Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

United, Not Divided, by Faith

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

United, Not Divided, by Faith

Article excerpt

A recent article in the Monitor reported on an interreligious conference sponsored by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in July, and stated, "Top-tier religious leaders in the Muslim world are emerging as major proponents of dialogue with Christians and other world faiths.... Those involved see the initiatives, if sustained, as breaking down misperceptions, strengthening mainstream religious voices on the world stage, and diminishing the influence of extremism" ("A global bid to connect Muslims and Christians," July 29 ).

Also, a different series of conferences began this week at Yale University. That series is taking place in response to a letter, "A Common Word between Us and You," sent last fall by Muslim leaders to leaders of Christian churches.

These efforts deserve our prayers, first so that their good purposes can be carried out safely and with no injury to those involved. That safety is an important issue is highlighted in a report from "Daily Outlook Afghanistan," which says that a new Al Qaeda video is urging death threats against King Abdullah for sponsoring the July conference (July 30).

Our prayers can affirm God's power to protect all who love Him, no matter what their religious belief might be. And as it turns our thoughts to God with a desire to love our neighbors, it also lifts us above fear, suspicion, and anger toward those who might be different from us. It is, essentially, asking God to help us see these individuals as our brothers and sisters, united under God's government.

Jesus was well aware of how quickly divisions can form, and he was alert to the subtle way they can appear. At one point, a disciple told him, "Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us." Such a sentiment might seem logical - after all, these other people weren't getting as intense training as the disciples and yet were also healing people.

But Jesus responded differently. He told the disciple, "Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us" (Luke 9:49-50). Jesus knew that trying to establish formal criteria for one's suitability to worship God would simply set up the kind of walls that the scribes and Pharisees had already created. …

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