a time whereby the world is becoming more and more globalized, people, cultures, ideologies and beliefs are in contact daily. Dialogue and mutual acceptance consequently become core elements for a peaceful common living in a society. It is in this perspective
that Christian-Muslim dialogue is important. Dialogue is, as Subhash Anand (2009:9) puts it, an anthropological imperative; ‘the call to dialogue is rooted in a deeper understanding of what it means to be human’. A certain number of dispositions
is required when one engages in interreligious dialogue. Dialogue between Muslims and Christian, however faces some obstacles. This article aims at exploring some of those dispositions and obstacles.
1. Dispositions for a true Christian- Muslim dialogue
Several factors, need to be taken into consideration
when it comes to the dialogue between Christians and Muslims.
1.1. A balanced attitude
The first disposition for a genuine dialogue between Muslims and Christians is a balanced attitude. Paragraph 47 of DP stipulates that in the situation of dialogue, the believers of the two sides engaged
in dialogue should develop a balanced attitude. This implies that ‘they should be neither ingenious nor overly critical’. When engaging into dialogue Christians and Muslims should clear their minds of all sort of prejudices that could be
a hindrance to the process. For example the picture that many Christians, sometimes, have of Muslims (especially in countries where Islam is not well known) is that of violent people who don’t want to mix with others and are against freedom and evolution.
On the other hand Muslims see Christians as infidels and impure polytheists who should be avoided.
A balanced attitude requires
then mutual understanding, respect and acceptance of others and their beliefs. However, acceptance does not mean lack of challenge or criticism. ‘Ingenuousness is to be avoided’ (Fitzgerald & Borelli 2006:141); each faith tradition ought to
stand its ground when it comes to challenge some aspect of the religious practices of other. Muslims do not agree with some aspects of Christianity as well as Christians do not agree with some aspects of Islam. This however should not prevent the dialogue.
1.2. Religious conviction
This second disposition
reaffirms the identity of each Religion engaged in dialogue. Dialogue does not mean assimilation. Rather ‘the sincerity of interreligious dialogue requires that each enters into it with the integrity of his or her own faith’ (DP 48). The process
of entering into dialogue should not lead into minimizing one’s faith. Though some aspects and practices of the religion may be challenged, the fundamental beliefs should not be touched. For instance ‘Christian entering into dialogue with
Muslims should not be afraid to give witness to their faith in Christ’ (Fitzgerald & Borelli 2006:141). Likewise Muslims should not be afraid to claim the prophethood of Mohamad.
1.3. Openness to truth
The openness to truth calls both Christians and Muslims to humility as far as claim to
possess the truth is concerned. If we imagine a scenario whereby, and this has been the case for centuries, Christians hold fast to the belief that revelation attended it fullness in Christ and on the other hand Muslims strongly believe that Mohamed received
the last revelation (Qur’an), there will be no room for dialogue. Therefore the claim to have the truth (of revelation) should be handled with humility. Dialogue and Proclamation, in paragraph 49, states that truth is not an unending process
and invites Christians to ‘be prepared to learn and to receive from and through others the positive values of their traditions’ (DP49).
Muslims on their side ‘can develop a sense of superiority, based on their conviction that to them the final revelation has been given’ (Fitzgerald & Borelli 2006:141). However Muslim scholars also advocate, just like their Christian
counterparts, for openness to truth. This is reiterated by Mahmoud Ayoub when he writes ‘We now know that no religion can claim an exclusive monopoly on salvation and truth’ (Ayoub 2007:60). To be opened to the truth from other religious tradition
is therefore very important for dialogue.
2. Obstacle to Christian –Muslim Dialogue
Many difficulties arise when it comes to dialogue between Christians and Muslims. These difficulties are caused by various factors: socio-political, theological and intellectual.
2.1. The socio- political factors
The relationship between Muslim and Christians
have experienced ups and downs trough centuries. Starting from the life time of Mohamad, the relationship between the two religions has known the periods of peaceful cohabitations and moments of violent confrontation.
The first socio-political factor that hinders the dialogue between Christians and Muslims is the majority-minority relations ((Fitzgerald & Borelli 2006:141). The majority-minority
most of the time creates a defensive attitude in those in minority. They feel threatened and marginalized by the dominant community. This is the case of Muslims in most of western country and Christians in Middle East countries.
