Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Peace is the Way: A Christian-Muslim conversation

Interfaith Coalition for Peace (ICP) and Islamic Studies Association (ISA) jointly organized a meeting to reflect on Peace initiatives from Islamic and Christian perspectives at the India Islamic Cultural Center on 12 February 2012. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, a well known Qur’anic scholar and a spiritual leader from Center for Peace and Spirituality (CPS) and Prof Leo D Lefebure, Professor and the Matteo Ricci Chair, Department of Theology, Georgetown University, Washington, were principal speakers.

Prof Lefebure at the outset of his talk briefly noted the bitter animosity as well as harmony that existed between Christians and Muslims in the early centuries of Christian-Muslim relations. The animosity peaked during the Crusades and harmony sparkled while Christians, Muslims and Jews, worked jointly translating and commenting upon Greek treatises into Arabic and later re-translating the Arabic corpus into Latin.

Prof Lefebure focused mainly on the teaching of Jesus Christ as found in the gospels for forgiveness, reconciliation and also a way to build relations with Muslims. His expose was sprinkled with a luminous chain of texts from the gospels. He insisted polemics and ‘name calling’ is contradictory to the spirit of Christ. He called upon the attention of his listeners to the teaching of the Vatican Council II that proposed a new approach towards people of other religions especially Muslims in her various documents and to the words of Blessed John Paul II that called for mutual understanding between Muslim and Christian believers in order to remain committed to God and to work for peace and harmony.

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan in his talk stressed that the spirit of Islam is peace. He quoted a number of texts from the Qur’an and also the teachings of the prophet Muhammad that unambiguously argued for peace. “After studying and reflecting upon the original sources of Islam: the Qur’an and Hadith for many years, I say with conviction that all that creates hostility and hatred are contradictory to the spirit of Islam”, he said.  He explained that Islam has come to convey the proper understanding of the link between God and humanity. Man and woman are servants of God and consequently fear and love should mark their relationship with God. Islam prepares them for the last day, the Day of Judgment.  According to Maulana Khan, this understanding is the essence of Islam. He points out that the political discourse about the establishment of the Islamic State based on Qur’anic injunctions does not form the central message of Islam.

There were a few questions raised and clarification sought from the speakers that provided opportunity for dialogue. Victor Edwin, a member of ISA and a PhD student at Jamia Millia Islamia moderated event and Rev Dr Samuel Packiam, the secretary of ICP proposed vote of thanks. The meeting ended with sumptuous meals.

Victor Edwin SJ

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