On the Christian side, the advent of Islam in the seventh century presented major challenges. In the short space of a century, Islam transformed the character and culture of many lands from northern India to Spain, disrupted the unity of the Mediterranean world, and displaced the axis of Christendom to the north. Islam challenged Christian assumptions. Not only were the Muslims successful in their military and political expansion, but their religion presented a puzzling and threatening new intellectual position.
John of Damascus in the eighth century provided the first coherent treatment of Islam. His encounter with Muslims in the Umayyad administrative and military center of Damascus led him to regard Islam not as an alien tradition but as a Christian heresy. Subsequent Christian writers, particularly those not living among Muslims, were even harsher.
This trend is especially evident in Europe following the Crusades. The Crusades, launched in , cast a long shadow over many centuries. In the midst of their stories of chivalry and fighting for holy causes, medieval writers painted a picture of Islam as a vile religion inspired by the devil or Antichrist. There were a few more positive voices among medieval Christians. Francis of Assisi d. Deep animosity toward Islam was pervasive, however.
Martin Luther d. Luther held the long-standing view that Islam as a post-Christian religion was false by definition. Several developments in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries set the stage for contemporary Muslim-Christian dialogue. First, constantly improving transportation and communication facilitated international commerce and unprecedented levels of migration. Second, schol-ars gathered a wealth of information on diverse religious practices and belief systems. Although Western studies of Islam were often far from objective, significant chan-ges have occurred.
Similarly, the scope and reliability of information on Christianity has broadened the horizons of many Muslim scholars during the past century. A third major factor contributing to the new context arose from the modern missionary movement among Western Christians. The experience of personal contact with Muslims and other people of faith led many missionaries to reassess their presuppositions. Participants in the three twentieth-century world missionary conferences Edinburgh in , Jerusalem in , and Tambaram [India] in wrestled with questions of witness and service in the midst of religious diversity.
These conferences stimulated debate and paved the way for ecumenical efforts at interfaith understanding under the auspices of the World Council of Churches WCC , founded in The dialogue movement began during the s when the WCC and the Vatican organized a number of meetings between Christian leaders and representatives of other religious traditions. These initial efforts resulted in the formation of new institutions.
In , toward the end of the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican Vatican II , Pope Paul VI established a Secretariat for Non-Christian Religions to study religious traditions, provide resources, and promote interreligious dialogue through education and by facilitating local efforts by Catholics. Several major documents adopted at Vatican II — focused on interfaith relations. The most visible Christian leader during the last quarter of the twentieth century, Pope John Paul II, was a strong advocate for the new approach to interfaith relations.
During his papacy — , John Paul II traveled to countries. He often met with leaders from various religions, on his travels and in Rome. He was the first pope to visit a mosque in Damascus in The spirit of his approach to Islam is evident in a speech delivered to over 80, Muslims at a soccer stadium in Casablanca:. Dialogue between Christians and Muslims is today more urgent than ever.
It flows from fidelity to God. Too often in the past, we have opposed each other in polemics and wars. I believe that today God invites us to change old practices. We must respect each other and we must stimulate each other in good works on the path to righteousness. In cooperation with more than three hundred WCC member churches, the DFI concentrated on organizing large international and smaller regional meetings and on providing educational materials.
By the s and s, other international organizations developed formal and informal programs for Muslim-Christian dialogue. At the local level, hundreds of interfaith organizations have facilitated dialogue programs. These programs are difficult to characterize because they vary substantially. Detailed information and analyses of activities in specific countries and organizations is accessible through the periodicals listed in the bibliography; the following examples illustrate the breadth of activity. In India and the Philippines, Christian institutions have studied Islam and pursued dialogue programs for decades.
These academic programs stimulated particular initiatives by churches and Muslim organizations. The Muslim community in Great Britain numbers well over two million. The large influx of Muslims since has spawned numerous local and national Islamic organizations, many of which are engaged with Christian counterparts in local churches or through programs of the British Council of Churches. Their concerns range from education and health care to the resolution of Middle East conflicts.
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In addition to numerous dialogue programs organized by local interfaith organizations or state councils of churches, two major academic centers in the U. For over fifty years, Hartford Seminary in Connecticut has specialized in the study of Islam and Muslim-Christian relations through degree programs, continuing education, and publications. Through research, publications, academic and community programs, the center seeks to improve relations between the Muslim world and the West as well as enhance understanding of Muslims in the West.
While the nature of the encounter differs from place to place and over time, most organized efforts adhere to a particular type of dialogue.
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As the interfaith dialogue movement emerged, organizers and participants developed several distinctive, yet interrelated modes. The earliest example was the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago.
Such gatherings became more frequent in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries under the auspices of multifaith organizations such as the World Conference on Religion and Peace and the World Congress of Faiths. Chapter 3 Interreligious Dialogue and Secularity. Chapter 5 Faith-based Diplomacy and Interfaith Activism. Chapter 6 Tolerance, Conscience and Solidarity. Chapter 8 The Sacred Space between.
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Editor and Contributor Biographies. Chapter 1 Preaching by Example and Learning for Life. Greg Barton. Chapter 3 Organizing Civil Society.
Etga Ugur. Chapter 4 Beyond Post-Islamism. Ihsan Yilmaz. Chapter 5 Muslims and Liberalization.
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Marie-Elisabeth Maigre-Branco. Paul Weller. Leonid Sykiainen. Paul Heck. Victoria Clement. Mohamed Osman. Yasien Mohamed. Towards a Conclusion. Chapter 4 The Law. Chapter 5 Religion or Belief Discrimination.
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