When Middle Eastern Christians and Muslims meet to discuss religion and the region’s future, it can sometimes seem like they are talking about two different places and using divergent meanings for the same words.
The Christians, worried by the rise of Islamists since last year’s Arab Spring democratic uprisings, usually speak of reforms they want to see so they and other religious minorities can live as full and equal citizens with the majority Muslims.
Faced with the protesters’ grassroots demands for more individual rights, the Muslims often cite the tolerance and co-existence that marked the region’s multicultural past as useful guideposts for interfaith relations going forward.
Some meetings, such as one held in Istanbul last weekend, end with declarations supporting national unity and respect for religious diversity. But the words can have such different shades of meaning that it’s not clear how much progress is made.