From the Worldwide Faith News archives

WCC - Christians and Muslims together..

From "Sheila Mesa" <>
Date Fri, 21 Dec 2001 14:17:47 +0100

World Council of Churches
Update, Up-01-46
For Immediate Use
21 December 2001

"Christians and Muslims together - a charter for a dialogue of
life and common action" adopted by Arab Christian-Muslim Working

cf. WCC Press Release, PR-01-47, of 13 December 2001

At the conclusion of the second meeting in a series of three on
Christian-Muslim dialogue, held in Cairo, Egypt, 17-21 December,
the following release was issued on Thursday, 20 December, by the
Middle East Council of Churches (MECC). The World Council of
Churches (WCC) and the MECC jointly facilitated the three
meetings on Christian-Muslim dialogue at local, regional and
international level:  

"Christians and Muslims together - a charter for a dialogue of
life and common action" was adopted at a meeting here by the Arab
Christian-Muslim Working Group that has been meeting and working
together for over six years. The Group has been working closely
with the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC).  

The Charter (which in Arabic is called Mithaq) as adopted by the
group comes amidst a particularly turbulent climate that pervades
the entire world and is reflected in an especially critical way
in the Arab world. It is a product of more than two years'
careful research and study. Its formulation is an expression of a
shared commitment to engage energetically in "working together to
promote religious freedom".  

Insisting that religious freedom is "an intrinsic human right
that is affirmed by the dictates of religions," the Charter, or
Mithaq, urges that an interactive common living of Muslims and
Christians must take place not only through intellectual
discourse, but also through "a variety of action plans aimed at
standing together in the face of the challenges confronting our
societies in the spheres of social, educational, moral and
cultural arenas".  

Affirming unity and the common heritage of Muslims and
Christians, the Mithaq rejects "any foreign influence that is
part of a hegemonic design over the Arab world". The Charter also
calls for dealing with internal issues through the collaborative
efforts of Arab nationals - Muslims and Christians - who belong
together to the one homeland. This can only occur through
dialogue and cooperative work as "internal solutions" must be
free from outside interference that could only reinforce mutual
mistrust and intensify suspicion.  

Dialogue must continue to be an ongoing activity that is
translated into practical programs aimed at strengthening common
living and at addressing and treating "root causes of religious
intolerance and sectarian tensions", the document declares. It
also cautions against disregard for cultural and religious
identities. "Disrespect for diversity [in the Arab Society]," the
Charter declares, "is bound to lead to mutual exclusiveness,
restriction and antagonism" in areas that are otherwise open for
encounter, interaction and cooperation between Muslims and

The Charter also urges a rejection of confusing genuine
religious commitment with deplorable fanaticism that invariably
leads to extremism and violence. It insists that "such fanatic
attitudes are necessarily inconsistent with religion". It further
calls for "building a culture of dialogue" and for the promotion
of the "tolerant values of faith" which affirm the humanness and
spirituality of the other.  

The Mithaq recognizes that human difference and diversity are a
"reality that is in itself one of God's revelations in humanity
and in the created universe". It goes on to point out, in no
uncertain terms, the need to courageously and steadfastly
"confront forms of religious discourse that dehumanize, injure or
demonize [others]", and proposes, instead, "the offering of
constructive opportunities for mutual acquaintance, respect and
trust-building between the followers of both religions".  

Making a point of clarifying that the work group views
Christian-Muslim dialogue "neither as a vehicle for lslamic
proselytism or for Christian evangelization, nor an attempt
toward unification of the two faiths, or syncretism", the Charter
is to be a manifestation of the mutual respect of one another's
belief, and an affirmation of the spiritual foundations for a
living that is shared in common in one society.  

Likewise, the Mithaq is an "invitation" to a living dialogue
that reaffirms an Arab stance of Muslims and Christians who
together declare to the world a common commitment to defend their
common Arab causes, especially that of Palestine, with Al-Quds
[Arabic name of Jerusalem] as a priority.  

Special awareness of the dangers of the "clash of civilizations"
thesis is lifted up in the document by the group who calls,
instead, for advancing the alternative of a living dialogue among
cultures and civilizations. In that regard, the Charter pays
special attention to the need for ongoing dialogue on two levels:
the Muslim-Christian dialogue within the Arab world, on the one
hand, and, on the other, the dialogue between Arab Christians and
Muslims with peoples of other cultures.  

In releasing the document, the working group states: "It is out
of our faith in the One God, and by virtue of our conviviality,"
(that is, the common commitment to a life we share together as
Muslims and Christians) "that we affirm our moral and religious
obligation to work together toward strengthening our common and
equal belonging regardless of religious affiliation...We further
pledge to spare no effort toward freeing ourselves and our
societies from religious, ethnic or sectarian prejudice."  

Convened in 1995 and continuing to collaborate with the MECC,
the group is composed of Arab Muslim and Christian intellectuals,
religious leaders and people engaged in public life. The group
has been formed out of "unequivocal personal conviction" that
dialogue and cooperation constitute the most effective vehicle
for achieving unity and harmony between people of different
faiths. Members of this group claim "no authority to represent
any particular institution or organization". Through its working
history, the Working Group has facilitated a variety of programs
and activities that focus on issues such as citizenship,
diversity, pluralism and equity, civil society and political
participation, common living and action, and the "Abrahamic
heritage". Among such programs, a conference on "Muslims and
Christians Together for Al-Quds" was held in Beirut in June 1996,
at which some prominent Muslim and Christian leaders - lay and
religious - participated together for the first time.  

Members of the Arab Muslim-Christian Working Group are from
Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the Sudan, and the
Emirates. The group is open and welcomes others who are committed
to promoting the affirmations contained in the Mithaq.  

For further information please contact: Dr Riad Jarjour, general
secretary, Middle East Council of Churches, +357.5 - 58.60.22 or
- 58.62.35     or
Karin Achtelstetter, WCC Media Relations Officer, Tel:  (+41.22)
Mobile:  (+41)

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is a fellowship of churches,
now 342, in more than 100 countries in all continents from
virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is
not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The
highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately
every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in
Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general
secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.

World Council of Churches
Media Relations Office
Tel: (41 22) 791 6153 / 791 6421
Fax: (41 22) 798 1346

PO Box 2100
1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

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