Former archbishop urges dialogue between faiths
St. Matthew's own Fr. Kevin Lloyd previously worked with Lord Carey in England, giving Jamestown the privilege of a visit from this preeminent speaker and author. His speech, entitled "Bridges of Reconciliation," covered both historical and present Muslim religious topics. Lord Carey stressed in his speech the importance of gaining a better understanding of the world's second largest religion, the Muslim faith.
At 18 years old, Lord George Carey found himself in the Middle East serving his duties for the Royal Air Force. It was during this time, Carey said, that his interest in the Muslim religion began.
He was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002, during which he was active in interfaith work. He retired from that position in 2002 and became a life peer as Baron Carey of Clifton, in the city and county of Bristol. He is currently the Chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire and spends a large amount of time continuing his efforts for better relations with Muslims, asking for a deeper dialogue between the two faiths.
Carey quoted from Professor Samuel Huntington, a controversial American political scientist, who said, "Islam's borders are bloody and so are its innards. The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power." Lord Carey said he felt this was an example of the clash of cultures that could be mended by opening talks between the faiths. Carey pointed out that Muslim thought was influential to early religious beliefs. He indicated the painting by Raphael called "The School of Athens," an illustration of leading philosophers includes Averroes, a master of Islamic law. He is depicted along with such leading philosophers as Plato and Aristotle. Averroes has been described as the founding father of secular thought in Western Europe, Carey said.
Audience members had an opportunity to ask Lord Carey a few questions. One member of the audience asked for a comparison of what the Bible means to Christians, versus the Koran for Muslims. Carey explained that while Christians are more apt to use the Bible as a reference for a faithful life, the Koran is taken by Muslims as more of a definitive direction. Individual interpretations of the Koran can be attributed to violence that the West has witnessed, Lord Carey said. Sayyid Qutb is an individual whose work on Islamic fundamentalism contributed greatly to the negative modern perception of Muslims. He led the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and 60s and his ideas are thought to be those that would shape al Qaeda.
Lord Carey spoke of a lack of understanding between the Christians and Muslims. He asked that everyone seek to understand the Muslims, as they are not a religion devoted to terrorism. Carey said he feels people need to establish points of contact and not be afraid to talk to Muslims about other faiths. Lord Carey left the audience with the thought that Christians should be as equally proud and confident of their religion. It is in this way that people can open the lines of interfaith conversations in hopes of reconciling Christian and Muslim thought.