By Fr. Patrick McInemey
UNDERSTANDING THE SIZE OF THE CHALLENGE
Christian-Muslim relations are not going to go away. While awful atrocities being committed in some parts of the world by Muslims against Christians and by Christians against Muslims make building relations urgent, in the coming years the weight of global numbers will give added pressure.
Early this century, for the first time in world history, the number of Muslims in the world equaled the number of Catholics. According to the latest Pew Research Center projections, due largely to demographic growth:
- by the year 2050 the number of Muslims (2.8 billion, or 30% of the population) will nearly equal the umber of Christians (2.9 billion, or 31%);
- by 2070 Muslims will outnumber Christians; and
- by 2100 Muslims will be 35% of the world’s population and Christians 34%.
Already at the start of this century Muslims (23%) and Christians (33%) together made up over 55% of the world’s population; by the end of the century, together we will be nearly 70% of the world’s population. So if there is to be meaningful peace in the world, now and into the future, there must be mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims.
Investing in New Relationships
Building relations between Christians and Muslims is a much needed investment in present and future world peace and harmony. It is a challenge to both religious and civic leaders alike.
We have to build awareness of the many shared truths that Christians and Muslims hold in common: belief in the one God who is Creator of all, who is Beneficent Provider for all, who communicates with all through nature, the prophets and the scriptures, who is Merciful Judge of all ….
We need to act together on the many shared values that Christians and Muslims (and other believers and all people of good will) hold in common: justice, truth, respect for marriage, the family, for human life, care for creation ….
We need to accept and respect each other across the doctrinal and other differences which shape our respective identities and distinguish us from each other….
We must remember that what we hold in common is far greater than that which divides us; and that which divides us may in God’s good time become the divinely ordained gifts that we have to offer each other….
God does not need us to defend God’s past and present various dealings with different peoples, which are a sign of God’s providential care for all. In the meantime, we live in the mystery of God’s patience, living our different religions with integrity, journeying together towards God who is the fullness of Truth and Life.
This essay was published originally in Bridges, a publication of the Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations in Sydney, Australia.