Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, recently called for closer cooperation between Muslims and Christians. He declared, “The changing geopolitical contexts provide more opportunities for various political actors to mobilise religion in power struggles and for their own political gain.” He went on to note, “Religious extremist movements play a significant role in this, creating serious social polarisations and contributing to intensifying conflicts and encouraging extremism.”
He called for more formal and permanent structures, nationally and regionally, for relations between the two communities, aimed at addressing potential future conflicts.
While I am all in favor of improving connections and keeping the lines of communication open, it strikes me that the kind of structures that Rev. Tveit has in mind often run the risk of being rarified exercises for a “dialogue elite” of sorts. The World Council of Churches, while an important and significant body, is far from representative of the whole of Christianity, and to a great extent those groups within Christianity that would foment hostility against Muslims also have no use for the WCC. The same, I’m sure, is true among Muslim groups.
The WCC and “several Muslim organizations” (there being nothing similar to the WCC in the Muslim community) are organizing a consultation in Geneva in November. I have no doubt that their discussions will be productive, and their joint statements will be worth hearing.
But I wonder what real impact the gatherings will have on the day-to-day life of Christians and Muslims? It is a challenge to all of us, not just the Councils and Conferences, to discover ways to develop relationships among religious communities, to lay the lines of communication that may serve to tone down religious hostilities, and to be willing “not only to respect but also support people of other faiths as people of faith, through our own prayers,” as Tveit stated.
- Muslims, Christians can tackle conflicts together, says WCC head
Ecumenical News International