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Sen. Kerry endorses goals of Christian-Muslim gathering at Yale

By Leslie A. Brown, '10 M.Div.

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) opened the public portion of a groundbreaking Muslim-Christian conference with a strong endorsement of the gathering’s aim to promote interfaith dialogue and understanding.

“All religions today include their moderate and extreme elements-those who value peaceful coexistence and those who don't,” he stated.  Noting the unique nature of the conference, Kerry told about 200 attendees in the Yale Law School’s auditorium on the evening of July 28, “you've placed yourselves among those looking to be on the right side of this debate - and now together we must put ourselves on the right side of history.”

Loving God and Neighbor in Word and Deed: Implications for Christians and Muslims is an eight-day event ending July 31 and organized by the Center for Faith and Culture at the Yale Divinity School. Participants include influential academics and clerics in the Christian and Muslim international communities. The conference began with a series of scholarly workshops closed to the public to facilitate a frank and productive exchange. Kerry’s address was the first event open to the press.

Kerry, who earned his undergraduate degree at Yale College in 1966, emphasized the catastrophic political consequences that can result from the lack of meaningful engagement and knowledge between Muslims and Christians. He told attendees, “The absence of dialogue costs all of us. We have major politicians who couldn't tell you the difference between Shi'a and Sunni - so it's no wonder that we attack a secular dictator in response to radical fundamentalist terrorists.”

Following his 30-minute talk, Kerry took questions from the audience, fielding a number from participants who took part in the workshop phase of the conference. Alan Godlas, co-chairman of the Islamic Studies program at the University of Georgia, asked Kerry for the senator’s political and educational recommendations to strengthen conference attendees’ efforts. In response to this and similar queries, Kerry urged listeners to promote “commonality and basic rights that ought to be protected,” to “speak powerfully and jointly for civil society,” and to join with like-minded global initiatives and leaders to “let God’s word be heard.”

> Full text of Sen. Kerry’s speech (pdf)

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