Christians and Muslims might lack a common dogmatic base from which to discuss theology, but they share devotion and esteem for a woman who brings them together: Mary, mother of Jesus.
In the following excerpts from the interview with Father Saghbini, the priest speaks of the conference, Christians in the Middle East and prospects for Christian-Muslim collaboration.
Q: Have theological issues been discussed at this conference?
Father Saghbini: There is no common dogmatic basis that is valid for Christians and Muslims together in order to deal with theological questions and the magisterium of the Church. However, what is possible is the common reflection about Mary. The Christian point of view is: Mary is the elected Virgin and Mother of God and we are venerating her and we are praying to her. She is the intercessor for us with Jesus Christ. The Muslim point of view is: Mary is a special woman and the best among the women.
In Lebanon, for example, a common feast day for the honor of Mary has been introduced. On this day Christians and Muslims have the possibility to venerate Mary in their own religious approaches.
Brotherhood (Ikha' in Arabic) between Christians and Muslims shall be intensified and supported by the lectures given at this conference. Another important issue for the synod fathers is daily, peaceful common life between Christians and Muslims. The daily talks between Christians and Muslims should be led and should be based on the foundation of love, mutual tolerance and respect. In this manner a common dialogue, for a common search for truth, enables a better understanding of each other and the exchange of personal points of view and experiences.
Father Saghbini: Our Patriarch Gregorios III is planning similar meetings in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. Of course, the Center Al-Liqa, founded by His Beatitude, is a place where encounters between Christians and Muslims will take place and which may lead to a better knowledge and understanding between the cultures and religions.