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September 9 2014 09:30 | Auditorium ING

The Muslim- Christian dialogue

Guirguis Ibrahim Saleh


Orthodox Coptic Intellectual, Egypt
The Muslim Christian meetings for living dialogue has its own exclusive character in the Middle East region, from which Christianity emerged and to which all Christians still head to visit the holy places.
The same case for Islam, Middle East region is the place where Islam is revealed  and to which Muslims from all over the world still  head to practice Hajj rituals.
Making Dialogue is one of  is aspects of Christianity  mission, as churches seek through it getting to know and embracing the other  with its differences, achieving justice, spreading peace and defending Human rights. 
Deliberations in Christian - Islamic meetings aim to become aware of  common ideas, concepts and values, in order  to work together in sharing responsibility of maintaining a solid society where human values continue to confront huge challenges. Given the importance and sensitivity  of this goal, the meeting/ dialogue of religious leaders has a positive impact on the entire community, and on  youth in particular, leading a health  balanced upbringing and a good relation with our brothers in society.
This highlights our active participation in the region, showing us Christians, as active element of the community, not only participating but also having a leading role in events. It is our duty to teach youth since childhood the importance of the dialogue or even better to say, of the culture of  dialogue and we have to explain to them the principles of such critical life dialogue.  
We always seek developing and supporting mutual understanding-oriented organized dialogue in order to establish peace and harmony among peoples for the best interest of humanity. Using Dialogue, we seek the following:
1- Making Arab Christians a main partner in the world Christian Islamic dialogue. 
2- Using Dialogue  as a means to getting to know Islam and Muslims and to introduce Christianity and Christians to Muslims, seeking to have religion, based on citizenship concept,  as an element of peace and cooperation not an element of division and war 
3- Discarding prejudgments and fallacious concepts that either party has of the other due to ignorance and misconception 
4- Identifying  common ideas and values in order  to work together in sharing responsibility of maintaining a solid society where human values continue to confront huge challenges 
5- Establishing, in a plural society, concepts of mutual respect, equality among citizens of all cultures, religions and ideas,  democracy-based liberties, thus though diversity, we are united , and we are all committed to uphold the common fate issues, and advocate basic human needs, justice and peace in an open civilian society.
 
We seek rectifying the image of hate and fear   towards christens formed at some people on all levels by announcing that Christianity is the religion of love, peace and justice not hatred, war, injustice and terrorism. 
Making a dialogue is a must for serving humanity in the Middle East, especially, by working together to establish in youth minds  common concepts such as love, mercy and faith to confront atheist tendencies that our societies are facing nowadays, due to globalization and its implications.  This cooperation is set as an example for western countries which have recently large Islamic communities integrated in their societies.   
 
Co-existence between Muslims and Christians between the lived and the hoped for   
I may say that coexistence between Muslims and Christians in the Arab region is a fact and expectation.
We are offering a decent example of possible coexistence between different religions believers; coexisting is an inevitable choice once we realize that Christianity and Islam have much more common aspects and concepts  in terms of faith and many other righteous values than differences. There are significant points that we can highlight in this regard: 
 
1- Amicable coexistence in most of Arab Countries. Christians freely exercise their religious practices, publish, write and use radio and TV channels in expressing their thoughts in most of Arab Countries. 
2- Restrictions becoming lesser for Christians, in terms of  access the leading  positions in most of Arab Countries, especially in Lebanon and Jordan.
3- Good relations between Muslim and Christian leaders in all Arab countries and their role in attempting to mitigate the adverse impacts of any incident that may affect Christians - Muslims relations 
4- The Muslim partner is tending to believe more and more in the fact the Arab Christians are a main partner in co-existence, fate and in building a dialogue  with the Western world, that the Arab Muslims may benefit from.
 
However, there are other negative points- old or persistent - that should be considered, such as:
1- Ignorance of the other partner's religion, believes, practices and life method of embracers still exists As we know ignorance feeds fallacious concepts and deforms the other partner. Some believe that Christians worship more than one God; some believe that Islam is the religion of violence and sword. These are examples of wrong concepts that harm the co-existence and disturb peaceful  living.
2- Some people still believe that Christianity is a religion coming from the Western world, or as if Christians support the western world, however, Arabs knew Christianity in its very early stages since the Pre-Islamic epoch, moreover Christians had significant contribution in the Islamic Arab culture.  
3-  Some people are still affected by the old history and awful wars, such as   the Crusades, however, . such  wars  had their bad impact on Eastern Christians as much as Islam and may by more and Western colonization dominated Christians and Muslims in one community.
4- People often tend to hold the whole denomination responsible for  one of its individuals mistake, which leads to critical misconceptions. Christianity as a religion is not responsible for the mistakes of its believers, as well as Islam is not responsible for those who commit awful crimes under the name of Islam.  
5- Many people fall in the pre-concept of larger number of Muslims and smaller number of Christians, while the matter is not about whose number is larger,  it is about the loyalty to one community and the participation in creating the present and future.
6- Many educational programs in the Arab world ignore the Christian presence either in history, literature or in fields of Arab Islamic culture. 
Ignoring such Christian contribution make the Arab student feel bad about the non contributing Christian in the history, and makes him discard the other from his Conscience.
 
