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by Taher Amini Golestani, PhD
Islam and Christianity are two of the most numerous and the most influential of the world religions today. They share many points in common as religions. Most important of all they trace their lineage to one common ancestor, Abraham, who is the Divine Patriarch of the religions, called after him as the Abrahamic religions. Knowing this, for any religious person among these two, it is a must to endeavor for approximation of them more and more, due to the world‘s today‘s situation filled with challenge and tension. Now, the main question is this: ―what are the theoretical elements for developing Muslim Christian Interfaith Dialogue and Communication?‖ And the secondary questions: ―Why it is so much talked about today and is so much important? What are the religious leaders‘ perspectives about this phenomenon ― the future of the world is bound to the future of Islam and Christianity‘s Dialogue‖ (2012)1. Following the strong statements of the religious scholars and referring to some solid verses of the holy Qur‘an and narrations from the holy Prophet of Islam(S) and His Ahlulbayt (PBUT) and the statements of other great thinkers, one will conclude that, Muslim Christian Dialogue, is inevitable.
Prophet Muhammad’s Model of Interfaith Dialogue (Based Islamic Perspective on Standing Against Violence and Extremism)
The following paper was delivered by Sheikh Taher Amini Golestani, PhD at the 2016 ViQo conference, Heute gerecht leben: Impulse zu Ordnungskonzeptionen aus katholischer, orthodoxer und schiitischer Tradition, Vienna, September 19th, 2016. A pdf version can be found in the papers section of our website.
Violence and extremism are of the most important topics in current research on religion and interreligious studies. The New World Order and the global peace, justice and ethics, cannot be understood without accounting for the role of religion and religious organizations and among the topics dealing with religion is the matter of violence done by the excuse of religion’s orders. There is increasing research looking at and beyond religious causes of violence, as well as a hope that religion could offer genuinely effective tools to control violence. The question of control of violence is discussed in relation to the spheres of ethics (regulation of affect), theology (legitimacy of violence), and government (integration via religion). It is shown not only that religion offers possibilities for controlling violence, but also that control of violence via religion. This paper emphasizes on the impact of interreligious and intercultural role on peace and conflict resolution, as well as the role of “Global Ethic” and I will shortly note to one of the important Islamic proofs narrated from Prophet Muhammad (S), called “The Promise of Muhammad to the Christians till the end of the World”. Sublime morality is also one point noted here as the resolution for war and conflict.
- No peace among the nations without peace among the religions.
- No peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions.
- No dialogue between the religions without investigation of the foundations of the religions.
- And there will be no life on the earth without Global Ethics
The history of the past decade contains many examples of human suffering and conflict that may fairly be laid at the feet of certain religious people and their understanding of how religion plays a role in their lives. And yet, religion cannot be avoided in any attempts to pursue peace and social justice among the people of the earth. Religion has failed to disappear as predicted by Marx, Freud, Nietzsche or any of the other Enlightenment theorists who tended to view religion as a crutch that would be thrown away as scientific knowledge progressed. Between just the two major religions we are considering at this article, more than two billion people continue to orient their lives (at varying degrees of depth and commitment) around the meaning they find in Christ or the Qur’an.
In this stream, Islam and Christianity are two of the most numerous and the most influential of the world religions today. They share many points in common as religions. Most important of all they trace their lineage to one common ancestor, Abraham, who is the Divine Patriarch of the religions, called after him as the Abrahamic religions. Knowing this, for any religious person among these two, it is a must to endeavor for approximation of them more and more, due to the world‘s today‘s situation filled with challenge and tension. Based on this mentality, having attracted scholars in the current situation, there are important reasons for Christian theology to deal with Islam. They have something to do with striving for insight and with the belief that Christianity and Islam have to say each other something. Relevant issues are the conception of God, the God-man relationship and the formation of religious identity. Dialogue, or peaceful negotiation, is the path prescribed by Islam. Islam is based on the principle of dawah, which is another name for peaceful negotiation manifests that violence is totally forbidden in Islam. The Prophet of Islam started His mission which was to communicate his ideology to people by talking to them, listening to their objections and trying to convince them of his viewpoint by means of arguments. In the situation which Many people are under the impression that Muslims are close-minded and unwilling to engage in discussion with people of other faiths, dialogue and effective communications based on tolerance, respect and love, is very constructive; this is while, the holy Qur‘an offers very clear guidelines and encouragement for Muslims to engage in interfaith dialogue.
So, as one conflict resolution, for Christians and Muslims in particular, it would seem that there is much room and much need for this kind of dialogue to come to a better mutual understanding and appreciation as demonstrated in Küng‘s review of the foundations of each faith. Starting this process of dialogue from the point of view of a Global Ethic or from the mutual concern for social justice and the promotion of peace seems like a particularly important place to begin because it allows the dialogue to occur between the two faiths at many levels.
Religion and globalization
Today, in the conditions of the modern process of globalization, we have become much closer to each other. And due particularly to this development, the dialogue between nations, cultures, and religions is becoming more significant. By developing this dialogue, by supporting it, we can facilitate the definition of the sources serving to create terrorism, and, by doing this, we can destroy its very roots. Unfortunately, today, in some cases, terrorism hides itself under the screen of religion and different spiritual developments. It nevertheless should not deceive us into diverting our attention from its actual meaning. There was a period when terrorism tried to obscure its real intentions by using the beautiful slogans granted to humankind by the great French Revolution. The commissars implementing “the red terror” into life were executing this under the flags of communist ideology. Today, the terrorist forces, in order to achieve their provocative political targets, are using values that are sacred for all of us and are trying to justify terror to protect the interests of certain groups. While hiding under the cover of various religions, terrorism very skillfully is trying to hide its destructive purposes. No cover, no excuse or pretense should mislead us, since one can easily disclose the real face of terrorism under all false covers.
Islam and faith-based terrorism
In his response to Huntington’s ‘clash of civilizations’ article (1993), Edward Said (2001) replacing the term of “Clash of Ignorance”  argued that not only political leaders, but even academics can fall into the trap of simplification by basing their arguments on a perception of static, rather than dynamic relations between social and religious groups. He points out that the use of labels for groups, rather than groups themselves, are driving factors of conflict. For him, the political and academic discourse on religious identities that distinguishes between ‘the West’ and ‘Islam’ promotes and amplifies conflict (Said 2001).
