They’re responding to the A Common Word Between Us and You, a letter from 138 Muslim scholars etc to Christians. They apologize for the Crusades and the “excesses” in the war on terror. A war that was started by Muslims against innocent men, women and children, for whatever that might be worth.
Responding to an open letter in October signed by 138 leading Muslim scholars, clerics, and intellectuals from around the world, the Christian leaders also asked the Muslim world for forgiveness “We want to begin by acknowledging that in the past (e.g. in the Crusades) and in the present (e.g. in excesses of the “war on terror”) many Christians have been guilty of sinning against our Muslim neighbours. Before we “shake your hand” in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world”, they said in the letter which was made available to the press here yesterday.
The letter goes on to practically beg for dialogue on the Muslim scholars’ terms and definitions, and never once addresses Islamic terrorism or its roots. It even whitewashes the warlording career of Mohammad.
Our love, Jesus Christ says, must imitate the love of the infinitely good Creator; our love must be as unconditional as is God’s-extending to brothers, sisters, neighbours, and even enemies. At the end of his life, Jesus Christ himself prayed for his enemies: “Forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
The Prophet Muhammad did similarly when he was violently rejected and stoned by the people of Ta’if. He is known to have said, “The most virtuous behaviour is to engage those who sever relations, to give to those who withhold from you, and to forgive those who wrong you.”
That’s awfully close to equating Christ and Mohammad. Any why no mention of Mohammad’s many statements and actions later in his career that run at hard odds with notions of tolerance and forgiveness? Why no mention of Sura 9 of the Koran and its relationship to present-day terrorism?
The Christian leaders’ apology to Muslims was not reciprocated in the Common Word letter. There is no similar apology for any actions taken in the name of Islam in the past or present in the Common Word. Rather, the 138 Islamic scholars quote the Fatihah as though it’s evidence of the common ground between Christianity and Islam.
Indeed, the Fatihah—which is the greatest chapter in the Holy Qur’anvii—starts with praise to God:
In the Name of God, the Infinitely Good, the All-Merciful. /
Praise be to God, the Lord of the worlds. /
The Infinitely Good, the All-Merciful. /
Owner of the Day of Judgement. /
Thee we worship, and Thee we ask for help. /
Guide us upon the straight path. /
The path of those on whom is Thy Grace, not those who deserve anger nor those who are astray. (Al-Fatihah, 1:1-7)
“…those who deserve anger” and “those who are astray” include, surprise, Christians. The Fatihah is in fact a condemnation of Christians and Jews as being outside the will and therefore mercy of Allah.
The traditional Islamic understanding of this is that the “straight path” is Islam. Most Muslim commentators believe that the Jews are those who have earned Allah’s wrath and the Christians are those who have gone astray. The classic Qur’anic commentator Ibn Kathir explains that “the two paths He described here are both misguided,” and that those “two paths are the paths of the Christians and Jews, a fact that the believer should beware of so that he avoids them.”
That’s common ground?
The Common Word document is in fact a call to the Christians of the world to become Muslims. It reads like a text meant to proselytize. Not that the liberal Christian leaders had any idea what they were reading in the Common Word letter.
The Christian leaders who signed the letter apologizing to the Muslim world include Bill Hybels, Founder and Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church; Robert Schuller, Founder, Crystal Cathedral and Hour of Power; and Rick Warren, Founder and Senior Pastor, Saddleback Church, and author of The Purpose Driven Life. To Christians who have been paying attention, this will come as no surprise. Where you find the liberals Hybels and Schuller, you nearly always find Warren tagging along. To my relief, no other well known evangelical leaders signed the letter, and Franklin Graham’s name does not appear in it.