Faiths encouraged to work together for compassion in a divided world

By agency reporter
May 17, 2010

Muslims, Christians and people of other faiths should work together to show God's compassion in a world where too many suffer destitution and injustice, a Muslim scholar and a Christian leader agreed during an interfaith Bible study held at the major 12-16 May 2010 Kirchentag (German church convention) in Munich.

Ultimately, it is “no advantage for Jews to be Jews, Christians to be Christians, and Muslims to be Muslims”, said Muslim scholar Dr Ataullah Siddiqui. What really matters, Siddiqui argued, is the “human concern” for “the poor and the needy”.

For the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, “God is compassionate” and therefore asks people “to be compassionate”. All human beings have a common calling “to live according to God's will in this land”.

Siddiqui and Tveit were jointly conducting a dialogue Bible study on the text of the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 25, verses 31-46, a passage often referred to as “the judgment on the nations”.

The Bible study was part of the programme of the Kirchentag. This church convention, celebrated ecumenically for the second time, was organised by Protestant and Catholic lay movements and attracted about 125,000 participants.

For Tveit, the text of Matthew 25 does not intend to speculate “about scenarios for the future”, but rather to “express critical, sometimes surprising perspectives on our life here and now”. It tells the reader that what is required here and now is “spontaneous attention to the basic need of another human being”.

“The criterion is to live as Jesus Christ did. Sometimes even against some religious rules – for the sake of humanity. Christ alone is a criterion for the real life of a human being created in God's image”, Tveit said.

For Siddiqui, the text of Matthew 25 does not only challenge Christians. If, as the message of the text has it, human dignity cannot be compromised, there is need for “co-witnessing” – Muslims, Christians and people of other faiths “need to stand together”.

For that to happen, Siddiqui said, “we need respectful, hospitable theologies”. He stressed the need to “recognise and appreciate the otherness of the other”.

With thanks to the WCC


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