Keeping the religious peace

By Simon Rocker, December 27, 2013

Three Windows on Heaven, edited Aly El-Samman, Gilgamesh, £24.95

There is a growing literature of religious trialogue — the encounter between the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. But this book, conceived by Dr Aly El-Samman, an Egyptian Muslim who spent many years in France and is connected with the influential Islamic university in Cairo Al-Azhar, has a difference.

It carries the imprimatur of weighty figures such as Ali Gomaa, the former Grand Mufti of Egypt, and René-Samuel Sirat, former Chief Rabbi of France. And it is aimed at a broad audience rather than a scholarly elite, reflecting the desire to bring its message of multi-faith concord to the masses.

Its heart is three short essays emphasising the three faiths’ commitment to love, peace and tolerance — and an openness towards those of other religions. The article on Judaism, co-written by leading Jewish interfaith activist, Rabbi David Rosen, takes a verse from Malachi as the inspiration to dialogue: “Those who revered God spoke with one another” (3:16).

Inevitably, it is selective, highlighting the more benign passages in each tradition rather than engaging with more difficult verses that have helped to fuelstrife down the ages. But when the currents of sectarianism are strong and youth are susceptible to more aggressive ideologies which couple religion to the politics of hate, then the positive emphasis is timely.

Crucially, the texts are simply presented and easy for schoolchildren to understand. It should find a place in the library of every faith school.

Last updated: 3:02pm, December 27 2013