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Islam and Christianity: brothers in faith

Josh Leeuw | Friday, November 16, 2007

The rift between Christianity and Islam can be solved by finding a common ground in God and a shared ancestry, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said Thursday.

Migliore told a popular Middle Eastern story to illustrate the picture Muslims and Christians have of each other.

A man walks in the desert and sees a monster on the horizon, he said. As the man gets closer, he realizes it isn’t a monster but a very ugly man. When he is right in front of the man, he sees it is his brother.

“Muslims see Christians as monsters of the Crusades. … Christians see Muslims as monsters in a similar light,” Migliore said.

With both religions having ancient histories, rooted deeply in tradition, it is often said the religions could not be compatible, the Archbishop said.

“However, both religions contain elements that are compatible, but are just unaccepted because of misconceptions,” Migliore said.

Migliore addressed three points of convergence between Muslims and Christians, aspects both sects of believers share.

“The first point is that we are all children of Abraham … the second point is that we are both monotheists, and the third point is that we have sacred books, the Bible and the Quran” explained Migliore.

Migliore said Christians and Muslims have many things in common as human beings and are united by their relation to Abraham. Quoting a famous theologian, Migliore said: “The most important tree in the desert is the tree of genealogy.”

Migliore cited the Vatican II document, “Nostra Aetate,” to explain how the Catholic Church regarded non-Christian religions, specifically the Muslims.

“They [the Muslims], do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as God,” Migliore said, reading the document.

“Nostra Aetate” states that, though Muslims do not recognize Christ as God, they do honor God as the maker of the whole human race. They honor Mary as the Virgin Mother and they also value moral life.

He discussed the importance of the words “brother” and “neighbor” to both religions and how both words are used frequently in religious dialogue.

Migliore emphasized the importance of the love of God and the love of neighbor and discussed a Muslim document titled, “A Common Word Between Us and You,” which shows the respect and understanding between Christians and Muslims.

Currently, close to 150 Muslim delegates have signed the document. Despite the effort, there is still a rift between the religions, Migliore said.

“If Christians and Muslims want to find common ground . . . they must start with God,” he said.

He went on to discuss how all religions, no matter what the denomination, have a form of the “golden rule.” Migliore said every religion should follow this rule, which is that people must love one another.

Migliore briefly discussed the spread of terrorism, and said extremists do not speak for religions as a whole.

“We must show [extremists] the same texts they use for terrorism, [let them know their actions] do not promote peace,” he said.

Migliore emphasized the importance of love and peaceful dialogue between religions.

“These dialogues must be engaged in by believers, not by diplomats,” Migliore said.

Migliore spoke to a standing-room only crowd at the Hesburgh Center for International Studies.

His speech was titled “Catholicism and Islam: Points of Convergence and Divergence, Encounter and Cooperation.” University President Father John Jenkins thanked the Archbishop for coming and welcomed him to Notre Dame.

A question and answer session followed the lecture. At the end of the event, the Archbishop was presented with gifts of appreciation.