Islam Online, 27 Nov 07
by IOL Staff

CAIRO — Reciprocating a goodwill gesture by 138 Muslim scholars, more than 300 Christian scholars and clergymen from across the globe have signed a letter apologising to Muslims for the Crusades and the repercussions of America’s so-called war on terror.

“We want to begin by acknowledging that in the past (e.g. in the Crusades) and in the present (e.g. in excesses of the war on terror) many Christians have been guilty of sinning against our Muslim neighbors,” says the letter made available to the press at a news conference in Abu Dhabi on Monday, November 26.

“Before we ‘shake your hand’ in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world,” added the “Loving God and Neighbor Together” letter.

The Crusades were a series of military conflicts of a religious character waged by much of Christian Europe during 1095–1291, most of which were sanctioned by the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church to originally capture Al-Quds from Muslim rule.

The Vatican has never apologised for the Christian expeditions.

“It is an unprecedented gesture to bridge the gap between Muslims and Christians, who make up 55 percent of the world’s population,” Muslim preacher Al-Habib Ali Al-Jafri told the press conference.

Early October, 138 Muslim scholars and dignitaries, including Jafri, sent a letter to the world’s Christian clergy, including Pope Benedict XVI, for dialogue based on common essentials between Islam and Christianity.

The call has already won plaudits from many non-Catholic leaders, including Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Lutheran World Federation head Bishop Mark Hanson, World Council of Churches head Rev.Samuel Kobia and US Presbyterian Church head Clifton Kirkpatrick.

Roman Catholic cardinals said Sunday, November 25, the Vatican will have a positive response in the near future.

Actions not Words

The signatories of the new letter, mostly clergymen from the United States, said they were deeply “encouraged” and “challenged” by the Muslim letter.

“We receive the open letter as a Muslim hand of conviviality and cooperation extended to Christians world-wide,” they wrote.

“In this response we extend our own Christian hand in return, so that together with all other human beings we may live in peace and justice as we seek to love God and our neighbors.”

Miroslav Volf, founder and director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture who compiled the response letter, said they hope to narrow all differences between Muslims and Christians.

He hopes the Muslim and Christian letters would serve as a springboard for a more serious and respectful rather than a “polite ecumenical” dialogue between the two religions.

“We are persuaded that our next step should be for our leaders at every level to meet together and begin the earnest work of determining how God would have us fulfill the requirement that we love God and one another.”

Al-Jafri, the Muslim preacher, said Muslims would take more positive steps in the days to come.

“We will hold more conferences and meetings at all levels to enrich inter-faith dialogue.”

(read the letter here)
“Loving God and Neighbor together: A Christian Response to ‘A Common Word Between Us and You” (Yale Center for Faith and Culture)
Christians, Muslims seek ‘Common Ground’ at Historic Conference (Christianpost, 27 Jul 2008)