April 10, 2008
Pen Pals (Again)
Another Christian group responds to last fall’s Muslim letter advocating for peace.
Five months after 138 Muslim clerics and scholars penned a plea for inter-religious and world peace, "A Common Word Between Us and You" - and four months after the Yale Center for Faith and Culture responded with "Loving God and Neighbor Together" - the World Evangelical Alliance has released its own response to the Muslim document. Presumably the umbrella group wanted to survey its global constituency before taking a stance.
Entitled "We Too Want to Live in Love, Peace, Freedom and Justice," the WEA statement is somewhat pricklier than the Yale document. As Christianity Today's earlier reporting noted, some evangelicals took issue with the Yale statement's willingness to sidestep theological differences between Christians and Muslims. The WEA statement can be accused of no such thing. Immediately after affirming the Muslim letter's stated desire for peace, it launches into doctrinal fisticuffs.
In your opening summary, you commence with what is obviously a "call to Christians" to become Muslims by worshipping God without ascribing to him a partner. May we, in return, invite you to put your faith in God, who forgives our opposition to him and sin through what his son Jesus Christ did for us at the cross?
While the statement goes on to affirm much of what is in the Muslim letter, it also questions the letter's statement that Christians are waging war against Muslims and driving them from their homes. Geoff Tunnicliffe, international director of the World Evangelical Alliance, writes: "We ask ourselves, ?Where do Christians wage war against Muslims? Who of the many Christian leaders, you have addressed your letter to, is involved in such a sin as waging war against you or driving Muslims out of their homes? Has any Christian leader publicly urged that such actions be taken against Muslims?'"
The statement ends with a call for religious freedom for Christians in Muslim countries, stating that there is "evidence of many cases where Christians cannot practice their Christian faith without restriction in Muslim countries."
So why the difference in tone between the Yale document and the WEA response? Perhaps the WEA was responding to some of the criticism that the Yale document generated, or perhaps it simply sought to represent the view of its members, many of whom live near much more sizable Muslim communities than do Christians in the U.S. Either way, the statement is a noteworthy, if belated, addition to this Muslim-Christian dialogue.