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.
"Common Word has taken on an active life with a lot of potential impact ... which should lead eventually to joint projects in several areas," says John Esposito, director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown.
The dialogue begins with theological interaction at Yale. "We'll be discussing our core religious commitments, which are important because they define who we are," says Miroslav Volf, director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. That is a foundation for "addressing a wide range of very practical and very difficult issues."