American inter-church body says Muslim-Christian exchange 'a sign of hope'

By staff writers
October 16, 2007

The Rev Michael Livingston, president of the National Council of Churches USA (NCCUSA) has said that the letter from 130 leading Muslim scholars to Christian leaders across the world is "a sign of hope in a violent world", and needs to build into a global exchange.

Referring to the much-publicised 'A Common Word Between You and Us', Dr Shanta Premawardhana, NCCUSA associate general secretary for Interfaith Relations added his gratitude for what he called "a deliberate and thoughtful" document.

"This initiative will give new impetus and urgency to our work of Muslim-Christian dialogue," he added, pledging to "use this to highlight to the broader American public what moderate Muslims are doing to counter the rhetoric and actions of extremists."

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, a diverse community of 35 Christian communions, intensified its work in Muslim-Christian relations following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Premawardhana noted.

This included "efforts to stand in solidarity with Muslims at a time when many Muslims in the United States faced significant levels of discrimination," he said.

"We have also attempted to counter the voices of extremist Christians with initiatives aimed at teaching Christians about Islam and helping churches build relationships with mosques in their local communities," Premawardhana added.

The NCCUSA is currently working with Muslim colleagues to develop an ongoing Muslim-Christian leaders' dialogue table, Livingston noted, adding that the NCC will take the letter from the Muslim leaders "with the seriousness it deserves" and seek to respond by developing new ways to enlarge the dialogue between and among its interfaith partners.

"We thank the Islamic leaders for their initiative," Livingston said.

The National Council of Churches USA is the ecumenical voice of 35 of America's main Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches. These NCCUSA member communions have 45 million members in 100,000 congregations across all 50 US states.

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