Studium Theologicum Salesianum
Salesian Pontifical University : Faculty of Theology - Jerusalem Campus

Focus on Islam:  Christian – Muslim Dialogue


By Atindaana Cletus, Student, M.Afr.
STS on November 20, 2013 began its “Islam Focus lectures” for the 2013/2014 academic year. The first in the series took the general title “Christian-Muslim Dialogue”. His Grace, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, M. Afr., former Vatican Nuncio to the Arab League and Egypt, and former President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious dialogue delivered the address in the Don Bosco Hall, STS. He is one of the Church’s leading experts in the field of Inter-religious Dialogue especially in the field of Christian – Muslim Dialogue.
The Islam Focus lectures are part of STS’s formative efforts to furnish its students and the public with the requisite knowledge of Islam with the view to fruitful encounter with Islam. It is in the light of this that his Grace Archbishop Fitzgerald, took time to speak with us.  Having thoroughly schooled his audience as to the general history of the development of Interreligious Dialogue as a whole in the Church, he then zeroed in on recognizing and developing the spiritual bonds between Muslims and Christians.
First of all, he underlined some common core values, or rather, the meeting points between Christianity and Islam, namely, the strong witness of the transcendence of God deeply rooted in the doctrines of both religions, the solemn worship character of the divine God, and the solid sense of community and fraternity upheld in both religions, to name a few. These upheld core values religiously pursued in both religions indicate unmistakably that the Muslim and the Christian are in deep search for a realisation of their common human destiny which undoubtedly is the attainment of eternal life in God. These core values forming then, the substance of the Christian and Muslim life, provide fertile grounds for fruitful dialogue between the two religions.
His Grace Archbishop Michael went on to outline some important Christian prejudices about Islam and vice versa. These include the Christian preconception that Islam is fatalistic, fanatical, legalistic and violent. On the other side of the spectrum, Islam despises Christianity on the grounds that Christianity is a falsified religion that stands in the way of the Truth. These prejudices, his Grace contends, transpose into serious obstacles to effective Christian-Muslim Dialogue. He identified some of these major obstacles to dialogue as defensive attitudes on the part of the partners of dialogue, fear and suspicion, reminiscence of past wounds such as slavery and colonialism to mention but few.  In order to overcome these impediments to successful dialogue, his Excellency re-iterated the Church’s commitment to perseverance in courage and hope since her decision to enter into dialogue with Islam and the other religions pronounced over the years has assumed an irreversible character.
Citing and explaining the multiple, brave, tactical and relentless efforts of the Church’s leadership invested in Interreligious Dialogue, the audience grasped sufficient understanding regarding the successes experienced so far as well as the failures suffered by mother Church in her maternal persistent attempts to reach out to the other on the religious divide.
The former Nuncio spent time taking his audience through the different forms of dialogues that are engaged in the dialoguing act. These include the dialogues of life, of religious experience, of action and of discourse. Altogether, they have the net effect of promoting common human values, be they religious or social.

The lecture ended with the answering of a series of questions seeking further explanations and clarifications mainly sensitive to doctrinal issues peculiar to Islam. The next lecture will be a follow-up to this first one. It will be focused on the Qur’an, the Holy book of Islam. 
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