Muslims and Christians trade love poems at Yale

NEW HAVEN — I write from Yale University Law School, where the subject of the morning has not been torts but love.

L.O.V.E.

More than 150 Muslim and Christian scholars from around the world are here to find common ground. And that common ground, they say, is love — love of God and love of the neighbor.

How to translate this shared love of love into real-world understanding is, of course, the real trick. But they are giving it the old (Yale) college try.

This all stems from an open letter last year from 138 Muslim leaders to their Christian counterparts, which focused on love of God and neighbor. This letter provoked numerous responses, among them from a group of scholars at Yale.

And here we are. Everyone agrees that Islam and Christianity must get past their various raging conflicts and find something like peace. And everyone seems to agree that a focus on love is a good way to get going.

But a workshop that just finished on the concept that “God is Loving” was hopelessly academic (and I’m pretty used to religious jargon). One person even stood up to ask how it’s all going to reach the less-academic masses.

The fact that there are almost no reporters here (maybe a dozen, half from outside the U.S.) is not promising. But you have to start a dialogue somewhere, right?

One of the main forces behind the Muslim letter and this conference, Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, warned that the growing animosity between Christians and Muslims can lead to war or genocide if someone doesn’t step up to the plate and do something. He’s trying.

It is an impressive gathering. There are big-name Muslim leaders from Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Bosnia, Kosovo, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Jordan and on and on.

Prince Ghazi drew one of the only laughs of the morning from a pretty serious crowd. He talked of meeting with the Dalai Lama to bring Buddhists into the loving conversation.

“I would like to say this,” Prince Ghazi said. “He is a lot nicer than you Christians.”

I have very limited Wi-Fi access here, so I don’t know if or when I’ll be able to post again…

Love thy (Christian and Muslim) neighbors

Tomorrow morning, I’ll be heading up to Yale to cover the first day of: Loving God and Neighbor in Word and Deed: Implications for Christians and Muslims.

This is a big, week-long gathering of more than 150 Muslim and Christian leaders from around the world.

Yes, the goal is to learn how to get along (better).

It dates back to last year’s open letter from 138 Muslim leaders to world Christendom, which basically made the argument that both Islam and Christianity center around a love of God and a love of the neighbor. So why can’t we get along?

340x.jpgAmong the many responses came a statement from scholars at Yale, which was eventually signed by more than 300 deep thinkers. Yes, everyone was in favor of getting along.

The Vatican hosted several of the Muslim letter writers for a meeting. More good vibes.

And now the first of several major conferences to further advance the good vibes is happening at Yale. Others to come at Cambridge U, the Vatican, at Georgetown U and in Jordan.

The Big Question, it seems to me, is how you get past the very general agreements (For example: We all love God) and figure out how to apply religious teachings to all the trouble in the world. That’s why it’s about Word and Deed, I suppose.

Day one of the public session (the scholars have been meeting behind closed doors for several days) will feature panels called “God is Loving,” “Loving God” and “Loving Neighbor.”

We’ll see how it goes. I hope to blog (Web connection permitting).

The keynotes will be by the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, H.E. Shaykh Mustafa Cerić (that’s him), and Sen. John F. Kerry. Kerry must have talked about interfaith relations during his ill-fated presidential campaign, but I don’t recall anything off the top.

The conference website defines the “issues” being faced this way:

Central to the task of the Reconciliation Program is bridge-building scholarship on the critical social, political, moral/ethical and theological issues which sometimes divide Muslims and Christians, and on concerns which unite them.

Though contemporary social and political issues often seem most pressing in the glare of media coverage, it is perhaps the theological and moral/ethical issues which are most important to Muslim and Christian people of faith. Reconciliation Program research seeks to help Muslims and Christians to find common ground on issues where they frequently think no common ground exists. And in areas where they do disagree, it seeks to foster mutual understanding, so that differences may be construed with respect, sympathy and fairness.

On this page we offer draft articles on a number of important theological issues and political issues in Muslim-Christian dialogue. The list of issues here is far from exhaustive, and the articles represent just a tentative beginning, but they are offered by way of beginning a conversation which we hope will enrich all concerned.

Major Muslim/Christian conference set at Yale: ‘Loving God and Neighbor’

I’ve blogged a few times in the past about a letter signed by 138 Muslim scholars calling for a new era of understanding between Muslims and Christians.

The letter — called A Common Word Between Us and You (no, it doesn’t sing) — provoked some very positive responses from Christian leaders. The Vatican invited several of the Muslim signees for a visit and ongoing dialogue. The Archbishop of Canterbury and others reacted with great enthusiasm.

In addition, a group of scholars at Yale University wrote a thoughtful and affirmative response. An ensuing dialogue led to what will be a major gathering of Muslim and Christian leaders at Yale later this month.

The theme of the conference: “Loving God and Neighbor in Word and Deed: Implications for Christians and Muslims.” It will bring together about 60 Muslim scholars (mostly from the Midde East), about 60 Christians and several Jewish observers.

txtbanner2.gifAccording to a statement: “…we have set as our goal the exploration of ways in which the common commitments can help rectify distorted perspectives Muslims and Christians have of each other and repair relations between the Middle East and the West. If Muslims and Christians, who together comprise more than half the world’s population, can acknowledge mutual commitment to loving God and loving neighbor the boost to a dynamic and peaceful interdependence in our globalized world would be immense.”

Could make for some lively discussions.

Over the next year or so, similar gatherings will be held at Cambridge University, the Vatican, Georgetown University and in Jordan.