The escalation of violence carried out in the name of Islam must be attributed to a combination of factors where contextual variables, individual psychologies and opportunity structures in a society are central Looking at entire processes rather than examining individual factors, ideas or actors appears to be more productive in capturing the shifting role of religion, band of Islam more specifically, in the current challenges of conflict and terrorism that the international community faces.
Islamic Views of Peace and Violence
Contrary to stereotypes of Islam, Islam advocates numerous nonviolent and peacebuilding values and expects Muslims to live by them. These values are supported by the Quran and the Hadith (the Prophet’s sayings). One of these values is the duty to pursue justice
O believers, be you securers of justice, witnesses for God. Let not detestation for a people move you not to be equitable; be equitable — that is nearer to godfearing. And fear God; surely God is aware of the things you do.
(Quran 5:8). Another is the necessity of doing good by struggling against oppression and helping those who are in need. A third such value is that all humans are God’s creation, have sacred lives, and thus are all equal (7:11). Islam grants no special privileges based on race, ethnicity, or tribal affiliation. Moreover, all Muslims are to respect and preserve human life (5:32). Islam also calls for the quest for peace, which is a state of physical, mental, spiritual, and social harmony (5:64). Other verses stress the importance of tolerance and kindness to other people (16:90). Looking at the life of the Prophet, one notes his use of nonviolent methods to resist those who persecuted him; the Prophet never resorted to violence or force. Peace making and negotiation are considered more effective than aggression and violent confrontation. In fact, the Arabic meaning of the word Islam itself connotes peace. Another virtue in Islam is forgiveness (23:96). Muslims are urged to live in harmony and peace with all fellow humans.
The promise of Muhammad (S)
In Makatib al-Rasoul, by Ahmadi Miyanaji, a letter is narrated from the holy prophet of Islam (s) the (Nestorian) Christians of Najaran. This letter which verbalized by Prophet Muhammad (s) and is written down by Imam Ali (a) in the month of Muharram, in the year 624 (A.D. or the 3rd year A.H.) contains very important notions. The letter is as follow:
In the Name if God, the Compassionate the Merciful. This is a covenant from Muhammad bin Abdullah, the Messenger of God, to all Christians. I write this letter to be a proof after me indicating that Allah is Almighty and All-Wise. This is a covenant to all Christians in east and west, Arab and non-Arab, known and unknown. Do not break this covenant, or it would be the violation from the covenant of God and mockery to the allegiance of God. If you break it, will be cursed by Him; No difference that you are a governor, a believer or a Muslim. All the rights which belong to me, my people and my relatives, are alike for Christians. They are my citizens and “the people of the dhimma14”.we prohibit any kind of bothering and annoying them… no bishop is enforced to discard his Episcopal position, no monk is needed to abandon his position. Those who are in Monastery can stay there and those who are in trip can come back. No church and no business place of the Christian must be destroyed and no property (confiscated) or use in building the mosques, if one violate it, had certainly broken God’s covenant and stood against the holy Prophet (s); we do not want any ransom (Jeziah) or reparation from monks and bishops. Wherever they are, are under my support. In desert or faraway land, in east or west, in north or south, they are under my covenant and promise and all devils is away from them. Anyone from them who are in mountains or holy places worshiping God are under my support. There is no tax or Zakat for their crops and harvests… do not dispute them but with good polemics…. Whoever violates this covenant and acts against it undoubtedly has violated the covenant of God and His prophet…till when this world is alive must not violate it till the end of the world.
In Sunnite narrations the letter is as follows, having many things in common with the Shi’ite version:
According to the Sunnites narration, the same letter is narrated by the name of “the Promise to St. Catherine”. In 628 AD, a delegation from St. Catherine’s Monastery came to Prophet Muhammad (s) and requested his protection. He responded by granting them a charter of rights, which I reproduce below in its entirety. St. Catherine’s Monastery is located at the foot of Mt. Sinai and is the world’s oldest monastery. It possesses a huge collection of Christian manuscripts, second only to the Vatican, and is a world heritage site. It also boasts the oldest collection of Christian icons. It is a treasure house of Christian history that has remained safe for 1400 years under Muslim protection:
The Promise to St. Catherine:
“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His
Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”
This letter, which also famous for being as the “Peace Manifestation of Muslims” clearly shows the guidelines and it show that the prophet issued the letter as if predicting today clashes done against Christian by the name of religion and Islam. Moreover, the first and the final sentences of these two letters are critically important. They make the promise eternal and universal. Muhammad (s) asserts that Muslims are with Christians near and far straight away rejecting any future attempts to limit the promise to St. Catherine alone. By ordering Muslims to obey it until the Day of Judgment the charter again undermines any future attempts to revoke the privileges. These rights are inalienable. Muhammad (s) declared Christians, all of them, as his allies and he equated ill treatment of Christians with violating God‘s covenant.
A remarkable aspect of the charter is that it imposes no conditions on Christians for enjoying its privileges. It is enough that they are Christians. They are not required to alter their beliefs, they do not have to make any payments and they do not have any obligations. This is a charter of rights without any duties!
The document is not a modern human rights treaty but even thought it was penned in 628 A.D. it clearly protects the right to property, freedom of religion, freedom of work, and security of the person.
Human Unity on the Basis of Sublime Spirituality
Human being has three types of unity: National unity, religious unity and humane unity. The best type of unity is the humane unity which itself is based on Fitrah (Haman Nature) which is intrinsic spirituality.
God, the Almighty, has given man intellect and made him a creature that thinks and differentiates between good and evil. He shows him what is the best and what is the worst and what is the most desirable and what is the most disliked among deeds. Man indeed knows that injustice, lying and tormenting others are hateful while justice, truthfulness and being benevolent are good. His ability to think makes him distinct from animals; to love good, praiseworthy and moral behavior and dislike bad and immoral conduct.
