Important Step on Road to Cultural Consensus

  • 28 November 2007

The letter signed by over 300 Christian clergymen, apologizing to Muslims  for Crusades, in response to an earlier letter sent by 138 Muslim thinkers and scholars to Christian clerics, marks a historic step toward enhancing dialogue between cultures, and comes as a blow to religious extremists and ‘clash of civilizations’ theorists. What makes the letter highly significant is the fact that it comes from Christian clerics from across the globe, representing a large and disparate sections of the Christian world, belonging to different Christian sects and denominations. As attested by Professor Miroslav Volf, the founder and director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, the letter expresses a sincere desire for dialogue and an end to a hostile legacy that has adversely affected Muslim-Christian relations and has been exploited by seditious elements and warmongers. It is also noteworthy that the earlier letter by 138 Muslim thinkers and scholars—representing various Islamic sects and denominations—signified a collective Islamic will for dialogue and healing of wounds caused by wars between the two sides.

An apology for mistakes of the past is an essential prerequisite for turning a new page for avoidance of future tensions, hatred, and animosity. By merely neglecting a painful history and without making any effort at addressing the festering issues, or by closing up of old wounds without properly cleaning and disinfecting them, the injury will remain susceptible to future infections. For this reason, the apology extended by Christian clerics is a welcome move for treating a sore wound that still affects ties between Muslims and Christians, especially with respect to the Crusades that several centuries have been unable to erase or overcome. This wound frequently festers and disturbs relations between the East and West, and pushes it back by many years.

Despite the important step taken by the respectable Christian clergymen, it is hoped that the Vatican would also issue a similar apology for the Crusades. After the recent courageous step taken by over 300 Christian clergymen, if the Vatican would also take a similar historic step—considering its immense religious importance in the Christian world—it would serve as a major step toward improving Muslim–Christian relations that have been somewhat tense in the recent past.

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