PARIS – LEADING Muslim scholars have addressed warm Christmas greetings to Christians around the world, a message notable both for what it said and the fact that it was sent at all.

The greetings, sent by a group of 138 Sunni, Shi’ite, Sufi and other scholars who recently proposed a dialogue with Christian leaders, called for peace on earth and thanked church leaders who have responded positively to their invitation.

The message, as the dialogue proposal made in October, was unprecedented because there has not been until now such a large group of Islamic scholars that could draft a common letter.

Islam is a decentralised faith, with no pope or archbishop who can speak for believers as a group. While individual Muslim clerics have exchanged holiday greetings with Christians in the past, nothing on this scale has been possible before.

‘Al-Salaamu Aleikum, Peace be upon you, Pax Vobiscum,’ the greetings letter began in Arabic, English and Latin. The text is available on the group’s website

It noted that Christmas came just after the Muslim haj pilgrimage to Mecca and the Feast of Sacrifice (Eid al Adha) recalling how the Prophet Abraham almost sacrificed his son.

‘God’s refusal to let Abraham sacrifice his son … is to this day a divine warrant and a most powerful social lesson for all followers of the Abrahamic faiths, to ever do their utmost to save, uphold and treasure every human life and especially the lives of every single child,’ it said.

‘May the coming year be one in which the sanctity and dignity of human life is upheld by all,’ it added. ‘May it be a year of humble repentance before God and mutual forgiveness within and between communities.’