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WCC General Secretary’s introductory comments at Building Bridges 11 June 2019

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit General Secretary World Council of Churches WCC General Secretary’s introductory comments at Building Bridges 11 June 2019

11 June 2019

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit

General Secretary

World Council of Churches

WCC General Secretary’s introductory comments at Building Bridges

11 June 2019

 

 

Opening remarks

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Ecumenical Centre for the opening session of this year’s Building Bridges seminar on the theme, ‘Freedom: Muslim and Christian Perspectives’. Many of you have travelled far to participate in the whole seminar over the coming few days, distinguished Muslim and Christian scholars from many nations. Others have come to attend this opening event from nearby in Geneva, but also representing various nations as well as international agencies, and from different religious traditions. That such a diverse and interesting group of people has gathered is an indication of the importance and topicality of this event’s theme, and of our expectation of high quality discussions that will give us plenty to think about.

 

I am delighted that the World Council of Churches is able to partner with Georgetown University to host Building Bridges this year, for this opening session here in Geneva and then over the coming few days nearby at the Chateau de Bossey. Shortly I will invite Dr Daniel Madigan, Chair of Building Bridges, to tell us something of the history of this dialogue process and to introduce this year’s theme. I will limit myself to noting that this is the eighteenth Building Bridges seminar. It has met annually since 2002 and is surely one of the most sustained initiatives of this kind in Muslim-Christian dialogue, bringing together over the years many of the world’s leading Muslim and Christian scholars.

As we know from our long experience of interreligious work here at WCC, the interface between Christianity and Islam, or maybe better to say, between Christians and Muslims, is a complex and multi-faceted reality taking a great range of forms in many different parts of the world. There are many challenges and many opportunities in this great global encounter, and so we also need a corresponding range of ways of developing dialogue and building cooperative relationships between Muslims and Christians.

For example, we need what can be called ‘diplomatic’ dialogue between the official institutions that represent major religious traditions; we need dialogue with a practical focus, addressing the pressing challenges of the world – this has been called ‘shoulder to shoulder’ dialogue, not so much about talk as about shared action in the cause of justice and peace; we need dialogue that engages young people; we need the dialogue of daily life, of friendship and neighbourliness.

But we do also need theological dialogue. Theology matters. What we believe and declare about God, and about human beings in relation to God and to each other – this matters, both to Christians and to Muslims. So we need to understand each other’s theologies, both the shared ground and the differences between us, if we are to relate to each other with intelligence and genuine respect. And we need sustained and patient conversation for such dialogue to be possible.

So we at WCC are very glad to host Building Bridges this year as you take forward your work of theological dialogue. At Bossey you will have an ideal setting for the conversations which lie ahead of you. May your discussions go deep, and may they bear much fruit in your continuing work as scholars, as thinkers and teachers in the various communities in which you serve.

And now it is my pleasure to welcome Dr Daniel Madigan, Professor in the Theology Faculty at Georgetown University and Chair of Building Bridges, who will introduce the programme ahead of us.