I regularly share ideas with Muslim and Christian leaders. Sometimes I do this when the Muslims and Christians are together , sometimes separately.
There are occasions when I hear conflicting points in presenting religion from a concrete cultural back ground. One of these is a 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 cite quotations from the Holy Qur’an or the Holy Bible to prove the opposite, while others find quotations in support of their own understanding of this brotherhood andsisterhood.
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. Commonly Muslims like to greet fellow Muslims “Brothers and Sisters in Islam” and Christians: “Brothers and Sisters in Christ”, but when Muslim and Christians are together we seldom hear, “Brothers and Sisters, Muslims and Christians”– why?
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 & Christians Brothers and Sisters?
Thus, we are invited to ask to ourselves: 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 isthe 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 and the practices of other cultures that still divide people.
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, and cultural groups convinced that it is, at least, not so bad as doing the same evil acts to a co-religionist and to a co-cultural group.
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” and move together as brothers and sisters for the common good as creatures of the same God.
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.