04/16/2008, 00.00
RUSSIA – ISLAM
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Moscow patriarch responds to 138 Muslim scholars

by Maria Anikina
In a letter published on the Moscow Patriarchate website, Aleksij II lays out the ground for a possible dialogue with Islam, namely the need to face common challenges that require joining forces. At the same time he insists that in any exchange the identity of each participant must be respected so as to avoid the danger of syncretism.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – The Russian Orthodox Church has responded to the letter 138 Muslim scholars wrote to Christian leaders. The text of the response was published on the website of the Patriarchate of Moscow and is signed by Patriarch Aleksij II himself.

In this letter the Russian patriarch expressed his gratitude for the scholars’ initiative. He agreed that Christians and Muslims have similar goals and that they can join forces to achieve these aims.

“Today Christianity and Islam do a quite important thing—they remind mankind of God’s existence and of the spiritual dimension of man and the world,” Patriarch Aleksij II wrote.

At the same time ‘[t]his joining will not happen if there is no clarification in understanding religious values of each other. That is why I greet the striving of the Muslim community to begin sincere and open dialogue with representatives of Christian Churches on a serious scientific and intellectual level,” he said.

In describing points common to both religions the Patriarch noted that the commandment to love one’s God and one’s neighbour brought them closer.

For Alexsij II each point in Christian and Muslim teachings must be seen as deeply connected with “its unique place in the whole theological system”.

Yet he added that any inter-faith dialogue must respect the identity of each participant to avoid the danger of syncretism.

A possible dialogue can be built at two levels. On “a doctrinal level it could touch such important questions like God, man and the world;” at a more practical level, it could be realised in “defending the role of religion in social life, fighting xenophobia and intolerance, [. . .] and promoting common peaceful initiatives”.

The current “doctrinal dialogue” between Islam and Russian Orthodoxy is “more active” according to Aleksij II. Common challenges that no single religion can face alone are among its reasons, challenges like an “anti-religious world view’ that tends “to subordinate all spheres of social life” to universality, and attempts to install a “new morality” that contradicts the “moral norms supported by traditional religions”.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church lamented the fact that the two religions had “enemies” bent on causing “a clash between Christians and Muslims.”

Finally he stressed that Russia is a “rare multi-religious and multinational state” that can serve as an example for the co-existence between Islam and Christianity.

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