The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians, Islamic scholars told the Pope today.
In a letter addressed directly to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, 138 prominent Muslim scholars said that finding common ground between the world's biggest two religions was not "simply a matter for polite ecumenical dialogue".
The letter, which is entitled A Common Word between Us and You, says: "Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world's population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians."
Rasputin will be well up for it, I'm sure. He might even agree that no mullahs in same-sex relationships be appointed to British mosques for a year or two.
"With the terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world's inhabitants. Thus our common future is at stake. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake," the letter says.
It adds that the Qur'an entreats Muslims to treat Christians and Jews with particular friendship, though it also warns against aggression from Christians.
"We say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them - so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes," the letter says.
"With Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before", eh ? But there are quite a lot of places where Muslims and Christians aren't intertwined - we can start with Saudi Arabia, followed by a host of countries where Muslims and Christians used to be intertwined - until the Christians were driven out. Palestine for starters.
Lets take apart that concept a bit more. Where Christian and Moslem are intertwined with a Christian minority, where's any conflict coming from ? Are the Copts rioting or letting off bombs in Egypt ? No, they're being attacked and stabbed. Turkey, where the Christian minority is tiny after the events of 1917. Are they rioting or setting off bombs ? No, they're being shot and stabbed.
Where Christian and Moslem are intertwined with a Moslem minority, say in Britain or France, where's any conflict coming from ?
To ask the question is to answer it.
You can't help feeling that what's being presented to Christian leaders is a not very cryptic warning, accompanied by an invitation to surrender.
Rasputin's signature in the railway carriage is pretty much a foregone conclusion, although Bishops Sentamu and Nazir-Ali may not be so keen. But what of our Pope, Benedict ? He's tough enough with the CoE on doctrine, but whatever faults they may have (and they are many), they're not likely to react with violence. What will he say to this invitation ? Please pray for him.
(btw, the Armenian massacres of the Ottoman Empire are much in the news at present. Although Johnny Turk was a reasonably fair fighter against uniformed opponents, he didn't seem to behave very well when confronted with popular resistance. If the much-maligned Black and Tans had behaved like the Turks in Bulgaria, there'd have been a lot of abandoned villages in Cork and Limerick)