Center for Faith & Culture publishes proceedings of Common Word conference

By Amanda Ogden
Editor’s note: Amanda Ogden is director of administration at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture

The Yale Center for Faith and Culture has published proceedings of the historic 2008 Yale Common Word conference in a new volume from Eerdmans Publishing.

The book was compiled in response to a demand from academics, clergy and practitioners for more information about the conference, which was held on the Yale campus in July 2008 and brought together Christians, Muslims, and Jews from around the globe.

CWThe Common Word conference, “Loving God and Neighbor in Word and Deed: Implications for Muslims and Christians,” involved some 150 participants, including Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders from 38 nations.  The conference was held following publication of A Common Word Between Us and You in October 2007, an open letter to Christian leaders and communities from 138 influential Muslim clerics representing every school and sect of Islam from around the world.  That document called for improved Christian-Muslim relations and argued that a common commitment to love God and neighbor unites the two faiths.

Offering a window into the Common Word process from start to finish, the new volume includes the original Common Word letter and the formal response drafted by Yale scholars and published in the New York Times.  The new volume is annotated with commentary by the authors, giving fresh insight into how and why the documents were created.

Library Journal said of the book, “Almost without doubt one of the most profound interfaith movements and statements in recent memory, this work brings a new audience to this crucial dialog; essential reading for the thoughtful Christian or Muslim."

Joseph Cumming, director of the Reconciliation Program at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture and one of the primary authors of the Yale Response, noted, “Many Christians have wanted to understand just what Muslims mean when they talk about love of God and love of neighbor, and many Muslims have wanted to know what it is that Christians believe about this same topic.  This book makes possible a deep exploration of these questions.”

The collection includes a foreword by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, along with essays from a number of prominent Christian and Muslim thinkers, including HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, chairman of the board of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Jordan; Harvard Divinity School professor Harvey Cox; Habib Ali al-Jifri, founder and general director of the Tabah Foundation and a well-known figure on Arab satellite television; David Burrell of the University of Notre Dame; and Yale scholars Joseph Cumming and Miroslav Volf.

Also noteworthy is a “Frequently Asked Questions” section responding to questions posed repeatedly throughout the process, such as “What use is this effort if terrorists won’t heed its message?” or “Is the description of Islam in the Common Word letter accurate?” or even “Isn’t it too late?”  

Miroslav Volf, director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture and the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology, said it is his hope that the book “will inform people about a central aspect of the two largest faiths in the world—love of God and love of neighbor—and stimulate critical discussion about the possibilities of Christians and Muslims living in peace with one another without compromising their own authentic identity or disrespecting the other.” 

The book is available for purchase through the Yale Divinity Student Book Supply.