World Peace?

This was too much to pass up…

In a recently released letter by a team of 138 leading Islamic scholars, Muslims all over the world—as interpreted by this constituent team, I can only presume—are calling out for an open dialogue between Muslim and Christian leaders for the sake of the “survival of the world.” The letter was addressed to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders throughout the world in an apparent attempt to quell the violence which occurs between Christians and Muslims the world over. “Finding common ground between Muslims and Christians is not simply a matter for polite ecumenical dialogue between selected religious leaders,” the scholars say. “Together [the two religions] make up more than 55 per cent of the population, making the relationship between these two religious communities the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world. If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace.” (cf. FoxNews story)

Without going into this letter specifically (since I’m sure it’ll get enough publicity the way it is) and without talking about politics (since that’s not what I’m about), I think it is absolutely fundamental to discuss briefly the reasons why we find this current global situation in the first place. It would take a book to cover them all, no doubt, but there seems to be one glaring criterion of truth that is all but forgotten in most circumstances…

Throughout history, since the foundation of Islam, these two major world religions have continuously vied for control in areas such as the Middle East. Today, this ‘battle’ is beginning to rage even more viciously across the European continent and, in some part, the Americas. Although both religions profess to be peaceful, a fallen human world (and thereby fallen human agendas) no doubt penetrates both to a great degree. Thus, it really isn’t all that surprising that there is such a continual problem with peaceful relations.

That being said—and this is what I wanted to point out especially—it must be noted that most people make a huge and erroneous generalization when speaking of ‘Christians’ and ‘Muslims.’ Although the Christian world strives to be united in Jesus Christ and, ideally, one Church, there is still a network of deep divisions that separate the various notions of ‘Christianity’ accepted in the world today; while some Christians really are peaceful people, some are simply violent people parading around under the guise of “peace” and “acceptance.” Let me simply state that true peace does not mean the absence of all conflict, but rather the underlying joy in Christ that permeates the sincerely Christian life. To identify ‘Christianity’ as the general assembly of all who nominally profess to follow Christ is not sufficient. Likewise—and I am no scholar of Islam, but this I can say confidently—there are many sects of in the Muslim world that are often taken as one, collective whole. Since there is no unified and centrally accepted Islamic doctrine that encapsulates all Islamic sects, we cannot rightly speak of ‘Muslims’ in a truly collective sense.

Although this just scrapes the surface of what underlies the tension in the religious world today, I think it is an angle all too often left aside, either by the media or in forming personal opinions. However, it is most certainly one in need of consideration, since without an actualization of the division between men we cannot truly hope to heal the wounds that separate them. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens with this proposed summit of religious leaders called for in the letter, but in the mean time we can definitely do a lot of reflecting about what it really means to be Christian (or Muslim), and how that influences everything from our world-view to our own relationship with God.