Location, Setting Matter When Promoting Dialogue
The importance of a constructive and candid dialogue between Islam and Christianity can hardly be over-stated. Such conversations are, and will always be freighted with history and burdened by the misunderstandings and confusions to which such a long troubled relationship gives rise.
However, the enormous advantage that such conversation partners have is their real passion about the subject of their discussion. The challenge is to develop the immediate basis for such talks and to find the most promising setting for them: the more delicate the topic, the more crucial the choice of setting and occasion for its pursuit becomes.
The aptness of a Regensburg lecture hall for beginning a serious dialogue is debatable, even if the intention was laudable.
I do believe that progress can be made in containing religious extremists, of whatever religious conviction they might be. However, it is important to remember that such extremists, by their very nature tend not to be amenable to the direction of more moderate central authority. That’s why we call them extremists. That being said, I am convinced that a good deal of direct progress can be made with all but the very most radical, and even those most extreme may be influenced by a general shift in understanding.
A prerequisite to such constructive influence is, however, recognition that such violent and extreme elements are not the sole province of Islam. Christianity too has, and has had, a tradition of violence against non-believers.
Seared into Muslim consciousness is the hideous inheritance of the crusades: crusades called for by a predecessor to Pope Benedict XVI, a call that was responded to with alacrity by people all across Western Europe.
Unless and until Christians are prepared to confess their, our, complicity in the violence that has so wounded the human community, in the name of the God that we love and serve, that community will not be able to escape the seductive vortex of violence, nor will we ever be reconciled to the God who calls us into faith.
Mark S. Sisk
November 29, 2006; 6:28 PM ET
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