With sectarian and religious conflicts ravaging through different parts of the world, including in the Middle East, and with many scholars holding the Abrahamic faiths responsible for a long history of bloodshed, can the three faiths bring a new hope for a long-lasting peace for the world?
There is no doubt that the answer for us is yes, the Abrahamic faiths have coexisted peacefully and respectfully at some points in history and there are many historical and theological evidence to back these claims.
The story of the three Abrahamic faiths starts with Abraham, the patriarch of the Abrahamic religions. Abraham’s father, Terah, was the ninth descendant from Noah. He had three sons: Abraham, Nahor and Haran, and Haran was the father of Lot and the whole family lived in Ur of the Chaldees which was located near Nasirya in southern Iraq. For the Jewish people, Abraham is the founder of the “covenant of the parts” which defined the relationship between God and the Hebrews. And for Christians, he is the ancestor of all believers; while in Islam he is a key prophet in the chain of prophets which begins with Adam and ends with Mohammad. According to the scripture, God ordered Terah and Abraham to leave their homeland and move to the land of Canaan, a land revered by all Abrahamic believers. On their way to Canaan, they lived for a while in a place in upper Mesopotamia between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates called Haran, where Terah died.
In 1446 BCE, and nearly 645 years after Abraham, Moses led the exodus from Egypt. According to the holy books of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Moses received the Torah, or the Laws of Moses, from heaven, and to him the authorship of the first five books of the Old Testament is attributed. These three religions share many of the same common themes and history in their religious texts.
Monotheism is one of the most common themes between the three Abrahamic religions and that is why they, sometimes, are called the monotheistic religions because they believe in the unitary nature of God. In Exodus 20:2-17, the first commandment reads, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.”
This was confirmed in the New Testament in Mark 12:28-31 when one of the teachers of the law came and heard Jesus debating, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus answered, “The most important one is this: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
Four centuries later, the church reaffirmed this concept through the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan Creed which begins with, “We believe in one God, the father, the almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.” The same concept is cited in the Quran in Surat Al-Hashr 59: 22: “He is God, other than whom there is no deity, Knower of the unseen and the witnessed. He is the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.”
There are several significant facts in history that support our argument, such as the origin of the Arabic word “Tawheed” which means “unity or unitary.” Both Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Churches call themselves “The Orthodox Tewaheedo Church.” The word “Tewaheedo” is a Ge’ez word meaning “unity or unitary” (the Ge’ez language is the ancient Nilo-Saharan language of Ethiopia and Eritrea). A similar word exists in Arabic “Tawheed” with the same meaning.
These links become more meaningful when we remember that Christianity reached Ethiopia in the 1st century, and the first Arab Muslim refugees arrived in Ethiopia in the 7th century fleeing persecution in the Arabic peninsula, many of whom returned after living in Ethiopia for many years, “Tawheed” is a core concept in Islamic theology or Fiqh.
Living in peace and harmony does not necessitate believing in each other’s religions, but it rather requires loving and respecting each other and celebrating religious diversity as a positive contribution to the beauty and development of any society.
The Abrahamic family comprises over three billion believers, the vast majority of whom want to live in peace and harmony. It is time for wise voices from all sides to come together to challenge and debunk the narratives of extremism, and reclaim our faiths from religious fascists who are abusing it for political gains, and fuelling theories based on the clash of civilisations: “The world does not need clash of civilisations, the world needs more civilisation,” our friend Jan Figel, the former EU Special Envoy for RoRB, once said.
We are encouraged by the positive messages and initiatives coming from different parts in the world. From Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the UAE, Iraq, Israel and the Vatican we are witnessing a number of forward-thinking initiatives and attempts promising dialog and peace.
We particularly recognize the unprecedented visit of the Secretary General of the Muslim World League Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Karim bin Abdulaziz al-Issa to the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz in Poland. Sheikh al-Issa led a delegation of 62 Muslims, including 25 prominent religious scholars, from 28 countries during the visit. A delegation of American Jewish Committee officials took part in the visit too. A small step perhaps, but very symbolic for hundreds of millions of Abrahamic believers, and a beginning of more steps onto the road of reconciliation and peace.
Tell us what do you think?