The Rapprochement between Muslims Christians and Jews
The growth of Islam is also reflected in the recent growth of interfaith dialogue. These dialogues start by stating that the three monotheistic religions have a common beginning and can come together at a common point. Such dialogues have been quite successful and have engendered an important rapprochement, especially between Christians and Muslims. In the Qur'an, God informs us that Muslims invite the People of the Book (Christians and Jews) to unite on a common ground:
Say: "O People of the Book, come to a proposition that is the same for us and you—that we should worship none but God, and not associate any partners with Him, and not take one another as lords besides God." If they turn away, say: "Bear witness that we are Muslims." (Qur'an, 3: 64)
The three monotheistic religions have common beliefs and the same moral values. Belief in God's Existence and Unity, angels, Prophets, the Last Day, Heaven and Hell are their basic tenets of faith. Furthermore, self-sacrifice, humility, love, tolerance, respect, mercy, honesty, avoiding wrongdoing and injustice, and acting according to conscience are all commonly accepted moral qualities. Therefore, since these three religions are on the same level, they must work together to eradicate the strife, conflict, and pain caused by irreligious ideologies. When considered from this point of view, interfaith dialogue assumes far more importance. The seminars and conferences that bring representatives of these religions together, and the messages of peace and brotherhood that come out of them, have continued regularly since the mid-1990s.
These initiatives have increased since 9/11. After these attacks, various members of the Christian clergy were among the most important advocates of Islam, saying that there is no terror or violence in Islam, and that it is a religion of peace, justice, and tolerance. The Pope, spiritual leader of Roman Catholics, and many other prominent members of the clergy said that Islam and Muslims cannot be held responsible for these attacks. Moreover, not content with this, they asked forgiveness on behalf of those people who held Muslims responsible and tried to harm Muslims.
The Pope Asked Christians to Fast
One notable interfaith moment occurred when the Pope invited Christians to fast with Muslims on the last Friday of Ramadan. A report issued by the Vatican said:
The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, has declared December 14th to be a day of fasting, a prayer, and charity throughout the world, begging for peace, as he indicated in his Angelus message of November 18, 2001: "Each of us who goes without by fasting will be taking on the disposition of the poor, especially those who suffer at present the consequences of terrorism and war."81
This request was immediately put into effect, and on Friday, December 14, prominent Christian leaders visited mosques for Friday prayers and prayed with Muslims. One of these people was the Cardinal Archbishop of Detroit. In his Friday speech at one of Detroit's largest mosques, the Cardinal said:
I thank you for the gracious invitation to share these sacred hours of Ramadan with you and the congregation. I am especially pleased to be with you on this Friday, December 14, as the Catholic Church throughout the world unites itself in solidarity with Muslim believers everywhere in special prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for world peace and for the healing of all who suffer the effects of war and terrorism. . . The events of September 11 remind us that not only have technology and economy become global, but insecurities, fears, violence, injustice, and war have also become global! As the Pope has explained, what we need now is a response of what he calls "globalized charity" .… In the name of all the Catholics of metro Detroit, I offer my apologies and sympathy for any way in which members of our Church have ever offended you by remarks or attitudes of prejudice, anger, or violence.82
At services on the following Sunday, Muslims prayed for all those who had been affected by terror and war. Perhaps for the first time in history, many Christian services began with a reading from the Qur'an. In a Detroit church this prayer was said:
Let us lift our minds and hearts to God as we pray for all those who have died because of terrorism; may the Lord grant healing and peace to their families… We ask that the Lord rekindle within us hope for a new beginning as one human family. May we together receive and share God's forgiveness and mercy. To the merciful and almighty, the creator of heaven and earth, we submit ourselves in all humility and gratitude.83
Afterwards, before the reading of the Gospel, Surat al-Fatiha was recited to the congregation. This certainly was an extraordinary occasion, and a sign that a very important period has begun. This rapprochement is an important stage of the spread of religious morality throughout the world.