A year ago, Muslim clerics wrote to the Pope, disagreeing with his characterization of Islam in a speech given at the University of Regensburg. Today, on that anniversary and coinciding with Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, a larger group of Muslim scholars have written another letter to the Pope and "leaders of Christian churches everywhere."
It's a 29-page document this time, densely packed with quotes from the Quran and the Bible, but the simple thrust of it is a call for Muslims and Christians, on the theological basis of our common belief in love for one God and love for our neighbor, to work together for world peace. As the letter states in its opening paragraph:
Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world's population.
Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no
meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between
Muslims and Christians.
Christian response, so far, has been largely positive. Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of the more than 70-milion-member Anglican Communion, said the letter's call for respect, fairness, justice, and kindness is "indicative of the kind of relationship for which we [Christians] yearn in all parts of the world."
"The call should now be taken up by Christians and Muslims at all levels and in all countries," he continued, "and I shall endeavor in this country and internationally to do my part in working for the righteousness which this letter proclaims as our common goal."
The Evangelical Alliance, an umbrella group for U.K. evangelicals, released a statement saying that "any approach that is seeking to draw different religions into dialogue for the purpose of peace must be encouraged." Still, the statement warned, "genuine and important differences between the two faiths remain."
But more interesting than Christian response, perhaps, will be Muslim response. Of the 138 scholars, some are known to be liberal, according to Dudley Woodberry, professor of Islamic studies at Fuller Theological Seminary, but at least one has ties to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. It will be interesting to see what kind of commentary emerges from outlets like Al Jazeera (which hasn't covered the letter online yet at all).
CT will likely post further analysis of the letter in the days to come. In the meantime, you can read the full text of the document on the BBC's site.