“A Common Word Between Us and You" proposed to place Muslim-Christian relations on a new footing by putting at the center of that relationship the two commandments to love God with all of our being and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
The U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, February 15, 2009
Let me begin by expressing my thanks to the State of Qatar – Emir, government and people – and also to the Brookings Institution for their leadership in organizing this important conference, and for their warm hospitality which makes us all feel that we are among our brothers and sisters.
Muslims, Christians and Jews constitute among them 55% of the human race. Through the last fourteen centuries of history, our relations have often been far from peaceful. And the events of these first years of the 21st century have made clear that if the followers of the Abrahamic faiths do not learn to live with each other in love, then we may not be able to live at all. But if Muslims, Christians and Jews can learn to love each other as we read in the Torah and in the teachings of Jesus and the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad, then world peace will be much easier to attain.
On Eid al-Fitr 2007, 138 of the most prominent Muslim religious leaders and scholars in the world published an open letter titled “A Common Word Between Us and You,” in which they proposed to place Muslim-Christian relations on a new footing by putting at the center of that relationship the two commandments to love God with all of our being and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Many Christians, when we received it, immediately recognized it as potentially a watershed moment in the history of Muslim-Christian relations. In a moment I will explain why we saw this as a potential historic watershed, and what will be necessary for it to fulfill that potential. But first let me place it in context.
I trust that all of us attending this conference have come because we care deeply about making peace between the U.S. and the Muslim world. If are serious about making peace, then it is critically important that we not ignore the religious dimension of the peacemaking process. The large majority of the population both of the U.S. and of the Muslim countries of the world (many with Christian or Jewish minorities) are practicing followers of Abrahamic faiths. Opinion polls consistently show that both Americans and Muslims trust their religious leaders more than they trust their political leaders. If we want peace between the American people and the peoples of the Muslim world, then it is imperative that we work with – not against – the religious convictions of these people.
Often diplomats, politicians, scholars and journalists see religious faith as part of the problem, not as part of the solution. In recent years bestselling books have been written arguing that religion “ruins everything.” Religion, some writers argue, is the root cause of violence and conflict in the world today. To these people the solution is to have less religion. If only the people of the world would become less religious, then we could make peace.
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