The Christian-Muslim Studies Network welcomed His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammad of Jordan to New College at the University of Edinburgh May 22.
As a world leader in promoting interfaith harmony between Muslims and Christians, Prince Ghazi’s lecture discussed the need for civil dialogue that does not ignore differences. His framework rests on the shared commandment of Christianity and Islam to love God and neighbor.
‘Jesus gives you an anthropology of love in the two commandments [to love God and love neighbour]’, Prince Ghazi said, explaining that a believer must understand love in order to direct its power. ‘Love will see you through your pain and your death without pain.’
Prince Ghazi suggested that love can lead to successful interfaith dialogue that reaches mainstream believers, and not only their leaders. He defined such ‘successful’ dialogues as discussions ‘where people learn from each other,’ but said it must reach mainstream believers and not only their leaders.
Dr Joshua Ralston offered a response to Prince Ghazi’s lecture and argued all who want interreligious harmony must be willing to explore both their commonalities and their differences.
‘If we’re going to have a deeper understanding between Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, secularists, and atheists, it isn’t going to come from papering over our differences or pretending they don’t matter, but in finding ways to go deeper into our particularity, but also allowing that particularity to crack open to our neighbour and to others in acts of religious learning,’ Dr Ralston said.
Both discussed the ways in which love provides guidance on the journeys toward God and toward the neighbour.
‘When you are merciful to someone you give them something, but when you love someone you give them you’, Prince Ghazi said.
Dr Ralston added that Christians and Muslims share the need for both love and law, which are ‘mutually reinforcing tools on the journey towards God.’
In addition to his lecture, titled, ‘Between us and you: Reflections on love as the ‘common word’ in Christian-Muslim relations’, the Jordanian prince offered counsel to students of Christian-Muslim relations during a lunchtime discussion.
Prince Ghazi advised students who want to contribute to interfaith harmony to read widely so they are prepared to explore others’ differences with depth and clarity.
Muslim students should ‘know the Quran by heart,’ while Christian students should study the King James Bible, and all should read the collected works of Plato, Aristotle, and Shakespeare. These classics, the prince insisted, teach the art of language and communication, which is the essence of complex thinking and problem-solving.
‘I found it inspiring to listen to Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad and observe his way of thinking and the way he responded to our questions,’ said Elizabeth Marteijn, a PhD student in World Christianity with an emphasis in Palestinian theology. ‘he is a leading voice in the field of Christian-Muslim dialogue, and it is a privilege to have met him in person.’
Students found the reading assignment intriguing.
‘He’s really inspired me to read more’, said Charlotte Madden, a fourth-year undergraduate in Religious Studies.
Others were intrigued by his model of scholarly engagement in political leadership.
‘He is the closest thing I know to Plato’s philosopher ruler’, said Nathan Hood, a masters student in Theology and History. ‘He is a very thoughtful man, and had a lot of dignity and respect in the way he spoke.’
Professor Paul Foster, Dean of the School of Divinity, who joined the Network in welcoming Prince Ghazi to New College, noted the growing interest in Christian-Muslim studies among both students and the School of Divinity as an institution.