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Common Words in Muslim-Christian Dialogue

Common Words in Muslim-Christian Dialogue. A study of texts from the Common Word dialogue process

  • Book Title:
 Common Words In Muslim Christian Dialogue
  • Book Author:
Vebjørn Horsfjord
  • Total Pages
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  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction: It Takes Two to Dialogue 1
    • Letters and Conference Statements 3
    • Jordanian Roots 6
    • The Common Word Process and Academia 7
    • Goal: To Understand What These Men are Doing 8
  • We Muslims and You Christians: A Common Word between Us and You 13
    • A Complex Text: Structure and Main Argument 14
    • Textual Forerunners 17
    • A Common Word: A Second Open Letter 24
    • Using Sacred Texts 26
    • Publication, Promotion and Related Dialogue Initiatives 35
    • Muslims and Christians: Construction of Group Identities 40
    • What Does acw Do? 47
    • Conclusion: It Takes Two to Dialogue 52
  • The First Christian Responses 55
    • Response from David Ford 56
    • Senior Church Leaders Respond 58
    • An Alternative Reading: Michael Nazir-Ali 62
    • Conclusion 63
  • Roman Catholic Responses 64
    • Catholic-Muslim Dialogue since the Second Vatican Council 65
    • First Official Catholic Responses to acw 74
    • Five Substantial Commentaries from Four Scholars 75
    • Catholic-Muslim Dialogue in the Wake of acw 83
    • Conclusion 93
  • The Yale Response: Loving God and Neighbor Together 96
    • An Advertisement in the New York Times 97
    • Interacting with acw: Arguments, Speech Acts, Construals 100 ily Gestures, but Little Flesh 106
  • .4 Conclusion 108
  • vi Contents
  • World Evangelical Alliance: We Too Want to Live in Love, Peace, Freedom and Justice  111
    • The Text and Its Main Arguments 112
    • What wwll Does 117
    • Different Difference 121
    • Interpreting Evangelicals: Beyond Polite Dialogue? 122
    • Conclusion 124
  • World Council of Churches: Learning to Explore Love Together 126
    • Four Decades of Christian-Muslim Dialogue 127
    • Learning to Explore Love Together: A Resource Document 132
    • Conclusion 138
  • Rowan Williams: A Common Word for the Common Good 140
    • Background and Context 141
    • The Text and Its Main Arguments 144
    • What the Text Does 152
    • Managing Differences Discursively 158
    • Conclusion 165
  • Orthodox Church Leaders: Responses from Five Contexts 167
    • Response from Archbishop Mor Eustathius Matta Roham, Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch 168
    • Response from Catholicos Aram i, Armenian Orthodox Church 172
    • Response from the See of Etchmiadzin (The Armenian Orthodox Church) 174
    • Response from Patriarch Alexy ii of Moscow and all Russia 177
    • Response from Archbishop Chrisostomos ii of Cyprus 181
  • We Muslims and Christians Together: Statements from Dialogue Conferences 185
    • Declaration from the Yale University Conference, July 2008 187
    • Communique from the Cambridge Conference, October 2008 192
    • Declaration from the Catholic-Muslim Forum, November 2008 197
    • Statement from the Geneva Consultation, November 2010 204
    • Conclusion: acw as Proposition and Invitation 208
  • Contents
  • Lessons 210
    • Making Sense of a Common Word 210
    • Cross-cutting Topics 212
    • Religion and the Religious 216
    • The Myth of Interreligious Dialogue 219
    • A Hermeneutics of Good Will 226
    • Managing Difference – In-groups and Out-groups 232 243
  • ex of Names and Subjects 260

Orthodox Church Leaders: Responses from Five Contexts

The Orthodox respondents’ most important contribution to the Common Word process is anchoring discussions on Muslim-Christian relations in concrete geographical and historical contexts. Among the 27 church leaders named in acw’s list of addressees, 19 are leaders of Orthodox churches, many of them in or close to the Muslim heartlands of the Middle East.

Nevertheless, their leaders are severely underrepresented among those who have offered for-mal responses to the Muslim leaders’ letter. In a comment on the reception of acw, the archbishop of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in New York, Mykhayil Javchak Champion, observed on 9 December 2007:

I read news articles, searched the internet, checked as many sources as I could, and what I discovered was that, to the best extent that my research can tell me, there has been NO response as of yet, by any leader in so-called “world-Orthodoxy”. This I find especially telling, since the letter was addressed not only to the Pope and Western Christian leaders, but it painstakingly mentioned, after His Holiness the Patriarch of the West, the heads of ALMOST each autocephalous and autonomous Orthodox church in the world.

Only later did Orthodox responses appear, and their number remained small. Haddad and Smith find that “primarily concerned with justice, the Orthodox responses to the cw [A Common Word] as a whole do not add significantly to theological reflection on the issues raised in the letter” (Haddad and Smith 2009: 381). This is taking a far too limited view of what constitutes theological reflection. Although it is true that justice is central in these texts, the explicit rootedness in concrete contexts, which is what they all have in common, adds to the overall reflection of the Common Word process.

Some of the Ortho-dox leaders write from minority positions otherwise lacking in this dialogue exchange, and all of them introduce other fault lines in addition to the Chris-tian-Muslim dichotomy which otherwise dominates. This adds not only to the understanding of practical and political questions, but also to theological reflection on interreligious dialogue.

A juxtaposition of responses to acw from five different Orthodox lead-ers will reveal certain shared patterns. The five church leaders are all either explicitly addressed by acw or they represent positions of great relevance to the dialogue process: Archbishop Mor Eustathius Matta Roham (Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch), Catholicos Aram i (Armenian Orthodox Church), Archbishop Yeznik Petrosyan (Armenian Orthodox Church), Patri-arch Alexy ii (Russian Orthodox Church), and Archbishop Chrisostomos ii (Church of Cyprus). Alexy and Chrisostomos are on acw’s list of addressees. Yeznik Petrosyan’s letter is on behalf of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and contains a greeting from Catholicos Karekin ii who is also on acw’s list. The two first are not in the same way addressees of acw, but they are senior church leaders and both work in Arab and Muslim majority contexts not far removed from Jordan where acw originated.

All of these texts take up rather specific issues related to the geographical location of their authors. Most of them show an interest for ethnic or other group boundaries in addition to – or sometimes instead of – the generalised Christian-Muslim divide that dominates acw and most other responses. Some of them show little interest in discussing theological matters and all focus (solely or in addition to theology) on practical/political issues. Some make the distinction between theology and practical matters explicit and indirectly challenge acw’s approach to this. All the texts take up the situation of Chris-tians in Muslim majority situations, some of them very directly. Defamation of holy sites or symbols is also a common theme.

Response from Archbishop Mor Eustathius Matta Roham, Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch

Along with the response from the World Evangelical Alliance, Archbishop Mor Eustathius Matta Roham’s response is the text in this study that goes fur-thest in its criticism of acw. Some of the arguments of these two texts, which come from opposite ends of the ecumenical spectrum, are strikingly similar. The  Syriac (Syrian/Assyrian) Orthodox Church has its primary belonging in an Arabic speaking context which sets it apart from all the other churches whose leaders’ responses to acw i analyse in this study.1 The head of the church,

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