Catholic-Muslim Forum ends on upbeat note

November 7, 2008

The Catholic-Muslim Forum ended on Thursday evening on an upbeat note. After two days of closed-door talks and an audience with Pope Benedict, the delegations held their only public session of the conference (right) to present a joint communique and answer some questions.The final declaration (full text here) had a series of interesting points that show progress in the dialogue among the experts involved. They will need some unpacking in the real world before we know how much real progress has been made. Here are some of the points with some quick observations in italics:

  • 2. Human life is a most precious gift of God to each person. It should therefore be preserved and honoured in all its stages. (interesting common pro-life slant here. Any joint initiatives coming up here?)
  • 3. Human dignity is derived from the fact that every human person is created by a loving God out of love … he or she is entitled to full recognition of his or her identity and freedom by individuals, communities and governments, supported by civil legislation that assures equal rights and full citizenship. (this means support for minorities, whether they’re Christians in Muslim countries or Muslim minorities in the West, on the basis of both faiths and not just secular notions that can be contested as foreign to a certain culture)
  • 4. We affirm that God’s creation of humanity has two great aspects: the male and the female human person, and we commit ourselves jointly to ensuring that human dignity and respect are extended on an equal basis to both men and women. (that’s pretty clear)
  • 5. Genuine love of neighbour implies respect of the person and her or his choices in matters of conscience and religion. It includes the right of individuals and communities to practice their religion in private and public. (no mention here of conversion in Muslim countries)
  • 6. Religious minorities are entitled to be respected in their own religious convictions and practices. They are also entitled to their own places of worship, and their founding figures and symbols they consider sacred should not be subject to any form of mockery or ridicule. (this refers in the same sentence to the Catholic concern for churches in Muslim countries and the Muslim concern about caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad. Any linkage there? )
  • 8. We affirm that no religion and its followers should be excluded from society. Each should be able to make its indispensable contribution to the good of society, especially in service to the most needy. (this one also cuts both ways, like item 3)
  • 10. We are convinced that Catholics and Muslims have the duty to provide a sound education in human, civic, religious and moral values for their respective members and to promote accurate information about each other’s religions. (that education aspect will be important)
  • 11. We profess that Catholics and Muslims are called to be instruments of love and harmony among believers, and for humanity as a whole, renouncing any oppression, aggressive violence and terrorism, especially that committed in the name of religion, and upholding the principle of justice for all. (Western critics often say Muslims don’t denounce terrorism enough, even though many do that they don’t notice. Could this boost that visibility?)
  • 14. We have agreed to explore the possibility of establishing a permanent Catholic-Muslim committee to coordinate responses to conflicts and other emergency situations and of organizing a second seminar in a Muslim-majority country yet to be determined. (this is the crisis management option I mentioned a few days ago)

The final session was actually quite strained, with testy questions and answers, which led some journalists to ask whether the positive signals we’d been getting did not really reflect the mood in the private talks. Several participants, including senior Muslim delegate Seyyed Hossein Nasr who was in the middle of it all, denied that was the case. As all present could see, the strains emerged when Monsignor Khaled Akasheh, the desk officer for Islam in the Vatican’s interfaith department who was moderating the session, tried to stop Nasr from answering questions put to him. Another curious decision was to let a relatively low-ranking delegate, a lay professor from Paris named Joseph Maila, answer questions for the Catholic delegation rather than delegation head Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran or another senior Vatican official.More on this later…


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Do you think this is what Jesus would want? To say that Jesus is God is a sin punishable by death in the Islam religion. Jesus said that if you don’t know me then you do not know my father who sent me. Jesus told people to turn away from their false Gods. Those in the Catholic church who are christians should be sharing the gospel with their Muslim friends. And on another point, has the Pope apologized to Muslims for the Crusades?

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[…] the Seminar held in Rome last autumn by the Catholic-Muslim Forum, the participants examined the central role played in our respective religious traditions by the […]

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,All Praise is for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, He says: “Cooperate towards righteousness and piety and do not cooperate towards sin and enmity.” (5:2)Mercy and Peace upon our exemplary leader, Muhammad, who said: “Allah will continue to assist the servant as long as the servant is assisting his brother.” (Muslim 2699) And upon his mutually cooperative and supportive companions. Among them were the Ash’ari Clan. When they were afflicted with a period of deprivation they would collect all of their provisions and divide them amongst themselves -as mentioned in the Hadith.I wish to take this opportunity to encourage our brothers [and sisters] who are cooperating to assist the virtuous, scholarly Imam, Siraj Wahhaj, during his trial, which is a manifestation of the divine decree enacted in this world. With it Allah expiates misdeeds and elevates by degrees. This is a blessing for the believers who when afflicted with hardship patiently endure it, and when graced with ease thank [Allah].We plead for your support and invite all of the Muslims (worldwide) to cooperate with us and make sincere donation to our virtuous brother, the activist Imam, Siraj Wahhaj, as he receives final treatment for prostate cancer. We ask Allah that He cures us and him; grants both us and him well being; and that He envelopes us all in His blessings in perceptible and imperceptible ways.[Furthermore], that He blesses us and Imam Siraj Wahhaj to be steadfast in practice and faith and that He bestows upon us and Imam, Siraj Wahhaj excellence in religion. Please! Let’s continue to make du’a for him and render financial support in abundance for the conclusion of his treatment and for all the believers who are facing health issues. I pray that we can all improve our health and take important steps to achieve and maintain holistic wellness in mind, body and spirit.Donation is to be made via western union or moneygramm with the below information and special prayer (Salaat) has been declared to favour all donators.Receiver’s name: Abdul-Malik WahhajAddress: 2 Victoria Road, London IG11 8PYKindly send western union or moneygramm payment information to the below email:Email:…and provide your name, address and telephone number as, we shall communicate you in due time and you will receive a reward package.May Allah bestow His Mercy and Peace upon you as you donate to save the life of Imam Siraj Wahhaj!From:Shaykh ‘Abdullah bin BayyahJeddah, Saudi Arabia”And if Allah touches thee with affliction, none can remove it but He: But if He bestows upon you a favor, remember that He is the Possessor of every power to do all that He wills.”(Qur’an 6:17)….Givers Never Lack!

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