Welcome and Unwelcome Truths between Jews, Christians and Muslims: A Platform Statement from the Sternberg Centre JCM Dialogue Group: November 2004
We are a group of Jews, Christians and Muslims who have been meeting for twelve years though some of us have joined more recently. We feel it is time to make a public statement to express our shared concerns. We wish to emphasise our shared belie fin God, the shared moral and spiritual values of our three faiths, and to draw attention to the urgent need for inter-religious understanding and co-operation to promote a more just and peaceful and ecologically sustainable world.
While rejecting the widespread notion that religion is always and necessarily divisive, we believe that Jews, Christians and Muslims should acknowledge some unwelcome truths:
1. At various times in history relations between the three communities have been marred by discrimination and violence, and within each community religion has also been a source of sectarian strife.
2. In Jewish, Christian and Muslim scriptures and traditions one can find passages that have often been interpreted to support exclusive truth claims and a sense of superiority.
3. In practice, each faith has been notably self-centred and lacking in self-criticism, claiming for itself a superior position and a unique authority. Humility has often been notably lacking, and in its place arrogance and triumphalism have been all too evident.
There is a real danger now that these unwelcome truths, combined with political injustice, human rights abuses, poverty, hatred, fear, ignorance, globalisation, war as an instrument of imperial policy, and the failure to respect international legal or ethical principles, will aggravate conflicts, intolerance, and even anarchy around the world.
Jews, Christians and Muslims must not allow their religion to be abused in this way by exclusivist ideologues. We must make a stand together for peace, understanding, compassion and justice. We must welcome religious diversity and concede that no single religion can claim a monopoly of Truth. We must each put our own house in order, recognising what we have in common, accepting that our scriptures and histories are interconnected, and acknowledging our interdependence. Each faith has its contribution to make both separately and together: indeed, at this era in history we need each other far more than in the past, and the future of our world demands that we teach to our communities the value and benefits of dialogue co-operation and interdependence.
Jews, Christians and Muslims can be inspired to change their mind-sets for the better by considering the following welcome truths:
1. We worship and serve the God who created and sustains the universe, the One God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Behind our differences lies One unity.
2. We share the same general code of ethics, which condemns murder, theft and adultery, and demands that we secure the rights of those who have been denied their rights, to care for those in need, the sick, the suffering, the widow and the orphan, to welcome the stranger, the outcast and the persecuted, and to offer shelter and refuge to the homeless and the dispossessed.
3. Each of us inherits a broad and rich religious tradition within which many different views can coexist.
What We Believe
We believe that:
1. Religious and cultural diversity should be valued and celebrated, in the full knowledge that each faith tradition is unique and invaluable.
2. As human beings with human limitations, we will never be able to grasp the full meaning of the Truth or comprehend God's nature.
3. Our respective religious traditions are capable of exploring the implications of new insights and dilemmas presented by modern science and technology and that we have a duty to reinterpret our religion with this aim in mind.
4. Our religious scriptures must not be used in a simplistic way; they need careful interpretation, bearing in mind both their historical context and their relevance to present needs. …