Did you get your invitation to the Papal Meet-and-Greet this week at the Vatican? If you’re a moderate Muslim scholar you got one in your mailbox. I don’t know if any of the invitations were sent to the hardcore madrassas, but I’m sure they had to send their regrets. This meeting was spurred by the October 2007 issuance of A Common Word, an invitation to dialogue by 138 Islamic scholars. Since that time dozens of written responses , including Patriarch Alexei of the Russian Orthodox Church, have been made and some meetings have been held with various religious bodies.
Not that my opinion matters one bit, but do these kinds of talks ever work, despite all the time, money and effort put into them? It’s the same reason all ecumenical talks fail at some level. The end result of this hoopla is a diplomatically worded official statement that says “We love God, we pray to the same God, let’s try and get along, ok”. In the meantime, has there been a drop in Islamic extremism? Have fewer Christians been harassed, persecuted or killed in Islamic countries? Have Islamic countries changed their laws to reflect a new tolerance for conversion away from Islam? Nope, didn’t think so.
I honestly think that any effort to find common beliefs is always going to fail because at it’s most basic, we – Christians and Muslims – do not worship the same God, and to say so is doing a disservice to both faiths. Tell me we don’t have a totally different view of who God is, the nature of his revelation to the world and what that means for salvation. The most realistic expectation is for a statement that simply says “we respect each other’s right to worship, but we are going to agree to disagree”. End of story – 1400 years of trouble and bloodshed all wrapped up.