We Can Create a Religious Heaven Here on Earth; AGENDA

Article excerpt

They may have their differences, but rather than a clash of civilisations Christianity and Islam share common bonds that can strengthen the ties between their followers, says Waqar Ahmad Ahmedi

At the end of Ramadan, traditionally a time for reconciliation, a group of international Islamic scholars sent a letter to Christian leaders around the world inviting them to a greater understanding of each other, and a united front against injustice.

The communication, entitled A Common Word Between Us and You, also warned that any tensions between the two faiths could lead to perilous unrest of global proportions.

If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, it read, the world cannot be at peace.

It comes a year after the Pope's controversial comments in Germany where he suggested that Islam was spread by the sword.

An ITV documentary aired last month, The Muslim Jesus, explored similarities and differences between gospel and accounts in the Koran about the life and death of Christ.

More recently, Channel 4's Dispatches reported on Muslim apostates and active attempts by some groups to convert Muslims to Christianity.

There does seem, then, on the backdrop of today's volatile political climate, renewed interest in current relations between the two great religions.

The question arises, though, whether this age-old battle for hearts and minds is being blown out of proportion, or really is on the road to something quite catastrophic.

For centuries Christianity and Islam have been the most influential and inspirational belief systems on the planet. There do remain some major theological sticking points, in particular the idea of the Trinity, Jesus' Divinity and his Resurrection and Ascension.

There are also opposing positions with regard to Muhammad being the Spirit of Truth, Comforter and Counsellor which Muslims hold as having been foretold in the Bible.

Disagreements, however, have not just been doctrinal - the Crusades serve as a stark reminder how scriptural disparity (and claims to sacred land) can spill over into mass bloodshed in the name of God.

Equally unpleasant was the mischievous campaign led by Western Orientalists to attack and undermine the character of the Prophet.

They even went to the extent of calling him the anti-Christ.

However, it is important to remember that notwithstanding such ugly episodes in history, Christian and Muslim relations have been very harmonious.

There should be no reason why not, for both the Bible and Koran share common ground on numerous fronts - belief in a Supreme God, reverence for His Prophets, the sanctity of life, love for one's neighbours, service to the community and the importance of family.

The Koran testifies to this special relationship:

"And thou shall surely find those who say, 'We are Christians,' to be the nearest of them in friendship to the believers. …