Peace will require leaders, Christian and Muslim, to address real grievances

Afghans perform prayers at the funeral for the victims killed by an airstrike called in to protect Afghan and U.S. forces during a raid on suspected Taliban militants, in Kunduz, Afghanistan, on Nov. 4, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Nasir Wakif

(RNS) We are living through dangerous times. Christians and Muslims cannot afford more misunderstanding.

The challenges our world is facing are profound: The U.S. has forces engaged in armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, among other places. We have global poverty and starvation, threatening several places such as Yemen and East Africa.

The more wars the U.S. is fighting in Muslim lands, the more grievances Muslims will have. You would think that after decades of fighting these unwinnable wars we would have learned that negotiations will bring better results. But no, we are still expanding our engagement; it seems war is our default position.

In the meantime, organizations with warped ideas about Islam, like ISIS, keep finding new recruits as long as they can claim that Islam is under attack from the U.S. and its allies and that the future of Islam is in grave danger.

Intellectuals of goodwill, both Christian and Muslim, thought peace would begin if we could only identify convincing common ground for adherents of the two religions. They launched the Common Word Initiative. But this was not enough.

People on both sides have grievances and they need to feel their grievances are recognized and properly addressed.

The U.S. feels it was targeted by Islamists on 9/11, and is still targeted for attacks. Its war in Afghanistan and its invasion of Iraq were a direct response to that attack, but so far the war on terror did not produce a more secure United States. It probably created more terrorists.

American Christians feel that Christian minorities in Muslim-majority countries are often persecuted. They don’t have equal rights and they are targeted in certain areas by Islamists who commit atrocities against them.

Muslims, on the other hand, feel Europeans committed atrocities while colonizing Muslim areas. The Europeans fragmented Muslim lands by creating national states with artificial borders. This led to conflicts that are still raging. Borders are still being redrawn.

The Muslim world feels the West facilitated the creation of the state of Israel but is not taking responsibility to solve the resulting problems between Israel and its neighbors. Peace, the Muslim world feels, is theoretically possible, but practically out of reach.

While the U.S. was not a colonizing power, it is seen today as the legal heir to the Western interests and the power that is keeping conflicts in the Muslim world raging. Oil, many think, is all the U.S. cares about.

Muslims, especially in the Arab world, say that after the American tanks rolled into Iraq, an army of missionaries tried to convert them. They accuse the U.S. of not only using false pretexts to invade their land, but also suggest its real aim is to spread the Christianity of the conqueror.

The grievances on both sides are real and need to be addressed. We can’t afford to keep this conflict growing. People of goodwill are doing their best to build trust and to help put an end to the conflict.

More than a year ago, 250 of the world’s eminent Islamic leaders convened in Morocco to discuss the rights of religious minorities and the obligation to protect them in Muslim-majority states. The meeting was successful and we now have the Marrakesh Declaration, calling for the writing of constitutions to guarantee individual freedoms.

The declaration was followed by an important conference at Egypt’s Al-Azhar, one of the most authoritative religious institutions of the Sunni world. The conference’s concluding document was called the “Declaration of al-Azhar on Mutual Islamic-Christian Coexistence.”

The grand imam read the final communique, which spoke of replacing the language of “minorities” and “majorities” with the principle of citizenship, with equal rights and responsibilities for all citizens, regardless of religion, ethnicity or language. He went on to issue a strong call for protecting freedom of belief, particularly religious belief, rejecting all religious coercion. This is a major step forward.

Pope Francis greets Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb during a meeting in Cairo on April 28, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany

On April 24, Al-Azhar hosted Pope Francis for yet another conference to forge stronger ties and call for peace and reconciliation among Christians and Muslims. In a video message posted online, Francis said his visit was “a message of brotherhood and reconciliation” with the Muslim world.

READ: Pope Francis tells Muslim leaders in Egypt to fight violence in God’s name

“Our world is torn by blind violence, a violence that has also struck the heart of your beloved land,” Francis said. “Our world needs peace, love and mercy.”

These Christian and Muslim leaders are giving us hope, telling all of us that they recognize the grievances we have and offer solutions based on mutual respect. It is high time for our political leaders to join the effort, assuring all of us that a new language of reconciliation will be used for the sake of our future generations.

(Safi Kaskas is co-author with David Hungerford of “The Qur’an – with References to the Bible,” a new contemporary English translation of the Quran with 3,000 references to similar passages found in the Christian Bible)

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Safi Kaskas


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  • No, Religion News, Christians and Muslims do NOT need to address grievances. Muslim jihadis need to STOP murdering Christians, and Islamic clerics need to remove text from Islamic doctrine which calls for it.

    Don’t insult persecuted victims by pretending the war Islam has declared on both Jews and Christians is some squabble between stubborn hot heads. It is inherently Islamic and unequivocally called for by Mohammed–unless, of course, they submit to dhimmitude.

    Your reporting is arrogant, malicious and clearly anti-Christian propaganda

  • Perhaps you should read the link to the Common Word Initiative and Christian responses to the initial document.

  • While you are entitled to disagree with the premise of the commentary, if you profess Christianity you might be more effective if you were to strike a less histrionic tone. I am a devoutly orthodox and conservative Christian, and while I disagree totally with the theology of Islam, I found the commentary to be largely reasonable in a historic context. It’s not necessary to compromise one’s theological beliefs to promote a lessening of bloodshed that often sends individuals into eternity before they are prepared to meet God. We as Christians must be mission oriented in our interactions with those outside the faith at whatever cost, while exercising every due caution with respect to our national security.

  • Yet she raises a valid point. The radical Islamists are killing Arab and Syrian Christians with a long history in those countries. In some countries there is a back and forth between Christian militias and Islamic terrorists but in Egypt, for example, it is unprovoked. The onus is on Islam to stop.

  • Let us be clear so there is no misunderstanding:

    What instigated the attack on the Twin Towers, Flight 93 and the Pentagon?

    And what drives today’s 24/7 mosque/imam-planned acts of terror and horror?

    The Koran, Mohammed’s book of death for all infidels and Muslim domination of the world by any means.

    Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the Gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed.

    Then we can talk about the safety and location of mosques and what is taught therein.

    Until then, no Muslim can be trusted anytime or anywhere…………………………….

    And yes the OT is not any better!!! And the NT?

    The New Testament has only one major atrocity, that of god committing filicide assuming you believe in this Christian mumbo jumbo. Said atrocity should be enough to vitiate all of Christianity.