The necessity of dialogue is the message from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Namely a developing dialogue between the religions of monotheism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Such a reasonable request from the leader of an Islamic nation is in response to all of the recent discussions about Benedict’s reported admonitions against the Muslim faith. However, the Saudi king indicates he has discussed this possibility of open negotiations with Benedict XVI during his visit to the Vatican last year. With such past discussions in mind, the Islamic world and the Christian world need to capitalize on this opportunity towards religious understanding and peaceful co-existence.

Christianity and Islam with Judaism essentially have similar beliefs in the same manifestation of God. This foundational common factor is truly the seed towards growing a modern appreciation of the tenets of each faith through education and understanding. Critics of Pope Benedict are intent on insisting that he tries to accentuate the differences between the two faiths, however the common humanitarian goals of global peace and harmony seem to be his constant admonition. In all of the papal teachings, all three of the world’s great religions are called by Benedict to foster a more harmonious world through joint acceptance of our religious similarities while downplaying our theological differences.

The significance of King Abdullah’s contribution to this topic is important because it shows the critical component of Arabic influence that is necessary to establish a climate that promotes religious and social advances towards universal religious tolerance. While Benedict XVI is indeed both a temporal and religious leader, his secular influence is overshadowed by the influence of more prominent Islamic leaders. The fact that King Abdullah is interested in any type of dialogue with Western theocratic representatives is a real indication of his country’s commitment towards establishment of normal relations with the Holy See and perhaps even Israel.

The political shift of power is clearly moving towards the world of the Middle East. Both religious and sectarian fractions of influence are keenly aware of the critical importance this region of the world holds for the world’s peaceful future. Without a clearly defined plan, that delineates future relationships between Islam, Christianity and Judaism, Benedict XVI knows social and economic chaos will prevail if East and West cannot reach an accord of religious tolerance. While such a cosmology might seem regressive to religious observers, clearly the movement towards softening anti-Christian, anti-Islamic and anti-Jewish sentiments is a great leap of faith on the part of all religions.

This evolution of global cooperation and religious understanding is a key component of Benedict’s papal message. Religious compromise is not the true intention but rather an appreciation of all religious opinions and beliefs is essential to Benedict’s world order for his followers. The fact that the monarchial leader of Saudi Arabia agrees with the need and desire for deepening dialogue among the Big Three religions of the world indicates that the sublime papal initiative is taking root.

Christians, Muslims and Jews are jointly bound together as cousins in faith, the opportunity is now to reestablish and nurture these familial ties as relatives of the same God. The Catholic Church with Benedict is entering into a new territory of global integration for Christianity that has not been experienced since the Roman Empire. Islam and Judaism as well are poised with Christianity to dominate the world’s religious stage not as adversaries but with Christians as relatives in faith. The successful development and practical applications of religious understanding and tolerance are critical to the survival of all religions as well as the emergence of a harmonious world order. Benedict, King Abdullah and other world leaders have a unique opportunity towards universal peace and goodwill in open and serious dialogue with each other. No party involved should  miss the opportunity.

Hugh McNichol is a Catholic author that writes on Catholic issues and topics. He writes daily at http://verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com 

Comments are welcome at hugh.mcnichol@trinettc.com  

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