Common Words in Muslim-Christian Dialogue

A study of texts from the Common Word dialogue process


In Common Words in Muslim-Christian Dialogue Vebjørn L. Horsfjord offers an analysis of texts from an international dialogue process between Christian and Muslim leaders. Through detailed engagement with the Muslim dialogue letter A Common Word between Us and You (2007) and a large number of Christian responses to it, the study analyses the dialogue process in the wake of the Muslim initiative and shows how the various texts gain meaning through their interaction.

The author uses tools from critical discourse analysis and speech act analysis and claims that the Islamic dialogue initiative became more important as an invitation to Muslim-Christian dialogue than as theological reflection. He shows how Christian leaders systematically chose to steer the dialogue process towards practical questions about peaceful coexistence and away from theological issues.

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Vebjørn L. Horsfjord, Ph.D. (2015), University of Oslo, is senior lecturer in interreligious studies at the Faculty of Theology of that university. He has published on interreligious relations and human rights, and has long experience from facilitating international interreligious dialogue.

1 Introduction: It Takes Two to Dialogue
 1.1 Letters and Conference Statements
 1.2 Jordanian Roots
 1.3 The Common Word Process and Academia
 1.4 Goal: To Understand What These Men are Doing

2 We Muslims and You Christians: A Common Word between us and You
 2.1 A Complex Text: Structure and Main Argument
 2.2 Textual Forerunners
 2.3 A Common Word: A Second Open Letter
 2.4 Using Sacred Texts
 2.5 Publication, Promotion and Related Dialogue Initiatives
 2.6 Muslims and Christians: Construction of Group Identities
 2.7 What Does acw Do?
 2.8 Conclusion: It Takes Two to Dialogue

3 The First Christian Responses
 3.1 Response from David Ford
 3.2 Senior Church Leaders Respond
 3.3 An Alternative Reading: Michael Nazir-Ali
 3.4 Conclusion

4 Roman Catholic Responses
 4.1 Catholic-Muslim Dialogue since the Second Vatican Council
 4.2 First Official Catholic Responses to acw 74
 4.3 Five Substantial Commentaries from Four Scholars
 4.4 Catholic-Muslim Dialogue in the Wake of acw 83
 4.5 Conclusion

5 The Yale Response: Loving God and Neighbor Together
 5.1 An Advertisement in the New York Times
 5.2 Interacting with acw : Arguments, Speech Acts, Construals
 5.3 Bodily Gestures, but Little Flesh
 5.4 Conclusion

6 World Evangelical Alliance: We Too Want to Live in Love, Peace, Freedom and Justice
 6.1 The Text and Its Main Arguments
 6.2 What wwll Does
 6.3 Different Difference
 6.4 Interpreting Evangelicals: Beyond Polite Dialogue?
 6.5 Conclusion

7 World Council of Churches: Learning to Explore Love Together
 7.1 Four Decades of Christian-Muslim Dialogue
 7.2 Learning to Explore Love Together: A Resource Document
 7.3 Conclusion

8 Rowan Williams: A Common Word for the Common Good
 8.1 Background and Context
 8.2 The Text and Its Main Arguments
 8.3 What the Text Does
 8.4 Managing Differences Discursively
 8.5 Conclusion

9 Orthodox Church Leaders: Responses from Five Contexts
 9.1 Response from Archbishop Mor Eustathius Matta Roham, Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch
 9.2 Response from Catholicos Aram i , Armenian Orthodox Church
 9.3 Response from the See of Etchmiadzin (The Armenian Orthodox Church)
 9.4 Response from Patriarch Alexy ii of Moscow and all Russia
 9.5 Response from Archbishop Chrisostomos ii of Cyprus

10 We Muslims and Christians Together: Statements from Dialogue Conferences
 10.1 Declaration from the Yale University Conference, July 2008
 10.2 Communique from the Cambridge Conference, October 2008
 10.3 Declaration from the Catholic–Muslim Forum, November 2008
 10.4 Statement from the Geneva Consultation, November 2010
 10.5 Conclusion: acw as Proposition and Invitation

11 Lessons
 11.1 Making Sense of a Common Word
 11.2 Cross-cutting Topics
 11.3 Religion and the Religious
 11.4 The Myth of Interreligious Dialogue
 11.5 A Hermeneutics of Good Will
 11.6 Managing Difference – In-groups and Out-groups

Scholars and students (theology and religious studies) interested in interreligious relations, and (scholar) practitioners of Christian-Muslim dialogue.