The papers presented by a large number of participants highlighted the changes in Christian-Muslim relations during the last thirty years. Some assessed the significance of dialogue and scholarship and its impact on those relations, privileging a thematic focus or a regional perspective. Others chose to concentrate on recent Christian and Muslim writings, dialogical and polemical, or on the intellectual and practical experience of their own institutions.
The discussions of the colloquium contributed to the broader effort, presently underway, of examining critically the problems confronted in the encounter of Christians and Muslims and identifying, in a forward-looking perspective, areas for study, dialogue and cooperation.
A Consultation on Cooperation in Christian-Muslim
The Office on Inter-Religious Relations organized a Consultation on "Cooperation in Christian-Muslim Studies", held in Balamand, Lebanon, 29-31 August 1997.
Twenty Christian and Muslim participants, including representatives of specialized university centres or church-related institutions (see list), shared information and exchanged views on their experience, present activities and future plans. They discussed a number of concrete proposals for collaboration and agreed on developing a mechanism of regular communication and coordination.
The list of Institutions represented in the Consultation:
A collective of multi-disciplinary research was created in 1996, in an unprecedented effort to observe and analyse critically, the changing Christian-Muslim relations: tensions, exchanges, inter-actions, and mutual images, not only in the political and religious realm but also in demography, housing, economy, legislation, education, media....A contextualized reflection, stemming from such analysis, hopes to identify the concrete possibilities and challenges of reconstructing national unity. It likewise seeks a better communication on the Lebanese experience, in relation to the experience of other religiously pluralist societies, and on its relevance for Christian-Muslim dialogue in the Arab World and at the international level.
This collective chose to be called Marqab Al 'Aych al Mushtarak fi Lubnan (The Observatory of Shared Living in Lebanon). In October 1997 it published the first issue of its journal Al Marqab, with studies touching on diverse societal issues including the Beirut reconstruction project, the new educational structure, relations between religious institutions, the Catholic Synod on Lebanon, confessional aspects of Lebanon's economy, the juridical status of Lebanese confessions, the impact of 1996 elections on Christian-Muslim relations, the Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" in 1996 and its effects on solidarity between Lebanese. The issue also includes a chronology of events and a bibliography.
The Observatory was set in place by the Centre for Christian-Muslim Studies at the Orthodox University of Balamand. Founded in 1995, the Centre has initiated, in addition, an educational programme, starting with an annual Christian-Muslim summer school, as well as a research project on modern mutual images of Christianity and Islam. The Centre has also convened an international Consultation on Christian-Muslim Studies and co-organized and hosted a colloquium on "Mutual Views and Changing Relations between Christians and Muslims".