We believe that all divine religions including Islam which is monotheistic and Abrahamic religion, teaches us that whatever is humanistic and based on Fitrah (Human nature), is also religious and whatever is religious in in total congruity with Fitrah and humanity. And based on all the mentioned points, The Holy Qur’an aptly and precisely describes and praises such people by saying: æó Åöäøóßó áóÚóáìó? ÎõáõÞò ÚóÙöíã “And most surely you conform (yourself) to sublime morality.” (68:4). One of the best ways to convey this message is also interreligious and intercultural dialogue which paves the way toward human unity.
What is Religious based Global Ethics
It will not make the specific ethics of the different religions and philosophies superfluous; it would be ridiculous to consider Global Ethic as a substitute for the Torah, the Sermon on the Mount, the Qur’an, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Discourses of the Buddha or the Sayings of Confucius. By a global ethic we do not mean a global ideology or a single unified religion beyond all existing religions, and certainly not the domination of one
religion over all others. By a global ethic we mean a fundamental consensus on binding values, irrevocable standards, and personal attitude.
4- Ethics in Christian Perspective
4-1Christian Golden and Silver Rule (“Do unto others”)
In Christianity there is one rule which is called Golden Rule: -Love the Lord thy God and Love thy neighbor as thyself?. Leviticus 19:18 represents but one of several versions of the Golden Rule. The following verses are included in this rule which has founded the basis for interfaith dialogue in Christian perspective. The Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity is a maxim, ethical code, or morality that essentially states either of the following:
- Golden Rule: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.
- Silver Rule: One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated.
This concept describes a “reciprocal”, or “two-way”, relationship between one’s self and others that involves both sides equally, and in a mutual fashion.
This concept can be explained from the perspective of psychology, philosophy, sociology, and religion. Psychologically, it involves a person empathizing with others. Philosophically, it involves a person perceiving their neighbor as also “an I” or “self.” Sociologically, this principle is applicable between individuals, between groups, and also between individuals and groups. (For example, a person living by this rule treats all people with consideration, not just members of his or her in-group). Religion is an integral part of the history of this concept.
According to the Biblical verses, loving God, the Almighty, and loving the neighbors are the signs of having faith; neighbors, according to Christian interpreters is not necessarily the physical one, rather, it is generalized to the neighbor in faith
humanity and dignity. Accordingly, these verses from different versions of Gospel denotes to the fact of interfaith dialogue.
Dr.Terry Nichols’ declaration
Professor Dr.Terry Nichols, the head of Muslim Christian Dialogue Center (MCDC) in St. Thomas Catholic University in Minnesota, in a conferencevi coordinated by him and me, on behalf of al-Mustafa International University and cooperating with Muslim Christian Interfaith Dialogue association (MCID)vii, in a lecture stated as very important points in regard with MCID asfollow:
This is my own view also, yet I would go one step further. In a world besieged by atheism, materialism, secularism, nationalism, militarism, and a host of other idolatries, I would foresee a time when we, Christians and Muslims, Muslims and Christians, would witness together to the sovereignty of the one true God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the judge of human kind on the Last day, the Lord to whom we will all return. As the Qur‘an puts it, in a beautiful verse, -If God had so willed, he could surely have made you all one community. But his purposes required that he test you by means of what he has given you. So vie with one another in doing good works. To Allah shall you all return, and he will inform you about that which you used to differ.? (Qur‘an 5:48)
The greatest enemy of religion in our day, and the greatest cause of Godlessness, is the strife between religious believers, not only between religions, but within the religions themselves. One does not need to read far in the works of the so-called ?new atheism‘, like Richard Dawkins‘ The God Delusion, to realize that while much of their atheism is rooted scientific materialism and naturalism, much of it also is a reaction to the violence and strife among religions people. I have often thought, an sometimes said, that if I were Satan, and wanted to destroy the worship of the true God on earth, I would set religious believers against one another. Divide and Conquer: it always seems to work. But this is not the will of God. God‘s will. Which will one day triumph, is that all true believers in God love each other and work together in common witness to God‘s lordship. This is the ultimate aim of interreligious dialogue, and in this we ought to be confident that we are indeed doing the will of the one God whom we worship in common.
Some Qur’anic Verses on Communal Peace
According to the main teachings of Islam and Qur’an, freedom of religion, equality, justice, rationality, being pious nd loving other humanbeings are mentioned in the verses of Qur’an which I bring some of them which all need contemplation.
- you who believe! Enter into peace and all and do not follow the footsteps of Satan surely he is your open enemy (2:208)
- When Allah said,” O Jesus, I shall take your soul, and I shall raise you up toward Myself, and I shall clear you of] the calumnies of [the faithless, and I shall set those who follow you above the faithless until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me will be your return, whereat I will judge between you concerning that about which you used to differ (3:55)
- Had not Allah repulsed the people from one another, ruin would have befallen the monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques in which Allah’s Name is mentioned greatly. Allah will surely help those who help Him. Indeed Allah is all-strong, all-mighty (22:40)
- Say,” We have faith in Allah, and in what has been sent down to us, and what was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus were given, and the prophets, from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him do we submit(3:84)
- The Messenger believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and [so do] believers; everyone believes in God and His angels, His books and His messengers. We do not differentiate between any of His messengers. They say:” we have heard and obey; [we beg]Your pardon, our Lord! Toward You lies the Goal!
