A Common Word

It is natural that there should be some good and interesting dialogue between Unitarian Christians and Muslims, our common belief in the Unity of God and the humanity of Jesus cannot but help this continue to develop. Over the years here in Cambridge we have developed just such good and rewarding relationships. I have realised that there are also some hidden historical links between our communities - at least in terms of perceived identity. Back in the seventeenth century the foundational foundational document of Unitarian Christianity, the Racovian Catechism, was denounced in 1650 by Francis Cheynell as a ‘Racovian Alcoran’ and in 1698, the Anglican preacher Robert South referred to an anti-Trinitarian (i.e. a Unitarian) as a ‘Mahometan Christian.’ As Nabil Matar in Islam in Britain 1555-1685 (CUP 1998) notes, ‘[e]vidently, those who ventured into anti-Trinitarian theologies were viewed as crypto-Muslims: as a result, orthodox theologians started seeing Muslims wherever they saw Unitarians’ (p. 48). I recently preached a sermon unfolding the implications of some of this. You can find it here.

Anyway, historical relations aside and as interesting though they are, we must not ignore present relationships and attempts to reach out to each other in a constructive spirit. To this end some 138 Muslim scholars from around the world and from an extremely wide spectrum of the faith have produced A Common Word addressed to Christians everywhere. It begins:

and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.

The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity.

Do please go to the website and take a look at the document. It encourages folk to endorse it and, especially because it is signed by a two scholars whom I know personally and for whose intelligence, compassion and openness I can personally vouch, this is something I have done myself.


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