In many respects we want to cautiously applaud the news of the letter written by Muslim scholars to the Pope . Greater understanding between faiths must be a good aim, and in particular an end to violence would be welcomed.
Given the disparate nature of Islam, it is questionable how much impact such a letter can have. In some parts of the world, the issue of persecution by Muslims continues to be a live issue. For example, the Barnabus Fund today have the following prayer request:
Pray for the protection of Pakistani converts from Islam to Christianity. At least 11 convert couples have been murdered in the Lahore region alone in the past two years. Pray also for the protection of other believers around them. In the North West Frontier Province, six people were murdered in connection with one conversion – the convert himsled, the person who led him to Christ, the person who baptised him, the person who discipled him, and two others.
And this very language of “conversion” leads to the second point. Despite the apparent ‘similarities’ between the two religions, it is impossible to say that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Understanding between faiths does not mean that we have to suggest that the faiths are the same. Despite all the abuse of the term today, ‘tolerance’ only makes sense as a concept if there are differences between the opinions of which you are being tolerant.
Let us work to understand those of other faiths. Let us seek an end to the violence between those of other faiths and Christians. But let us hold on to the fact that ‘truth’ as a concept is meaningful, and that we are not all the same. Difference does not of necessity lead to violence.