- Indeed the faithful, the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabaeans those of them who have faith in Allah and the Last Day and act righteously they shall have their reward near their Lord, and they will have no fear, nor will they grieve (2:62)
- mankind! Indeed We created you from a male and a female, and made you nations and tribes that you may identify yourselves with one another. Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God wary among you. Indeed Allah is all-knowing, all-aware. (49:13)
- Muslims! Be ever steadfast in upholding equity without partiality, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of ALLAH, even though it is against your own selves or your parents and kinsfolk. Whether the person concerned is rich or poor, ALLAH’s claim takes precedence over both the cases. Do not follow personal inclination, lest you not be just. And if you will try to distort or refuse to testify, indeed ALLAH is aware of all that you do!” (4:135)
- “For you, your religion, and for me, my religion.” (109:6)
- “There must not be any compulsion in religion…..” (2:256)
- “O Muslims! Stand out firmly in your devotion to ALLAH as witness to fair dealing, and let not the ill will of anyone lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just and impartial: this is closest to being God-conscious. And remain conscious of ALLAH: verily, ALLAH is aware of all that you do.” (5:8)
- “O You who believe! Enter absolutely into peace (Islam). Do not follow in the footsteps of satan. He is an outright enemy to you.” (2, 208)
- “You cannot guide those you would like to but God guides those He wills. He has best knowledge of the guided.” (28: 56)
For more elaborations and more verses, refer to my following article: “Islamic Approaches for Developing Muslim-Christian Interfaith Dialogue and Communications”
Referring to the very time of the emergence of Islam, we see it vividly that the invitation toward the new religion by the Holy Prophet of Islam and His Infallible Ahlulbayt (Prophet Muhammad’s Progeny-PBUT), had never been resorted to any kind of force, violence or any other type of uncivilized matters, rather, scientific discussions, negotiations and agreements were the only prescribed way toward dealing with non-Muslims. Following this method, during the history, many Shi‘a scholars had taken the way of dialogue as the only constructive method for establishment of peace and justice and history shows as well that the most constructive and influential services to the religiosity had always done by the peace makers and the people of dialogue. Believers and religious communities, based on their faith in God, have a specific role to play in society, on an equal footing with other citizens; moreover, Believers are called to cooperate in the search for common good, on the basis of a sound relation between faith and reason; It is necessary for Christians and Muslims as well as all believers and persons of good will, to cooperate in answering modern challenges, promoting moral values, justice and peace and protecting the family, environment and natural resources. Faith, by its very nature, requires freedom. Therefore, religious freedom, as a right inherent to human dignity, must always be respected by individuals, social actors and the State. The cultural and historical background of each society which is not in contradiction with human dignity should be taken into consideration in applying this fundamental principle. Besides, Religion has an inherent social dimension that the State has the obligation to respect; therefore, also in the interest of society, it cannot be confined to private sphere;
Qur‘an, as mentioned before, very strongly insist on the unity of the Divine religions, Books and the followers of them. Qur‘an proclaims that the origin of the revealed Books and Holy scriptures is one before God, the Almighty and that Origin is called –Ummol Kitab? (Mother of the Books) or Luhe Mahfudh, namely, the Preserved Tablet which only God and His Messengers are aware of.
…Give good news to My servant (17) who listen to the word(of Allah) and follow the best( sense ) [of it. They are the ones whom Allah has guided, and it is they who possess intellect (Qur’an-39:17-18)
 Founder and head of International Institute for Peace and religions ( IIPR.ir )
 Hans Küng, Islam, Past Present & Future (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2007), p. xxiii
 Richard H. Morgan, Professor, School of Social Welfare, Stony Brook University
 Richard H. Morgan, Professor, School of Social Welfare, Stony Brook University
 Levent Tezcan, Religion and Control of Violence.
 Said, E. (2001) ‘The Clash of Ignorance’. The Nation 273(12): 11–14.
 Hafez 2003; Jackson and Gunning 2011; Mandaville 2007; Wiktorowicz 2005a).
 Mak?t?b al-ras?l (ã˜ÇÊíÈ ÇáÑÓæá) is a book by Ayatollah Ahmadi Miyanaji consisting the letters and written documents ascribed to the Holy Prophet (s). Apparently, the idea for such a book came to the author’s mind as he was amending a book by al-Fayd al-Kashani, known as Ma’adin al-hikma fi makatib al-a’imma.
 The first infallible Imam of Shi’a Muslims and the fourth caliph in Sunnites perspective.
- Hafez 2003; Jackson and Gunning 2011; Mandaville 2007; Wiktorowicz 2005a).
- Khosrokhavar, F. (2005) Suicide Bombers: Allah’s New Martyrs. London: Pluto Press.
- Levent Tezcan, Religion and Control of Violence.
- Mandaville, P. (2007) Global Political Islam. London and New York, NY: Routledge.
- Moghadam, A. (2009) ‘Motives for Martyrdom’. International Security 33(3): 46–78.
- Dr. Tofig Asadov, Faculty Member of , Al-Mustafa International University, Qom, Iran, Tofiq.email@example.com
- Qom, Iran
- Richard H. Morgan, Professor, School of Social Welfare, Stony Brook University
- Said, E. (2001) ‘The Clash of Ignorance’. The Nation 273(12): 11–14.
- Sheikh Amini Golestani, Taher, Islamic Approaches for Developing Muslim-Christian Interfaith Dialogue and Communications, the head of International Institute for Peace and Religions, Qom, Iran, 2016
- The Role of Religionin Conflict and Peacebuilding, THE BRITISH ACADEMY, 10 –11 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AH, britiahacademy.ac.uk Registered Charity: Number 233176,©The British Academy 2015, Published September 2015, ISBN 978-0-85672-618-7
The following paper was delivered by Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist. at our 2016 conference Heute gerecht leben: Impulse zu Ordnungskonzeptionen aus katholischer, orthodoxer und schiitischer Tradition, Vienna, September 19th, 2016. A pdf version can be found in the papers section of our website. (more…)
Coexistence and Cooperation of Civilizations
By Heinz Theisen
In addition to the clash of cultures (Islamists against the West) and the fight in the cultures (Sunnis against Shiites) there is a struggle of generations. Youths in Teheran, Cairo and Istanbul fight for their individual interests – against old oligarchies and collective identities. The migration processes are mostly directed towards Europe, not towards traditional cultures. In the long run, the modern civilization is the only alternative to the clash of old cultural identities. (more…)
Bericht Interreligiöse Konferenz “Heute gerecht leben. Impulse zu Ordnungskonzeptionen aus katholischer, orthodoxer und schiitischer Tradition”
Dr. Christian Machek
Seit je her geben Religionen den Menschen Antworten auf die essentiellen Lebensfragen, auch bezüglich des Zusammenlebens. Diesen immer hoch aktuellen Antworten der verschiedenen Weltreligionen liegen historisch ausdifferenzierte philosophisch-theologische Konzepte zugrunde. Bestehen bei allen Unterschieden auch Gemeinsamkeiten, die es zu erkennen und für die Gegenwart fruchtbar zu machen gilt? Johannes Messner meinte, dass der Lehre vom Naturrecht und Naturgesetz im interreligiösen Gespräch größere Bedeutung denn je zukommen wird.
