God(s) of Abraham: Sibling rivalry among three faiths

These days, the course I teach to undergraduates on Christian-Muslim relations is more relevant than ever. Five years ago, I could maintain that the United States seemed quite resistant to the fever of Islamophobia, but lately politicians and others have made remarks that cast Muslims as the enemy. Fear of refugees, immigrants, and strangers is breeding an atmosphere in which Islam is equated with violence, danger, and evil.

Relations between Christians and Muslims have often been hostile, polemical, and even violent, but there is also a history of seeking a better way. Just over 50 years ago, in Nostra aetate, the Roman Catholic Church declared that Christians should turn away from enmity and work with people of other faiths for peace and justice. In regard to Islam specifically, it noted that Muslims adore the one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and that they revere Jesus as a prophet even though they do not acknowledge him as God.

A conversation between Christians and Muslims, pursued in humility and friendship, should acknowledge areas of agreement and disagreement. Such a conversation must address at least these three topics: God, Christ, and violence.