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This week, a global bid to connect Muslims and Christians

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"When the king says publicly that diversity is a sacred notion in Islam ... that's a big deal," says Rabbi Brad Hirschfeld, president of the National Center for Jewish Learning and Leadership in New York, who attended the conference. "It's world-changing."

Genesis of 'Common Word'

The 29-page letter that Muslim clerics from the major sects sent to Christian churches said "the future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians." It invited Christians to join with them on the basis of "what is common to us and most essential to our faith and practice: the Two Commandments" – love for God and love for one's neighbor.

"A Common Word represents a global Islamic consensus, and that means this engagement will have implications throughout the Muslim world," says Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for the Muslim group and director of SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research in Ankara, Turkey.

The Christian response was positive, leading to planning for four conferences: Muslims with Protestant leaders in New Haven, Conn., this week; with Anglicans at Cambridge University in October; with Catholics at the Vatican in November; and finally, at Georgetown University in Washington next spring, where the social and political implications of the dialogues will come to the fore.

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