WASHINGTON (CNS) — Abdulaziz Sachedina is a professor of Islamic studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. He is a practicing Muslim who feels close to his Christian friends, he told Catholic News Service.
Muslims and Christians do, in fact, share values, he said.
Sachedina discussed Muslim-Christian relationships in a speech May 24 at Jesuit-run Georgetown University. He addressed a four-day conference of Ecclesiological Investigations, an international network of theologians and other scholars. “Vatican II: Remembering the Future” was the conference’s theme.
Thus, conference speakers explored the Second Vatican Council’s possible future impact on important areas of concern for religious communities. One area of particular concern involved the future of Muslim-Christian relations.
Sachedina regards Vatican II’s Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (“Nostra Aetate”) as “a turning point in interfaith relations.” He is “cautiously optimistic that the document moves the interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims a step forward,” he told the conference.
The 1965 council declaration said that the “Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy” in the world’s other religions. That statement speaks volumes, Sachedina commented.
Leo Lefebure, a Georgetown University theologian, mentioned the same statement in the council declaration during another conference session. He remarked that in rejecting nothing that is true and holy in other religions, the council paved the way to discovering all that actually is true and holy in them.
The Vatican II declaration “delivers substantive advancement in accepting a post-Christianity faith like Islam as a witness to God’s existence,” Sachedina said. To fully appreciate this achievement, the turbulence in Christian-Muslim relations over the course of history “is worth keeping in mind,” he said.
Sachedina acknowledged, however, that some Christians and Muslims shun efforts to improve relations between the religions out of an apprehension that their faith’s true identity will be compromised in the process.
“It is clear to me,” he said, that it takes “enormous wisdom and courage for any Christian leader to say that there is some validity in a faith other than Christianity.”
Sachedina called attention to concerns shared somewhat naturally among a society’s people. Muslims, Christians and others in America confront “common moral problems,” he noted in a conversation with CNS.
He wants people in the Western world to realize that Muslims and Christians “live in the same world” and deal with similar social issues.
Gibson was the founding editor of Origins, Catholic News Service’s documentary service. He retired in 2007 after holding that post for 36 years.