The letter titled “A Common Word Between Us and You,” is remarkable first for its diverse signatories: clerics, scholars, politicians and academics representing virtually every Muslim nation.
“There are Sunnis, Shias, Ibadis and even the Ismailian and Jaafari schools, so it's a consensus," Dr. Aref Ali Nayed, an adviser at Cambridge University's Inter-Faith Program, told the BBC.
Also noteworthy was the scope of the letters recipients which include Pope Benedict XVI, head of the Catholic Church, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Heads of the Methodist, Lutheran, Anglican and Orthodox churches received the letter too, so did many others in the Christan community.
The letter begs for a common understanding between the two monotheist religions, comparing certain Bible commandments with the Koran. The love of one god and loving your neighbor, were both used as a mutual starting ground – both passages being supported by the Koran. The letter also proposes that Christians and Muslims worship the same god.
"As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them - so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes," the letter says.
Over 55 percent of the worlds population is Christian or Muslim, according to the scholars who wrote the letter. They warn of imminent bloodshed if the faith groups cannot come together and work to resolve conflict. “If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake,” says the letter.
Contrarily, an open diolague “could be the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world,” it says.
The letter comes with the end of Ramadan celebrations but also exactly one year after Muslim scholars sent out another open letter in response a 2006 speech given by Pope Benedict. The speech became controversial after the Pope cited a Byzantine emperor who said that Islams only innovation was to incite violence.
According to the Economist, the Vatican has since been making silent moves to repair relations with the Muslim world – including the reopening a distinctive inter faith relations ministry – and by the Pope, at least, the letter will likely be welcomed warmly.