the lecture delivered by Herman Roborgh in the area of his research at Vidya Jyothi, New Delhi.
Salaam wishes all its readers, a very happy Christmas and a Joyous New Year 2008. May the Baby Jesus bless and accompany us in our inter-religious journey!