Der Frage nach der Bedeutung des Naturrechts und der Religion überhaupt ging die Messner-Gesellschaft in einer in Kooperation mit dem Institut für Religion und Frieden (unter der Leitung von MilSuperior MMag. Gugurel) veranstalteten Konferenz vom 19. bis 22. September 2016 nach. Der Titel der Konferenz lautete: „Heute gerecht leben“ und war ein Trialog zwischen katholischen, orthodoxen und schiitischen Gelehrten, indem insbesondere die Voraussetzungen für eine vernünftige Koexistenz und somit den Perspektiven für eine Kooperation in der heutigen Welt erörtert wurden. Die konkreten Themen der Konferenz waren Anthropologie, philosophische Traditionen, Religionsgeschichte, Ordnungskonzeptionen mit besonderer Bezugnahme auf das Verhältnis von Religion und Staat, der interreligiöse Dialog und eben die Frage nach einer Koexistenz und einer Kooperation der Religionen. Teilnehmer der Konferenz waren Professoren aus Österreich, der Bundesrepublik Deutschland und dem Iran, sowie Mitglieder der Messner-Gesellschaft.
Das Leitmotiv der Konferenz war die von Hans Küng formulierte Überzeugung: „Kein Frieden unter den Nationen ohne Frieden unter den Religionen. Kein Frieden unter den Religionen ohne Dialog zwischen den Religionen. Kein Dialog zwischen den Religionen ohne Grundlagenforschung in den Religionen.“ Die Religionen sind eine „Schule der göttlichen Gnade“, und im Zeichen der Suche nach gemeinsamen Wurzeln und einer gemeinsamen Wahrheit fand diese Konferenz und das anschließende Kulturprogramm – getragen von einem Geist der Offenheit, Wertschätzung und Freundschaft – statt, die einen intensiven, spannenden und fruchtbaren akademischen Diskurs ermöglichten. Teil des Programms waren auch Besuche bei Frau Dekanin Prof. Müller von der Theologischen Fakultät und dem islamischen Religionspädagogen Prof. Aslan von der Universität Wien sowie der Klöster Heiligenkreuz und Melk.
Im ersten Teil der Konferenz wurden die philosophischen und theologischen Grundlagen von Christentum und Islam erörtert. Es stellte sich heraus, dass der schiitische Islam über eine starke neoplatonische Tradition verfügt, betont er doch die Prinzipien Rationalität, Spiritualität und Gerechtigkeit. In einem gemeinsamen philosophischen Traditionsverständnis ist die Vernunft mit dem Ordnungsdenken verknüpft. Der Logos ist eben ein kosmischer Begriff. Es gibt eine Verbindung zwischen der Vernunft Gottes, der objektiven Vernünftigkeit der Welt, die wir „Natur“ nennen, und der endlichen Vernunft der Menschen. Dieses Konzept ist theonomisch und bis heute der Verdrängung durch ein autonomes Menschenbild ausgesetzt.
Das gemeinsame Verständnis der Unvollkommenheit des Menschen (mit dem Unterschied der christlichen Erbsündenlehre) bei seinem gleichzeitigen Streben nach Vollkommenheit wurde anfangs der Konferenz angesprochen. Der Mensch ist nicht bloßes Faktum, sondern ein Wesen, das seine Menschennatur entfaltet. Ein naturalistisches und voluntaristisches Menschenbild schaden dem Menschen und führen unweigerlich zu Chaos und Anarchie. Es gibt immer einen Maßstab für das menschliche Handeln „jenseits“ eines Konventionalismus. Die Grundlagen für den Begriff der Menschenwürde, sowie die unterschiedlichen religiösen und modernen Verständnisse von Freiheit wurden ferner thematisiert. Dabei betonten die iranischen Gäste, dass das Gewissen („innerer Prophet“) im Einklang mit der Offenbarung (der „äußeren Propheten“) stehen sollte.
Anknüpfend an diese Überlegungen zu den Grundsätzen wurde die Frage nach der Ordnung des Zusammenlebens gestellt. Kann es eine gesellschaftliche Ordnung ohne Gott geben? Ist es nicht vielleicht doch gerade die Religion, die die Würde des Menschen schützt – trotz ihrer Missbräuche und Pathologien, die angesprochen wurden (z. B. Gewaltbereitschaft im Islam)? Wie sieht dabei das Verhältnis von Religion und Staat aus bzw. sollte es aussehen? Der Islam kennt die Einheit der politischen und religiösen Sphären, das (katholische und orthodoxe) Christentum die Unterscheidung, aber nicht die Trennung im Sinne des säkularen bzw. laizistischen Staates. Staat und Kirche sind analog zu sehen mit dem Körper und der Seele des Menschen. In Deutschland und Österreich hat sich ein eigenes Modell entwickelt, dass die Freiheit des Einzelnen achtet und sichern will sowie gleichzeitig den Religionen einen geschützten Status in Staat und Gesellschaft garantiert. Das Bonner Grundgesetz beginnt etwa mit einer Verantwortungsklausel vor Gott.
In politikwissenschaftlichen Schlussbetrachtungen wurde festgehalten, dass unsere heutige Welt zunehmend multipolar ist und in dieser realpolitisch eine Ordnung der Welt möglich ist. Dabei sind diverse Universalismen und ihr „Export“, hinter dem sich meist Machtinteressen verbergen, als Gefahr für die Weltfrieden zu sehen. Die Religionen mit ihren Offenbarungen, aber auch ihrer Rationalität, können einen wichtigen Beitrag zur Lösung der Probleme der Menschheit liefern, so der Grundkonsens der Konferenz. Dabei kann der Andere ein Zeichen Gottes für uns sein, so der orthodoxe Referent. Sind wir fähig von anderen zu lernen, was wir vielleicht schon vergessen haben? Das Institut für Religion und Frieden wird einen Sammelband der Konferenz im nächsten Jahr herausgeben. Es wurde ein eigenes Dialog-Forum, den ViCo-Kreis, der Vienna-Qom Circle for Catholic-Shi’a Dialogue on Religion, Philosophy and Political Theory, gegründet. Und im Hinblick auf die Fortsetzung der bisherigen Tagungen wurde eine dritte Konferenz anberaumt, die voraussichtlich wieder in Qom (Iran) stattfinden wird. An unserem Dialog-Forum sind Sie selbstverständlich herzlich eingeladen teilzunehmen: https://viqocircle.org. Die Dialoge werden ihre Fortsetzung finden – so Gott will, Inshallah.
