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Islam - The Cross and the Crescent

Islam - The Cross and the Crescent - Casey Dynan Islam...

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Casey Dynan Islam December 5, 2007 Professor Dille The Chruch and the Crescent: The Relationship between the Catholic Church and Islam under Pope Benedict XVI One unsettling fact dominates the relations between Christianity and Islam, namely, that dialogue is almost nonexistent. The reasons for this are mixed and many but the most unsettling, I believe, are a clear misunderstanding, by both Muslims and Christians, on what inter-religious dialogue actually is. There are some who think inter-religious dialogues are like other dialogues, for example: negotiations between countries; bargaining between labor and management; or any attempts to find middle ground between disputing parties; however this is not the case. 1 Dialogue in society involves compromise. Our political system gets things done by using compromise, and that is fine. Compromise often makes a family get along better. Labor and management have to compromise or planes don't fly, goods are not delivered, phones are not serviced and heath care workers can't take care of those who are sick, injured or dying. Compromise is a way for these very things to happen, but when people of faith talk to one another, they are not attempting any compromise. 2 The goal in inter-religious dialogue is not to construct one religion for the whole world, but to share and learn from one another. Inter-religious dialogue is both a process of “spiritual growth” and a set of experiences that can have a transforming effect on those engaged in it. 3 Inter-religious dialogue is the “art of spiritual communication” to quote Pope Paul VI, and can be described as “among the best manifestations of human activity and culture.” Catholicism and Islam have a long and storied relationship with many highs and lows. In the present moment, there is probably no more consequential question, no question upon which the short term future of the earth hangs to a greater degree, than the capacity of the West and of Islamic cultures to “work out a peaceful modus vivendi 4 (way of living). I believe that Pope Benedict XVI alone among the major actors on the Western stage today has the theological depth, the spiritual and moral fortitude, and the personal freedom to launch a meaningful dialogue with Muslims that could actually change the current global calculus. To unpack this argument I will make several points. First however, to expand on the current relationship between Catholicism and Islam under the pontificate Benedict XVI, I would like to share three stories, which I think illustrate the promise and the peril of this relationship. The first story is set place in Syria in 2001, in which Pope John Paul II made history by being the first pope to set foot into an Islamic mosque. 5 He did this at the Grand Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, which is one of the most famous mosques in the Islamic world. This enormous mosque complex houses a tomb that is believed by Muslims to contain the body of John the Baptist, who is honored as a prophet in Islam. When the
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