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Islamic Society of North
July 3, 2009
Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos
Thank you for this welcome. It is very good to be here with you today, as you gather as a valuable community of faith and culture that is an integral part of the United States of America. I suppose this is why you’ve chosen Washington, DC, as the location for this gathering.
I’m Tony Kireopoulos, and I greet you on behalf of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. You’ve met my boss, Michael Kinnamon, before, as well as a former National Council of Churches colleague, Shanta Premawardhana. I am pleased to be able to follow in their footsteps in greeting you on behalf of our constituency.
The National Council of Churches, or the NCC, is composed of 35 national churches that collectively represent 45 million Christians in 100,000 congregations nationwide. These churches come from 5 main traditions: Orthodox, both Eastern and Oriental; mainline Protestant; the Anglican, or Episcopal, Church; the historic Peace churches; and the historic African American churches.
I come to you today, certainly as an ecumenical representative of all of these churches, but also as a member of one of these traditions, the Orthodox Church. And of course, as an Orthodox Christian, I also bring to my interfaith, and specifically Muslim-Christian, relations, the historical and theological legacy of living side-by-side with Muslims in the Middle East.
The goal of the NCC is Christian unity: it’s no secret that the Christian churches are divided into many, many traditions and communities. But while our main goal is theological unity, we also try to manifest the unity that we already have in common by belief in the same Jesus Christ, mainly through our witness to bring justice in a world of injustice. While this is, of course, a Christian enterprise, something important to note is that we consciously do this within a pluralistic society. Our journey as Christians is enriched by our friendships with people of other faiths.
My job is at the theological heart of the Council, where I lead the theological dialogues among Christians and among members of other faith groups, like yours. We have all – Christians and Muslims and others – come to know that we reach out to one another based on common principles and beliefs. Despite our differences, what we have in common allows us to reach out to one another in friendship so as to make our sojourn in this land as fruitful as possible. This is, I believe, consistent with one of your themes here, which affirms that we have “A Common Word” between us and you.
One of the privileges of my job is coordinating the National Muslim – Christian Initiative, with Dr. Sayyid Syeed and Mohammed Elsanousi and others that are part of ISNA. We also work with other Muslims in this initiative as well: the Islamic Circle of North America, Mosque Cares, members of both Sunni and Shiite communities, Sufis, and others. Our next meeting is in late September.
Out of this experience of friendship and theological discourse and advocacy together on important issues that affect both of our respective communities, I am so very happy to be here among you today – and tomorrow, where I’ll be speaking in the Common Word workshop.
This convention urges us to now go beyond a common word, and to work together on common tasks. Those tasks can be advocacy here in Washington on important domestic and foreign policy issues. Those tasks can be working against hate crimes against Muslims and Christians and Jews and others in local communities. Those tasks can be theological explorations that help to break down walls of fear. I am here to affirm to you that we are your partners in this work, because it is through faithful witness to eternal truths that, In sha’Allah, temporal obstacles to peace and justice can be overcome.Thank you for this warm welcome. And best wishes from the National Council of Churches for this gathering.
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