Our September 2016 conference was held in Vienna in cooperation with the Johannes-Messner-Gesellschaft, the Institut für Religion und Frieden of the Austrian Military Diocese, the The International Institute for Peace and Religions, and the Al-Hikmah Institute of A-Mustafa International University, those last two based in Qom, Iran. The theme was the just ordering of human life and society from Catholic, Orthodox and Sh’ia perspectives. At the end of the conference it was decided to give our group the name “ViQo Circle ” short for “ViennaQom Circle.” (more…)
Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., Heiligenkreuz Abbey, Austria
That in all things God might be glorified. 1 Pet 4:11
Peace be with you. I am sorry not to be able to be with you in person today, but I am grateful that I can at least be with you through these reflections, which Christian Machek was kind enough to agree to read for me. I hope that in the future I will be able to come to Qom myself.
To say “peace” in greeting is common among all the children of Abraham: Shalom, Salam, Pax. Today I want to reflect a little a teaching within my own Christian tradition that peace is the very purpose of creation; the primary good that God wanted to achieve by creating the world was the good of peace. As a Cistercian monk I follow the Rule of St Benedict of Nursia (c. 480 – 543 or 547), and monasteries in the tradition of St Benedict often have the word pax (peace), inscribed above their doors. In the prologue of his Rule St Benedict commands the monk to “seek after peace and pursues it” (Psalm 33:15). The monastery is not the place of, “confusion, of discordance, of accidental, random, private courses… but of determinate, regulated, prescribed action;” it is the place of order and subordination, of harmony and tranquility. Indeed one can see the monastery as a kind of model of creation as a whole, and an anticipation of the restoration of creation through God. Christians hold that at the end of the ages God will restore His creation, and will build a city for the just, and this city will be called “Jerusalem,” which means “City of Peace.”
St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the greatest theologians of our tradition, defines peace as “tranquility of order:” tranquilitas ordinis. He calls peace “a good so great that even in this earthly and mortal life there is no other word which we hear with such pleasure,” and argues that this is the purpose of creation. He quotes Psalm 147: “Praise the Lord Jerusalem;… for He has strengthened the bars of your gates:… who has made peace in your borders.” In the Latin version of the Psalm, which Augustine quotes, the word for borders is fines: “qui posuit fines tuos pacem.” While fines has “borders” as one of its meanings, it can also mean a number of other things. St. Augustine read fines to mean the ends in the sense of purposes. Thus, according St. Augustine, the Psalmist is saying that God made peace to be the purpose, the final cause of the City of God, and thus our purpose and “the end of our good” as citizens of that city.
St Thomas Aquinas teaches that the ultimate explanation of anything is it’s end, it’s final cause, or as Aristotle whom Aquinas follows in this would say, it’s telos. If we want to explain a building, for instance, we have to show to what end it was built. For what purpose did the builder build this building? Only when we have understood that this building was built for the purpose of housing a university, and not (say) a hospital or a prison can we see why it is the way it is.
Just as one can ask this question about any particular created thing, so one can ask it about creation as a whole. Why did God create the universe? What was the point? In the Gospel of Luke angels announce the birth of Christ with these words: “Glory to God in the Highest Heaven, and on earth peace to men of good will.” (Luke, 2:14). These words are interpreted to mean that all that is is for the glory of God.
But what does this mean? God does not need anything outside of Himself to give Him glory. He already possesses the fullness of Glory in the perfection of His essence. He is the one who Is, he possesses absolute fullness of being, in the perfect simplicity of His essence. There is nothing lacking in God. He is Perfection. Since He is infinite being and perfection He is also infinite good. Now, the unity of God belongs to the very account of this infinite goodness. For, as St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, “Unity belongs to the idea of goodness… as all things desire good, so do they desire unity; without which they would cease to exist. For a thing so far exists as it is one.” So it belongs to God’s
In his sermon, Order the Witness and Instrument of Unity, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, a great English theologian of the nineteenth century, shows how this unity of the Divine Goodness appears to us as order, you will forgive a long quotation:
All the works of God are founded on unity, for they are founded on Himself, who is the most awful, simple, and transcendent of possible unities. He is emphatically One; and whereas He is also multiform in His attributes and His acts, as they present themselves to our minds, it follows that order and harmony must be of His very essence. To be many and distinct in His attributes, yet, after all, to be but one,—to be sanctity, justice, truth, love, power, wisdom, to be at once each of these as fully as if He were nothing but it, as if the rest were not,—this implies in the Divine Nature an infinitely sovereign and utterly incomprehensible order, which is an attribute as wonderful as any, and the result of all the others.
“All the works of God are founded on unity.” But from whence come these works? Why does the perfectly self-sufficing God create? St. Thomas teaches that God chose to create out of love for His own goodness. For it belongs to the nature of the good, being as desirable, that he who loves the good for its own sake desires that it ever be, “bettered and multiplied as much as possible.” Therefore, since God loves His infinite Goodness with an infinite love, He desires that it be multiplied, but since the Divine essence is absolutely simple and one, it cannot be increased and multiplied in itself. The only way in which the Divine essence can be multiplied is by likeness, by representation, “which is shared by many,” that is, by creatures. “Therefore God wishes things to be multiplied, because He wills and loves His essence and perfection.”
