I came to Algeria in 1946 and have lived my entire life in the context of an Islamic-Christian relationship, almost entirely in this country, except for two years in Morocco and two years in Egypt. Thus this Islamic-Christian relationship fashioned the texture of my life of faith and my Christian witness ever since. I thank God for giving me this vocation and mission.
The Muslim world’ rapid demographic growth in the past century over a wider geographic zone have made the Islamic-Christian relationship one of the major aspects of the Church’s faithfulness to its mission in today’s world. The Church owes it to its mission to serve peace among men, especially with believers and among them Muslims.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said: “And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?” Opening our hearts to brothers who are different from us is a sign of our faithfulness to the Sermon on the Mount. “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” is an appeal that excludes no one.
At present, Christians have also come to better understand that the Church is not an institution for Christians only, but is a token God offers to all men. The Pope’s ministry, especially the way it was fulfilled by John Paul II, has made this mission visible to the entire world. And now Benedict XVI in each of his trips shows such openness in his meetings with Muslim leaders.
In today’s world men do not understand that religions that seek to honour God, each in its own way of course, may also cause tensions among them. The latest steps taken by Muslim leaders (cf the letter by 138 Muslim scholars) show instead that many Muslims today do want to work at this pacified relationship between Christians and Muslims.
This is why I have been happy to place my entire life at the service of this relationship. Of course, in each camp there are fundamentalists who want to close ranks and be only among Christians or Muslims. But I am happy to say that for the past 60 years many Muslims have sought out the friendship of Christians and are committed to working together for the common good.
For me such friendships represent the essence of my faithfulness to the Gospel, but they are also a manifestation of the Gospel to our Muslim partners. Friendship leads to trust which makes working together for the common good possible in all its different aspects: social action, the search for justice and peace, the sharing our cultural heritage, etc. Communicating our spiritual experiences represents one of the highest points of such sharing. On certain occasions we can even pray together, at funerals, or during shared moments of joy, etc.
Too often there has been a tendency to reduce Islamic-Christian dialogue to academic symposia. Of course, these are also part of the process of dialogue and do provide precious indications of mutual respect between the two communities. But dialogue is first and foremost a grassroots relationship between people of good will, a relationship which generates trust and peace on the basis of friendship among people.