Christianity and the Middle East: Scholars to Ponder Implications of Inter-Faith History

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Christianity and the Middle East: Scholars to Ponder Implications of Inter-Faith History

By Rev. L. Humphrey Walz

Jordan's Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies in Amman will hold its first international workshop from Aug. 20 to 24 on "Muslim and Christian Perceptions of Each Other: The Historical Record." Similar scholarly conferences have been sponsored annually by Crown Prince Hassan, in London and Amman. These led to the establishment in 1994 of the Institute with a full-time director, Dr. Kamal Salibi, a noted Lebanese Christian historian. This step was designed to guarantee and amplify the continuity of such efforts in and through a single center.

At this year's workshop, authorities from Canada, Germany, Jordan, Lebanon, Spain, Syria, the U.K. and the U.S. will examine Christian and Muslim perceptions of each other over the centuries and their pertinence to the present scene. The full roster and other details may be secured from Dr. Salibi at the Institute, P.O. Box 830562, Amman, Jordan 11183; phone 962-6/618051; fax 962-6/618053.

Wadi' Z. Haddad of Hartford Seminary will give the opening paper--on the 10th century views of Abu al-Hasan Ali al-Mawadi regarding the role and status of Christians and Jews under Sunni caliphs and sultans. Charles Kimball of Furman University will report to the concluding session on "The 1994 Southern Baptist `Muslim Awareness' Conference." In between, 12 other participants from U.S. institutions are scheduled to present aspects of the intervening centuries. They are:

Harrison G. Griffith (Catholic University of America) on "Islam in the Summa Theologica Arabica: a view from the Melchite community in the early Abbasid period" (post-758).

Jane Smith (Iliff School of Theology) on "French Christian narratives concerning Mohammed and the religion of Islam from the 11th to the 18th centuries."

Ahmad Dallal (Yale) on "17th and 18th century legal and theological debates on the relationship between Muslims and Christians."

Rifat Hassan (Louisville University) on a Persian/Iranian theme to be announced.

Yvonne Haddad (University of Massachussets) on "Islamist depictions of Islam in the 20th century: the reconstruction of The Other."

Abdul Aziz Sachedina (University of Virginia) on "Political implications of the Islamic notion of `supersession' as reflected in Islamic jurisprudence."

John Voll (University of New Hampshire) on "Perceptions of necessary conflict: Muslim-Christian relations in the modern era."

Sulayman S. Nyang (Howard University) on "Muslim-Christian relations in the U.S.A."

Gerard Bowering (Yale) on "Muslim and Christian perceptions of times."

John Esposito (Georgetown University) on "Contemporary images of Islam and the West: dialogue or confrontation?"

Willem Bijlefeld (Hartford Seminary) on "A period of transition: Western Christian perceptions of Islam, 1900-1960."

Marston Speight (Hartford) on "The things of Caesar and the things of God (Mark 12:13-17) and the Muslim-Christian encounter."

U.S., Palestinian Prelates Speak Up

The present-day pertinence of the aims and contexts of the seminar described above has recently been highlighted by statements by Presiding Bishop Edmond L. Browning of the U.S. Episcopal Church and by Palestinian Roman Catholic Archbishop and Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem. On May 19, in harmony with related stances of other major American Christian denominations, Browning released the following official statement on the U.S. veto of the U.N. Security Council's condemnation of Israel's expropriation of non-Jewish property:

"I am deeply disappointed, and even ashamed, that our country would so use its veto in the United Nations Security Council and, thereby, give legitimacy to the state of Israel's continuing illegal expropriation of land in East Jerusalem. This action leads to several troubling conclusions:

"The integrity of the United States as an honest and fair sponsor in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is called into question. …