Welcome and Unwelcome Truths Between Jews, Christians and Muslims

Sternberg Centre JCM Dialogue Group

Posted Mar 4, 2010      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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We are a group of Jews Christians and Muslims who have been meeting for 12 years though some of us have joined more recently. We feel it is time to make a public statement to express our shared concerns. We wish to emphasise our shared belief in God, the shared moral and spiritual values of our three faiths, and to draw attention to the urgent need for inter-religious understanding and co-operation to promote a more just and peaceful and ecologically sustainable world.

Unwelcome truths

While rejecting the widespread notion that religion is always and necessarily divisive, we believe that Jews, Christians and Muslims should acknowledge some unwelcome truths:

1. At various times in history relations between the three communities have been marred by discrimination and violence, and within each community religion has also been a source of sectarian strife.

2. In Jewish, Christian and Muslim scriptures and traditions one can find passages that have often been interpreted to support exclusive truth claims and a sense of superiority.

3. In practice, each faith has been notably self-centred and lacking in self-criticism, claiming for itself a superior position and a unique authority. Humility has often been notably lacking, and in its place arrogance and triumphalism have been all too evident.

The danger

There is a real danger now that these unwelcome truths, combined with political injustice, human rights abuses, poverty, hatred, fear, ignorance, globalisation, war as an instrument of imperial policy, and the failure to respect international legal or ethical principles, will aggravate conflicts, intolerance, and even anarchy around the world.

The remedy

Jews, Christians and Muslims must not allow their religion to be abused in this way by exclusivist ideologues. We must make a stand together for peace, understanding, compassion and justice. We must welcome religious diversity and concede that no single religion can claim a monopoly of Truth. We must each put our own house in order, recognising what we have in common, accepting that our scriptures and histories are interconnected, and acknowledging our interdependence. Each faith has its contribution to make both separately and together: indeed, at this moment in history we need each other far more than in the past, and the future of our world demands that we teach our communities the value and benefits of dialogue, co-operation and interdependence.

Welcome truths

Jews, Christians and Muslims can be inspired to change their mind-sets for the better by considering the following welcome truths:

1. We worship and serve the God who created and sustains the universe, the One God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Behind our differences lies One Unity.

2. We share the same general code of ethics, which condemns murder, theft and adultery, and demands that we secure the rights of those who have been denied their rights, to care for those in need, the sick, the suffering, the widow and the orphan, to welcome the stranger, the outcast and the persecuted, and to offer shelter and refuge to the homeless and the dispossessed.

3. Each of us inherits a broad and rich religious tradition within which many different views can coexist.

What we believe

We believe that:

1. Religious and cultural diversity should be valued and celebrated, in the full knowledge that each faith tradition is unique and invaluable.

2. As human beings with human limitations, we will never be able to grasp the full meaning of the Truth or comprehend God’s nature.

3. Our respective religious traditions are capable of exploring the implications of new insights and dilemmas presented by modern science and technology and that we have a duty to reinterpret our religion with this aim in mind.

4. Our religious scriptures must not be used in a simplistic way; they need careful interpretation, bearing in mind both their historical context and their relevance to present needs.

5. Our religious traditions can best flourish in just, pluralistic and democratic societies, where there is freedom of worship and where the rights of all individuals are respected.

6. Missionary work that provokes antagonism and resentment should be strongly discouraged.

7. God is the true Owner of everything, that we are finite, and that all that we have is a loan or gift from God; we therefore have a duty to look after this planet and protect its natural resources and its variety of interdependent life forms, for the sake of future generations.

8. The sanctity of all life is defiled by war, terrorism, genocide, torture, rape, extra-judicial killings, and detention without trial.

9. Scripture should not be used to justify violence, oppression, exploitation, military aggression, or claims of superiority.

10. That which binds us to God also binds us to one another as a single human family.

What needs to be done?

1. There is a desperate need for education in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  Too many are ignorant of the teachings of their own faith, and know even less about the other faiths. Our day schools and religious institutions have a duty to teach not only adherence to our own traditions but also knowledge of other traditions, placing special emphasis on the ethical aspects and what they have in common.

2. Through school programmes and the mass media, social harmony should be promoted by making us more aware of the contribution to civilisation made by other religions, cultures and civilisations.

3. Jews, Christians and Muslims should work together as equal partners. Equal respect and theological space should be accorded to each faith. A just and peaceful world can only be achieved in partnership.

4. Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars should be made more aware of their duty to demonstrate how their sacred texts and religious traditions are relevant to current needs.

5. Since it is God’s will that we should strive to become, as best we can, the servants of His love and compassion, we should seek to resolve disputes by means of forgiveness, empathy and reconciliation, and encourage others to do the same. We should all be able to answer affirmatively the question posed by the other: “Do you know what causes me pain?”

6. We should refute exclusivist perversions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam that glorify war and aggressive behaviour, and we should condemn those who spread false stereotypes of the Other.

7. We, as Jews, Christians and Muslims, have a duty to challenge the misuse of power and to demand that governments tackle the roots of terrorism, using diplomacy as a first resort, with respect for human dignity, human rights and the due process of law. We have a duty to defend the right to asylum where this is wrongfully withheld, and to seek to abide by ethical and humanitarian principles both at home and abroad.

8. We have a duty to truth and reconciliation which demands of us that we recognise that we are all the victims of different and irreconcilable accounts of current and past public events, and that only together can we build shared narratives based on accurate testimony and records.

We can only achieve our shared vision of a repaired and transformed world by pooling the best of our respective teachings and talents in partnership and shared endeavour. Only full and effective partnership can end conflict and bring peace, with opportunities to ponder together the wonder of creation and the mystery of God.

Statement first made in November 2004 - submitted by Roger Boase