Are Muslims and Christians Brothers and Sisters? | August 29, 2012

I regularly share ideas with Muslim and Christian leaders. Sometimes I do this when the Muslims and Christians are together , sometimes separately – when we reflect together in the Silsilah way to promote dialogue in the concrete situation, considering the cultural back ground and the different understanding of religion in each group. But there are occasions when I hear conflicting points in presenting religion from a concrete cultural back ground. One of these is the focus of this reflection that I shared recently with some Muslims leaders: “Are Muslims and Christians Brothers and Sisters?” For me the answer is yes, – we are brothers and sisters together because we have the same Creator/ God/ Allah who loves us and cares for us. But not all will give the same answer as mine, among some Muslims and also some Christians.

There are those who can cite quotations from the Holy Qur’an or the Holy Bible to prove the opposite, while others can find quotations in support of their own understanding of this brotherhood/sisterhood. For me it is essential to understand and teach to the new generation that we are brothers and sisters. There is a “link” (Silsilah) among all peoples because we are all part of the same human family. This was also the answer of ‘Umar, the second caliph and one of the closest companions of Prophet Muhammad, who said to his people: “the Muslims are Brothers and Sisters in faith, but they are also brothers and sisters with all in humanity”. I consider this answer very clear. For Christians the teaching of Jesus urges them to love all and consider all brothers and sisters.

Unfortunately history has many dark pages on both the Christian and the Muslim side. Why do our religious leaders not act more emphatically that we are all brothers and sisters? Why are there still those who are convinced that we are not the same in our dignity as human beings? Why do we not correct the cultural elements that disorient our people and give reason to perpetuate division among us? Are Muslims and Christians brothers and sisters? Some people may not consider the question relevant. Some may want to ask me “Why are you raising this question?” This question is indeed a basic question in dialogue and human relations. We can ask this basic question in the Hindu society or culture, which we know is divided into different “castes”. Islam, Christianity and other religions in India do not accept the caste practice but it is there and it is the cause of many problems up to now. Indeed, if we do not properly present this essential point of being brothers and sisters in the human family, and if we do not say that our dialogue is based on recognizing the dignity of each person created by the same God, we will encounter the same problem of the “castes” in the Hindu culture.

There are cases when some Muslims or some Christians do not give equal respect to others because they belonging to a religion other than their own. This attitude indicates their belief that we are not brothers and sisters, that we are not equal to one another. Thus, they think that it is allowable to kill, kidnap, abuse, cheat people of another religion, convinced that it is, at least, not so bad as doing the same evil acts to a co-religionist. On August 06, I was invited by the Filipino-Turkish Tolerance School to an “Iftar” (breaking of the fast) during the month of Ramadhan. The guest speaker on that occasion was a well known lecturer who travels in different countries. He is also a famous imam. His lecture was a sharing from the heart, telling us his own life story. He said that he was quit radical at the beginning in his understanding of Islam and his relation with other religions. But his mind and heart were opened through experiencing different events in life, to the point that he ended the
presentation greeting all of us, Muslims and Christians, “brothers and sisters”. This greeting was for me the “message” that he shared to us. He presented it in a way that touched the heart of many of us. I was happy to meet him, and know that we
have common friends around the world. In that occasion I said to myself: “ Yes, some of my Muslim friends and some ustadh are ready to share the same greeting, some are not ready… and what about our Christian leaders?”. In my long experience of dialogue among Muslims and Christians in the Philippines, especially in Mindanao from 1977 up to now, I have to confess that
those of us, Muslims and Christians who believe in dialogue, often have a hard time to convince those who, with a lot of arguments, continue to believe that Muslims and Christians are very different from each other. Thus, we have to work hard to encourage sincere dialogue to the point that we can, from the heart, call each other “ brothers and sisters” I started my first initiative of dialogue in a Muslim community in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte and the first name that I gave to my dialogue initiative was “ Muslim-Christian Brotherhood.” I still dream of the time when Muslims and the Christians can call each other “Brothers and Sisters” and act as brothers and sisters. This is one of the first step to build a culture of dialogue, path to peace.

Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, PIME

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