Photo Credit: Tarawneh / Wikimedia and Woolf Institute
[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] Prince Hassan of Jordan, a Muslim, has teamed up with Dr Ed Kessler, the Jewish interfaith expert, to issue a joint denunciation of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. Writing in a joint opinion piece in the UK’s Daily Telegraph, they denounce as “incredible” claims by Daesh that Christianity is a Western import to the region. “Christianity has been part of the essential fabric of the Middle East for two thousand years”, they say, “. . . it was born here and exported as a gift to the rest of the world. Christian communities have been intrinsic to the development of Arab culture and civilisation.
“This central role in our region and civilisation is why it is abhorrent to us, as a Muslim and a Jew, to see Christianity and Christians under such savage assault across our region.”
They say that they are “appalled” by attacks on Christians and add that “to lose Christianity from its birthplace would be to destroy the richness of the tapestry of the Middle East and a hammer blow to our shared heritage.
“The reality is that we are all one community, united by shared beliefs and history. But this is increasingly denied, with [Daesh] taking the lead both in justifying and carrying out these attacks.”
They describe Daesh’s “apocalyptic vision” as harking back to a “mythic golden age which is solely the creation of the warped minds of today’s jihadists”; and say that it comes from “the same mould as those whose misguided zeal turned Christian Europe in the Middle Ages into a byword for fanaticism and oppression.
“Daesh want to take us to a new Dark Age, an age made even darker by the dangers that the gifts of science and technology pose in their hands.”
In their article, they acknowledge that it is not just Christians who face oppression at the hands of Daesh, saying that the organisation “has shown itself as prepared to slaughter indiscriminately other Muslims as it has Jews, Christians and others, whatever their nationality: Jordanian or Egyptian, American, British or European.”
The two writers are active in the field of inter-faith dialogue. Dr Kessler is the founder-director of the English-based Woolf Institute, the University of Cambridge-linked global institution that studies relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims. Prince Hassan is the founder and president of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies in Jordan, which focuses on the “interdisciplinary study and rational discussion of religion and religious issues, with particular reference to Christianity in Arab and Islamic society.”
They say that improved inter-faith dialogue is key to “helping to end this dangerous slide towards hatred, self-destruction and fratricidal conflict”
They call for “an honest recognition” that the Jewish, Christian and Islamic scriptures – the Old and New Testaments and the Qur’an – “contain texts which are divisive and include attacks on other groups.”
“Throughout history, they have been used to justify the most appalling actions in the name of God,”
“These texts, which carry weight and authority, cannot be deleted or ignored”, they said; but they stressed “the importance of interpretation” when studying them.
“It is time to call a halt to the hate and atrocities that are causing convulsions throughout our immediate region and beyond. Peace and humanity itself hang upon the success of this interfaith exercise. It is that important.”