The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday in Oslo. What are the odds that a religious leader will win? I checked with our bureau in Oslo for the latest buzz.
“The Peace Nobel is basically a guessing game,” chief correspondent Wojciech Moskwa warned. A total of 205 individuals and organisations were nominated this year and a record number remained on the secret short list late last month, he learned in an interview with Geir Lundestad, the head of the Norwegian Nobel Institute. Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, French-Colombian politician and former hostage Ingrid Betancourt, Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Quang Do and various U.N. organisations have gained traction as possible nominees, but Lundestad firmly declined to comment on the speculation.
By contrast, the independent International Peace Research Institute (PRIO) in Oslo publishes its own picks and it named Colombian peace activist Piedad Cordoba, Jordanian interfaith dialogue pioneer Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal and Afghan human rights activist Sima Samar as its favourites. “PRIO does not appear to have any special inside track, but they have on occasion been right,” said Moskwa.
Readers of this blog will recognise the name of Prince Ghazi, author of the interfaith dialogue manifesto “A Common Word Between Us And You.” That document, initially signed by 138 Muslim scholars and addressed to the leaders of all main Christian churches around the world, marked a fresh approach in interfaith dialogue by stressing two common core principles in Islam and Christianity. As the group says on its website: “Simply put, it is about the Two Golden Commandments: Love of God and Love of Neighbor, and it is an invitation to join hands with Christians on such a basis, for the sake of God and for the sake of world peace and harmony.” In an unusual departure, the document based its argument on quotes from both the Bible and the Koran, opening a new path for the world’s two largest faiths to communicate with each other.
The Common Word group, by now expanded to 305 signatories, has held several conferences with Christian leaders and theologians to explore this new path. One is taking place this week at Georgetown University in Washington. Perhaps the most notable example of its influence was the way Pope Benedict spoke about Islam during his visit to the Middle East last May. His 2006 Regensburg speech, which implied Islam was a violent and irrational faith, so upset and angered the Muslim world that 38 Muslim scholars addressed an initial letter to him in October 2006 correcting some misinterpretations and requesting a dialogue. When no response came from the Vatican, they issued the Common Word document in October 2007 with 138 signatories. They held a successful conference with the Vatican in November 2008 and, in May 2009, Pope Benedict essentially embraced their approach and used their arguments in appealing for more Christian-Muslim dialogue.