Celebrate This Great Stride Towards Peace Between Faiths (Letter)

October 28, 2005
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The letter was published in The Times on 28th October 2005

Sir, Forty years ago today the Catholic Church issued an epoch-making declaration on its relations with Judaism and Islam, as well as other religions, which has transformed the climate between our faiths. Nostra Aetate, “In Our Time”, issued shortly before the close of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, pledged the Catholic Church to the effort to replace suspicion and hostility among all Churches and religions with an attitude of dialogue and collaboration.

As British faith leaders in the three monotheistic traditions, we wish to pay tribute to Nostra Aetate and to note with thanksgiving the changed atmosphere which it has helped to bring about. We wish to celebrate the fact that a spirit of mutual tolerance and respect between our faiths is today possible both in principle and in practice.

Nostra Aetate precipitated a shift, most notably in Catholic-Jewish relations, by acknowledging the Christian contribution to anti-Semitism and making clear that God’s covenant with the Jewish people has never been broken. It also inspired a new understanding between Christians and Muslims.

This new climate, unthinkable 50 years ago, has enabled collaboration between scholars, papal visits to synagogues and mosques, and the unprecedented meetings of faith leaders in Assisi in 1986 and 2002.

We are grateful for the call in Nostra Aetate to “encourage, preserve and promote” the spiritual wisdom and values of each other’s faiths. In our own time, when bigotry and prejudice, notably anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, are provoking hatred and misunderstanding, we pledge ourselves anew to this mutual respect between faiths in the UK in the same spirit of humility and gratitude which characterise this remarkable document.

Signed,

SIR JONATHAN SACKS,
CARDINAL CORMAC MURPHY-O’CONNOR
SHEIKH DR ZAKI BADAWI

London SW1