The second obstacle is the prejudices and stereotyping that comes from the lack of knowledge of other’s religion. There is a generalisation of the perception that
Christians have of Muslims and vice versa. This leads to stereotyping, such as all ‘Muslims are terrorists or support terrorists’ and ‘all Christians are decadent, immoral and unjust’ (Forde 2013: 19). In a context where these
prejudices and generalisations are strongly promoted dialoguing would be very difficult and most of the time the relationship between Muslims and Christians deteriorate even to the point of physical violence.
In this same dynamic of generalization and stigmatization, there is a real problem nowadays that can really hinder any form of dialogue; even the dialogue of life that comes somehow naturally
by the fact that Muslims and Christians share the same streets, the same neighbourhood and same work places. This problem is that of identifying Islam with terrorism and Christianity with the Western culture. This kind of thinking or prejudice creates mutual
suspicion and blurs very possibility of dialogue. When there is suspicion, every Muslim is seen as a threat by the Christian and vice versa. This situation has been aggravated by the rise of terrorism and islamophobia in past decades.
As illustration of this we can mention the case of Boko Haram which started as a small group of radical Muslims reacting against European culture and education. Surprisingly
the first targets of Boko Haram adepts were not European companies established in Nigeria. Their first targets were churches and other Christian places of worship in Maiduguri. Consequently Christians fought back by burning Mosques and killing Muslims. This
shows clearly that when there is confusion between western culture and Christianity, there cannot be dialogue even among people of the same ethnic group as it was the case at the beginning of Boko Haram that has become a redoubtable terrorist group.
Another obstacle is the burden of the past. History plays a very important role in the way Muslims and Christians interact. Thus ‘the
relationship between and Christians covers a wide variety of approaches to explain various kind of contact, conflict and co-operation between the followers of the two faiths’ (Siddiqui: 1988:121). This situation has led to some atrocities perpetrated
by both community. We can mention the case of Crusades, Jihad, and colonialism. Nowadays this history continues to haunt our relationship.
2.2. Theological and intellectual
A good number of theological and intellectual factors can also hinder the dialogue between Christians and Muslim.
The first factor is that most of the theological debates are held on the academic level and hardly reach the common of the believers. If the fruits
these discussions held by the scholars do not reach the Muslims and Christians who live in contact on a daily basis, they are pointless. ‘The common men and women are supposed to be the principal beneficiaries of these initiatives because they are the
first victims of religious misunderstanding’ (Mvumbi 2008:144). Unfortunately this is not the case. The conferences organized do not have a proper repercussion on the common believers. They remain purely academic and intellectual. Thus some theological
misunderstandings can lead to conflicts between the two communities.
Another difficulty in the dialogue between Christians and Muslims
is that of accepting the fundamentals of each religion. While both Christians and Muslims agree that they have the same Abrahamic roots, Christians still struggle ‘to accept Islam as an authentic post-Christian religious tradition’ (Ayoub 2007:69).
On the other hand Muslims are ‘unable to accept Christians and their faith in the triune God, the Church as source of guidance and the books of the New Testament as authentic scripture’ (Ayoub 2007:69). In such circumtance where the fundamentals
of one’s faith (Prophethood of Mohamed, Trinity, Scriptures) are denied there cannot be a true dialogue. At least on a theological level. Each religion views the other on its own perspective. There is a kind of ‘inability to accept each other faiths
on their own terms. Muslims have acknowledged and Islamised Christianity and Christians have often Christianised Islam’ (Ayoub 2007:69).
Unless both religions adjust their views on each other, dialogue between them would always be somehow handicapped and limited. The point is not to be convinced or to embrace the other’s faith, but to accept and respect them. ‘What we need
today is a confidence-building and peace-making Christian theology of Islam and, correspondingly, an analogous Islamic theology of Christianity’ (Bauschke 1988:144). This means that Christian and Muslim debate need to be at the same theological eye level
for a genuine dialogue. Ideas generated from intellectual and theological can have, when wrongly interpreted, a disastrous effect on the life of the two religious tradition communities. Well-formed religious leaders are an imperative for a genuine dialogue
between Islam and Christianity.
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