A little late on this, but the documents says that it hopes to be a long-term object of research, so I suppose this is sort of a way of that coming to pass, though I don’t think the authors would like my take.
In any case, I was asked to give my response to the document and some aspects of it at The Everyman, and today part of that response is up.
Nor does this call for unity and peace amount to anything substantive. Not long after the above passage, the document states that, “Dialogue, understanding and the widespread promotion of a culture of tolerance, acceptance of others and of living together peacefully would contribute significantly to reducing many economic, social, political and environmental problems that weigh so heavily on a large part of humanity.”
The trouble is, talk about tolerance, acceptance, and ‘living together peacefully’ doesn’t actually solve anything because it declines the question of what the conflict is actually about. It amounts to simply telling people as a bald-faced assertion that whatever point of contention they have with each other should not lead to conflict, with the ‘acceptance’ and ‘living together peacefully’ points implying that this refers not only to violence but to any kind of contention or disagreement. But that implies that peace and cohesion are to be regarded as more important than any potential points of conflict between Christians and Muslims. Which in turn means that the call for ‘tolerance, acceptance, and living together’ only works for people who already value peace over the points at issue. And, to be clear, the points at issue here are the nature of God and reality and the salvation of souls.
I hope I don’t have to explain why the Pope cannot be telling Christians that they are to value peace and cohesion over their faith, or why this is extremely dubious grounds on which to try to launch a religious renewal.
I am not, of course, saying that there ought to be violence between Christians and Muslims. The point is that the two sides are in fact in conflict. We can and should call for that conflict to be restrained and to be fought with words and ideas rather than weapons (though history gives us little reason to hope for that), but we cannot simply deny that it exists without denying the real content of both religions. Again, this amounts to these two religious leaders trying to promote peace and oppose materialism by saying that religious differences ultimately do not matter. Whether that was their intent or not, that is the actual meaning of their words.