Chapter 11: Conclusion
The dangerous international situation makes urgent demands upon both Christians and Muslims.
First, members of each faith need to purge their religion of isolationism, violence and acquiescence in social injustice. This will mean making clear the authentic interpretation of the teaching of the faith, challenging false interpretations, and may mean re-examination of traditional teaching in the current socio-historical context. In this task, the friendly criticism of the other may help members of one faith see how some traditional statements are misunderstood or how past hostilities still clod our relationship today. The outside can help us recognize our blind spots.
Secondly, Christians and Muslims need, together with members of other faiths, to reflect on the values that they share and on the moral basis of a healthy society and a just and peaceful international order. They then should work together for the implementation of these values. Dr S. A. Ali, Chancellor of Hamdard University in New Delhi, has expressed this very movingly, when he wrote,
'Doctrinal differences should be relegated to the rear and more important issues should be the focus of discussion. What is the meaning of life? What is the position of Islam and Christianity on moral issues like abortion, machine-assisted insemination and euthanasia? What are the social issues of our times and how to solve them? How can terrorism be combated and how to put a stop to the diversion of funds from development to the production of weapons of mass destruction? How to check pollution and improve the quality of life? How to secure for all people on earth basic human rights, freedom from fear and equality and dignity? To do this, and much else, is then the mission and goal of both Christianity and Islam. Should they not, then join hands and change the world scenario, fulfilling Omar Khayyam’s dream:
‘Ah Love! Could thou and I with Fate conspire
To change this sorry state of things entire?
Would not we shatter it to bits, and then
Remold it nearer to the heart's desire?
It is a hopeful sign that leaders of public opinion in other spheres of life are now recognizing the importance of the moral and spiritual dimension of life in society. This year, (2002) for the first time religious leaders were invited to participate in the State of the World Forum.
Thirdly, to make real change possible, people of different faiths need to be far more proactive in challenging the abuses of government, international institutions and the economic system. They should be the voice of the moral conscience of humanity pleading for the poor, the dispossessed and the victims of violence. They should speak together of human rights and respect for the environment. This is beginning to happen, but, paradoxically, the interfaith movement which draws together people of all faiths in the search for justice and peace at the same time often makes its members very critical of the compromises that many faith communities have made with the abuse of power and social injustice.
Fourth, Muslims and Christians require a better understanding and appreciation of each other's religion. The work of scholars in this field needs to be far more widely known. Some of the issues discussed in this book may at first seem rather remote from the current crisis, but I hope they show the wide agreement of both religions on their approach to life. Members of both faiths seek to live in accordance with the will of God. There are some disagreements in their understanding of the divine will and more often, as I have suggested, differences of emphasis. In open conversation, the emphases and insights of both faiths can help us come to a clearer understanding of the truth. We can be a spur to each other in our wish to know and obey God's purposes.
As the Qur’an says:
To each among you
Have we prescribed a Law
And an Open Way.
If Allah had so willed, He would have made you
A single People, but (His
Plan is) to test you in what
He hath given you: so strive
As in a race in all virtues.
The goal of you all is to Allah.
It is He that will show you
The truth of the matters
In which you dispute.