The multitude of creatures is thus created to give God glory by being a likeness, a reflection, of the Divine goodness. The complete goodness which God possesses in a perfectly simple and undivided way is reflected by the multitude of creatures in a divided way; each creature reflects a different aspect of the Divine goodness as no one creature can represent the Divine goodness as a whole. Since, as we saw, it belongs to the very account of the goodness that creation is an image of that it be one, it follows that the multitude of creatures must be brought together, in some way, so as to imitate the Divine Unity.
Of course, the multitude of creatures remains multitude and cannot have the unity of essence that belongs to God. In what way then is the Divine unity able to be imitated by multitude? What aspect of God’s unity is reflected by the multitude of creation? We can discover this from the nature of representation. If the purpose of creation is to reflect the Divine goodness, it follows from its nature as representation to imitate that goodness as beauty. “All things are made, so that they in some way imitate the divine beauty,” writes St Thomas, for, “nobody takes care to shape and represent anything, except to (the image of) the beautiful.” Now, just as unity belongs to the account of goodness, so that mode of unity which is order belongs to the account of beauty. This is way St Thomas can write the following about the purpose of creation:
The multitude and distinction of things has been planned by the divine mind and has been instituted in the real world so that created things would represent the divine goodness in various ways and diverse beings would participate in it in different degrees, so that out of the order of diverse beings a certain beauty would arise in things.
The purpose of creation is to give glory of to God by reflecting His Goodness through the beauty of its order. Of course, since each thing reflects an aspect of the Divine goodness, it is in itself a good, an end, so that each thing is also for itself. But there is a hierarchy of these ends. St. Thomas explains this from a general principle:
If we wish to assign an end to any whole, and to the parts of that whole, we shall find, first, that each and every part exists for the sake of its proper act,… secondly, that less honorable parts exist for the more honorable, … and, thirdly, that all parts are for the perfection of the whole… In the parts of the universe also every creature exists for its own proper act and perfection, and the less noble for the nobler, as those creatures that are less noble than man exist for the sake of man, whilst each and every creature exists for the perfection of the entire universe. Furthermore, the entire universe, with all its parts, is ordained towards God as its end, inasmuch as it imitates, as it were, and shows forth the Divine goodness, to the glory of God.
Thus, while God intends each creature as a good in its own right, that which He principally intends is the good of the order of the whole universe. St. Thomas manifests this from the creation account in the book of Genesis:
The good of order among diverse things is better than any one of those things that are ordered taken by itself: for it is formal in respect of each, as the perfection of the whole in respect of the parts… Hence it is said (Gen 1:31): God saw all the things that He had made, and they were very good, after it had been said of each that they are good. For each one in its nature is good, but all together are very good, on account of the order of the universe, which is the ultimate and noblest perfection in things.
St Thomas explains that beauty consists of two things: splendor, and harmony or proportion. In creation, he continues, splendor corresponds to the reflection of the Divine Essence that belongs to each thing, while harmony corresponds to the order of the whole. This order itself consists in two things: the order of things to each other, and the order of creatures to God.
The order of things among themselves consists partly in what is called “the hierarchy of forms.” The universe has perfection or completeness from having all degrees of being—each of which is a different participation in the One Divine Essence. This order appears in the creation account of Genesis, where diverse things, are created in hierarchal order, in the six days: first non-living things, then plants, then animals, and finally man as a rational being.
It also belongs to this order that things are proportioned to one another, and subordinate to each other. The lower creatures are for the sake of the higher, and therefore subordinate to them. This subordination is not accidental to the order of the universe, but belongs essentially to its beauty as a representation of the Divine Goodness. We saw the subordination of creatures to one another in the text quoted above on the hierarchy of good: “those creatures that are less noble than man exist for the sake of man, whilst each and every creature exists for the perfection of the entire universe.” Man is essential to the good of the universe. For to irrational creation the good of order remains in a way extrinsic to them. It is “their” good only insofar as they contribute to it and exist principally for it, but it is not a good that they enjoy. Man by his rational nature is able to attain to this good of the universe, insofar as he can comprehend and love it; moreover he becomes a co-principle of this order insofar as he shares in the ordering governance of God: “fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen 1:28)
The order of the whole thus also consists in governance of creatures by each other, and also (among men themselves) in friendship in mutual good will, which strengthens the unity of the whole.
Since man participates more in the order of the universe he is more for it than the other creatures. In fact, St. Thomas teaches that among the irrational creatures it is chiefly the species that is for the order of the universe, while the individuals are intended chiefly for the preservation of those species; with man on the other hand each individual is more directly for the order of the universe. But here one might say ask whether it is not true that it belongs to the dignity of man that he is for his own sake, as the Second Vatican Council put it, “man is the only creature on earth that God willed for its own sake.” (Note that the Council says on earth, the angels too are for their own sake, but they are not one earth, i.e. they do not belong to the visible, material world). How then can one say that men are more for the order of the whole universe? The great Thomist Philosopher of the last century, Charles De Koninck, points us to the solution of this difficulty. He shows how it is precisely because of his ordering to a good outside himself that man is for himself:
The rational creature, insofar as it can itself attain to the end of God’s manifestation outside Himself, exists for itself. The irrational creatures exist only for the sake of this being which can by itself attain an end which will belong to irrational creatures only implicitly. Man is the dignity which is their end. But, that does not mean that rational creatures exist for the dignity of their own being and that they are themselves the dignity for which they exist. They draw their dignity from the end to which they can and must attain; their dignity consists in the fact that they can attain to the end of the universe, the end of the universe being, in this regard, for the rational creatures, that is for each of them. Still, the good of the universe is not for rational creatures as if the latter were the end of the former. The good of the universe is the good of each of the rational creatures insofar as it is their good as common good.
The key word here is “common good.” Because the order of the universe is a common good in which men participate, to be for it is to be for themselves. To manifest this it is necessary to briefly consider what is meant by a “common good.”
In this context a “common good” means a good that is not diminished by being shared, “on the contrary,” he writes, a chocolate cake is good, but I can have it without sharing it and, so far from being increased by being shared, it is actually diminished the more it shared, since the piece that is eaten by one cannot be eaten by another. As one ascends through the hierarchy of goods, however, to things which have more fully the account of good, one sees that goods become more capable of being shared. A truth in philosophy, for example, is not diminished by being shared. In fact, when someone learns such a truth, his first impulse is to show it to others—as though his enjoyment of it were increased by communicating it. And this is even more true of peace—whether the peace of a family, or a monastery, or a country, or of the whole world.