These are the facts about the coexistence between Muslims and Christians
On the other hand, the hope is big and multiple levels. Firstly and mainly, we wish to achieve the complete citizenship phase between Christians and Muslims. Citizenship requires equality in rights, duties, before law and in real life .
Under citizenship, there is no majority or minority, strong or weak, no native or foreigner 
Under citizenship, all people may live with dignity  and can contribute in the development of  their country, defending it against any usurper.
Under citizenship, all persons have their dignity intact, treated  as  God created as a creature above all other creatures, empowering them as masters 
Under Citizenship, there duties and obligations to comply with
Should The Muslim brother is invited to deal with his fellow Christian as a partner in life and fate, the Arab Christian is called for to meet three requirements in order to be eligible to such citizenship
 
First: Arab Christian are be commit to advocate justice issues in their Arab world, including, mainly; rights of the Palestinian people and establishment of their independent country in Gaza strip and Western bank. 
Second: Arab Christians are to  play their expected role in defending causes of the Arab World in the West and to provide another image about Islam against accusations of terrorism.
Third: Christians are to stop immigration and realize that this act only weakens their presence in the Arab World and is considered as giving up a leading role they played in the past.
 
The Egyptian House of the family initiative as an example to further Citizenship concept 
Thank God for granting us in Egypt religious leaders seeking peaceful co- existence. We have the Imam Sheikh Dr. Ahmed El-Tayeb, Al-Azhar Grand Imam,  who represents moderate Islam, and we have Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark,  as leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, who seek peaceful co-existence and living in love in one country. 
The Egyptian House of the family initiative is considered a perfect example for the cooperation between Christian and Muslim leaders in Egypt and it represents belief of Egyptians of the citizenship concept 
Egypt is the country of Al Azhar and the country blessed in Isaiah version "Blessed be Egypt, my people" (IS.19:25)
Egypt is the country to which the baby Jesus Christ came, Egypt of  the Pharaoh, Copts & Muslims civilizations. As we believe in Citizenship and being all equal as Egyptians living in one country sharing same pain and joy, Sheikh Dr. Ahmed El-Tayeb, Al-Azhar Grand Imam, who believe that people of the same  country are to have equal rights and duties -suggested the idea of one Egyptian House of the family initiative   
The idea was proposed after the terrible incident of Alexandria Saints Church explosion on the very first day of year 2011. This incident left the whole world with feelings of pain 
Despite of the felt pain, the grand Imam accompanied by Muslim scholars headed to express his condolences to the late Pope, Shenouda III.
 
Al Azhar Grand Imam, seeking to establish the concept of citizenship came to Pope Shenouda III who taught us that "Egypt is the country which lives inside us not a country we live in"
In this meeting- which I was honored to attend- the Great Imam suggested the idea of the Egyptian House of the family initiative and the Pope agreed to it as it represents and expresses the idea of cooperation to establish principles of co-existence, abandoning violence and establishing the concept of citizenship.
In that year, the great peaceful revolution started and expressed the unity of Christians and Muslims. All Egyptian felt that a new spirit prevails with the best values to unite Christians and Muslims of Egypt.
Official resolution No. 1279 of 2011 was issued by the Prime Minister concerning establishment of the Egyptian House of the family initiative. First Article of the resolution stipulated that:
"A joint entity under name of "the Egyptian House of Family " under presidency of Al Azhar Grand Imam and Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church shall be established to be located in Al Azhar Headquarters in Cairo."
The resolution also stipulates that the main objective of this entity is to maintain the unity of Egyptian People and for this purpose, the Egyptian House of the family initiative shall be entitled to coordinate with all concerned authorities and ministries in the country , to submit its suggestions and recommendations and hold conferences and meetings in all governorates .
In addition, the resolution stipulates that Trustees board shall be formed of  number of scholars to be chosen by Al Azhar Grand Imam, a number of Coptic Orthodox Church clergymen to be chosen by the Pope, representatives of Christian denominations in Egypt and number of writers and experts to be chosen by mutual agreement of Al Azhar Grand Imam and the  Pope. 
Among the unique features of the Family Home is that presidency is taken by rotation between Al Azhar Grand Imam and the Pope
The House of the family, besides having a trustee board, an executive council is formed to perform its general policy, and many committees to be formed to perform certain missions to execute general policies of the Family Home, with reporters of ad hoc committees, assistant report.  Formed committees are: Monitoring committee, education committee, Family culture committee, religious speech committee, media committee, youth committee for community development, follow-up committee and executive emergency committee.
 
God helps us for the best of our beloved county, Middle East and the whole world.
 

 

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