It is with great pleasure that I join you this evening to
discuss some values which Muslims and Christians hold in common. Thanks
to my fellow organisers who have so
Basis for Dialogue
The primary basis for our dialogue is our common humanity:
we are brothers and sisters on this planet. As human beings we share certain
Earlier this month, the Pope, the Leader of the Catholic Church, said in his message to a UNESCO Conference in Paris “ all considerations must put human beings at the centre, as well as the dignity of their biological and spiritual being, the sacred character of their life,” and the value of the marriage and family bond”.
Culture and Religion determine our way of being
We all recognise that human beings belong to specific cultures so that, frequently, inter-religious dialogue is also an inter-cultural dialogue. To understand another culture can be difficult especially when we want to go beyond the external expressions of culture such as food and music which we have enjoyed this evening. These are representations of a much deeper phenomenon: a way of thinking and a way of being in the world. For us, Muslims and Christians, this way of being is derived from our respective religious beliefs and commitment.
When I examine the Five Pillars of Islam, I can see immediately that elements of these Five Pillars are present in Christianity.
Christians also believe in one God. The profession of faith, which is recited on Sundays in Catholic Church services, begins, “ I believe in One God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth”. The prayer which Jesus taught us begins “ Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name … thy will be done”.
Prayer to the all- powerful God is at the heart of the Christian life. Private prayer daily and community prayer in the Eucharist each week is a basic action for the Christian.
Friday is the “day of the Fast”
Wednesday means the first day of the fast
Thursday means the day between the fasts
Some of you may be surprised to hear that pilgrimage is very deeply rooted in Christianity. It was very much practised by holy men and women in medieval times and is still a very large part of the practice of the Catholic Church.
There is another sense in which pilgrimage is foundational to Christianity. We believe that ‘we have not here a lasting city” that our whole life is a pilgrimage. A very old prayer in which we ask Mary, the mother of Jesus, to help us refers to this world as the ‘vale of tears”. That does not mean that we have a gloomy view of the world but it is simply reminding ourselves of the reality that we are a pilgrim people.
We see death as the end of the pilgrimage, the gate through which we must pass. It is interesting that one of the Latin words for dying was “migravit”: he migrated!!
In this brief review of the Five Pillars of Islam and Christianity, it can be seen that there is much we have in common.
I would like to return to one point and introduce another before moving to my final comments.
The point to which I wish to return is social justice and
specifically the connection between justice and peace which both religions
seek. Times without number has the present Pope, John Paul II, spoken
(the international community) “ must do everything possible
so that all peoples have land and autonomy of existence, and so that they may
This has been the constant teaching of the Catholic Church.
It was a great joy for me to learn that Muslims honour Mary
as the mother of Jesus and, although our respective beliefs
With these, we have a solid foundation to move forward together, in peace, harmony, and mutual respect.
I want to finish by quoting some key teachings of the Catholic Church with regard to inter-faith dialogue. In 1965, the Second Vatican Council agreed:
“Upon the Muslims, the Catholic Church looks with esteem. They adore One God living and enduring, merciful and all-powerful Maker of heaven and earth, and Speaker to men. They strive to submit themselves without reserve to the hidden decrees of God, just as did Abraham, with whom the Islamic faith is pleased to associate itself. Although not acknowledging him as God, they venerate Jesus as a Prophet. They also honour Mary, his virgin mother. At times they call on her, too, with devotion. Further, they await the Day of judgment when God will give each man his due after raising him up. Consequently, they prize the moral life and give worship to God, especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting” (Nostra Aetate, 3).