A chocolate cake is what St Thomas calls a private good as opposed to a common good. An essential difference between a common good and a private good is that the private good is ordered to the one who enjoys it, it is for the one whose good is. A cake is ordered to the one who eats it, the one who eats it is better than the cake, he is its end. A common good on the other hand is not ordered to the one who enjoys it, one must say rather that he is ordered to it, it is better than he, it is his end. This is why a brave man will give his life for the common good of a family or a city, but the man who gives his life for a piece of cake is foolhardy.
It is important that we see that the common good while it is not ordered to the ones who enjoy it, is nevertheless their good, in the sense that they are the ones who delight in it. A family, a state, or the universe, is has no collective soul by which it could delight in its good—the good of a family, or state, or the universe is delighted in by the persons who share in it. The man who gives his life for the common good is not an altruist; it is his good that he gives his life for. But neither is he an egoist; the good that he gives his life for is better than his. In this light we can understand De Koninck’s point: the rational creatures are for themselves insofar as they are for their good, the good that they enjoy, but this good is better than them and they are ordered to it as to an end. And it is from the order to this greater good that they derive their dignity.
So human persons (and the angels) derive their dignity from being able to participate in the good of the universe. But they are able to participate in a good that is much better even than the peace of the universe: namely God Himself. God is the Good itself and therefore He is the most common of all common goods. If the good of order is the intrinsic common good of the universe, God is its extrinsic common good: He transcends the universe of things, but He is the Good which all desire. He is the end of the universe:
The entire universe, with all its parts, is ordained towards God as its end, inasmuch as it imitates, as it were, and shows forth the Divine goodness, to the glory of God. Reasonable creatures, however, have in some special and higher manner God as their end, since they can attain to Him by their own operations, by knowing and loving Him.
Above we explained that the order of the universe has two aspects—the order of things to each other, and the order of things to God—we have now arrived at the second aspect. We saw that rational creation participates more than irrational in the first aspect of order; how much more in the second aspect! Rational creation is ordered to enjoy the good of God Himself. So we can see that our purpose as created things is God’s glory in two ways: in one way, we are supposed to give glory to God by participating in and promoting peace: peace in our own souls, and in our communities, and thus in all of creation; but we are also destined to attain to God’s glory in the seeing God and praising Him: this is the Christian idea of Heaven—a place where we see God and praise Him for His glory. As the book of Revelation puts it:
And from the throne came a voice crying, ‘Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.’ Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory.’ (Rev 19:5-7)
Now, if the purpose of our existence is to reflect God’s glory through peace on earth, and to attain to it in the life to come, then this has many consequences for life now. In the monastic tradition the emphasis on obedience and humility as virtues comes from this: through obedience we integrate ouseleves into order, peace, and by humility we give glory to God.
I want to end with a question. The French philosopher Rémi Brague, who has often lectured at my abbey of Heiligenkreuz, claims that while there are parallels between the Islamic idea of “He who excelled in the creation of all things” and the first creation account in Genesis, there is also “an essential, though subtle, difference:”
the totality in the Bible is additive, and here it is distributive; according to the Bible the object of admiration is the entirety of creatures, in the connection that gives them their consistency; according to the Koran it is every creature viewed individually, without any connection to the rest of creation, indeed, without any link other than that with Allah.
My question is this: is Brague right? Or does the Islamic tradition as well have an idea of the peace of all creation as a primary good intended by the Creator?
 The following is based partly on my Essay “Qui posuit fines tuos pacem,” Noviziatsarbeit, Heiligenkreuz, 2007.
 Vide: Regula Sancti Benedicti, Prologus, 17.
 John Henry Cardinal Newman, Sermons Preached on Various Occasions (Westminster, Md.: Christian Classics, 1968; 1857), Sermon XI: Order, the Witness and Instrument of Unity (Preached Nov. 9, 1853); p. 184.
 De Civitate Dei, XIX, Ch. 13.
 Ibid., Ch. 11.
 See: De Cuvitate Dei, XIX., Ch. 11.
 St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, Ia, Q. 103, A. 3, c.
Sermons Preached on Various Occasions, p. 184-185.
 St. Thomas, Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 75
 Although as a Christian I believe that it is shared and communicated in the subsistent relations of the Most Blessed Trinity, without in anyway compromising or modifying its absolute unity.
 Vide: Idid., II, 45.
 Commentary on Denys the Areopagite On the Divine Names (Marietti: Turin, 1950) p. 115, n. 353-54
 St. Thomas, Compendium theologiae, Lib. 1, cap. 102, end.
 Summa Theologiae, Ia, Q 65, A 2, c.
 Summa Contra Gentiles, II, 45.
 St. Thomas, Commentary on Denys the Areopagite, p. 114-15, n. 349.
 Summa Theologiae, Ia, Q 65, A 2, c.
 C.f.: Summa Theologiae, Ia, Q. 23, A 7, c.
 Gaudium et Spes, 24.
 Charles De Koninck, On the Primacy of the Common Good: Against the Personalists, (Aquinas Review Vol 4, No 1, 1997), pp. 39-40.
 For an account of the common good, its definition, its properties, and its place in the tradition, vide: Michael Waldstein, The Person and the Common Good, (Gaming: unpublished manuscript).
 C.f. Treatise on Separate Substances, Ch 12, where St. Thomas argues that the good of order is better than singular things because it is the common good: “The good of order is that which is best in the universe of things, for this is the common good; while other goods are singular goods.”
 C.f. The Person and the Common Good, especially pp. 21-22.
 For an explanation of the intrinsic vs. the extrinsic common good of the universe vide: St. Thomas Aquinas, In Libros Metaphysicorum, XII, lect. 12.
 Summa Theologiae, Ia, Q 65, A 2, c.
 Rémi Brague, The Wisdom of the World: the Human Experience of the Universe in Western Thought, trans. Teresa Lavender Fagen (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), p. 57.