More on "A Common Word"

In our recent newsletter we informed you about “A Common Word.” It’s the letter written in October 2007 from Islamic scholars and leaders “representing all regions, denominations and schools of thought.” Their letter is addressed to the Pope and a long list of Christian leaders, “and leaders of Christian churches everywhere.”

In our recent newsletter we informed you about "A Common Word." It's the letter written in October 2007 from Islamic scholars and leaders "representing all regions, denominations and schools of thought." Their letter is addressed to the Pope and a long list of Christian leaders, "and leaders of Christian churches everywhere."

We recently visited a prominent Muslim scholar and authority in Istanbul to talk to him about the document. There are now at least 280 Islamic scholars and leaders, plus 460 Islamic organizations, who have signed it. Christians can also endorse it! Your congregation could do so. The document and supporting materials are found at this URL: http://www.acommonword.com/index.php?lang=en

The unusual title of the letter, "A Common Word between Us and You," is a quote from the Quran, the holy scripture of Islam, in which God commands Muslims to come to an agreement with Christians and Jews - the "People of the Scripture":

"Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God…. " (Quran - Aal 'Imran 3:64)

The scholars selected one verse from the Bible that they believe Christian, Muslims and Jews could all agree on: the "Great Commandment" found in the Christian New Testament, in which Jesus Christ 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.' This is the first commandment. / And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:29-31)

"A Common Word" has had much response from the Christian world, including the World Council of Churches, the Vatican, the National Council of Churches in the US (http://www.ncccusa.org/news/081008commonwordresponse.html), as well as the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). We were particularly impressed that Yale University Divinity School held a conference on the Muslims' letter (http://www.yale.edu/faith/rp/rp-lgnwd-conf.htm). Out of that conference emerged a practical suggestion that we would like to hold up to all congregations with which we have a missionary relationship, and, indeed, all churches. (Of course the suggestion also applies to Muslims.)

There should be "a week every year where Muslims and Christian religious figures are urged to emphasize the good in the other tradition."

This may sound simple but it is hard to do! It is also the essence of interreligious dialogue. We challenge your congregation to make this a top priority. We will be happy to help in any way we can.

Now let's return to the Islamic authority we visited here in Istanbul. Yes, he and other Turkish scholars signed the document. But while there are translations in English, Arabic, French, German, Indonesian, Spanish, Russian and Polish, there is no translation into Turkish. He agreed with us that such a translation should and would be done, opening up this fruitful dialogue to more Turkish leaders who may then read and sign the document. We are quite excited about the possibilities!

We also ask church members in the US to think about how they might sponsor the growth of their young members in positive interfaith relationships. A model for congregations in the Chicago area is Eboo Patel's Interfaith Youth Corps. Eboo Patel is a Muslim American. His youth corps seems to be a way for youth of different religious backgrounds to build relationships based on mutual respect, religious pluralism, discovering shared values such as hospitality and caring for the Earth, and living out these values together in a way that betters one's community. This looks like a great way to involve the youth of the church in interfaith mission. (http://www.ifyc.org/about_core).

The Global Ministries program of the United Church of Christ/Disciples of Christ has a "Global Mission Intern" program for young adults. We have found that those who become involved in Global Intern positions around the world have similar stimulating experiences.

Also this summer we sent two young women from Turkey – one Muslim and one Christian - to an interfaith youth conference in Lebanon called "Peace Building through Dialogue." The participating Christian and Muslim youth (20-30 years old) came from all over the Middle East. The NGOs that organize this conference receive some of their support from Global Ministries.

Love and Peace,

Ken & Betty Frank

Ken & Betty Frank serve with the American Board in Istanbul, Turkey.  They share the job of General Secretary of the American Board.  They also serve on the board of the Istanbul Interparish Migrant Program (IIMP).