Poignant start to interfaith plenary
The plenary to discuss Christian-Islam relations opened on a poignant note. Bishop Nazir-Ali (Rochester, England), formerly of Pakistan, told the session:``We have just had news that three nuns, Missionaries of Charity, have been killed in the Yemen, so before we begin let us be silent for a moment.'' The deaths, linked by news agencies to Islamic extremists, formed a harsh backdrop to the opening of the plenary session.
The question of Christian-Islamic relations showed up as a key question for Anglicans around the world as Conference planners researched the key issues, Bishop Nazir-Ali told the plenary. ``Nearly every part of the Anglican Communion... said relations with people of other faiths were very important for them,'' he said. Some parts of the Church wanted to discuss interfaith cooperation to tackle issues of international debt or the environment, while for others interfaith dialogue was important, he said.
However, ``Islam and Christianity are both missionary faiths and they find themselves in the same place and at the same time, sometimes in competition with one another, particularly in Africa, in East Asia but in nearly every part of the world.''
Bishop Nazir-Ali reminded the plenary of the long history of Christian-Islam relations: ``The Prophet himself had very close relationships with Christians and Jews; some were among his closest friends and colleagues. The Koran, the holy book of the Muslims, is full of references to figures in the Bible and to figures in Christian history.
``If there has been such a long history of co-existence and cooperation in culture and learning and political life, what then has gone wrong?'' he asked. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism was a key factor, Bishop NazirAli added. Fundamentalism had grown, he suggested, as a reaction to colonialism, corrupt leaders, the failure of capitalism and civil wars. The plenary also heard stories of bishops from Africa, Asia, Britain and the Middle East.
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