Christians and Muslims get along

Monday 5th November 2012

Christians and Muslims - partners in a pluralistic society

A joint discussion of social issues

Declaration of the discussion group "Christians and Muslims" at the Central Committee of German Catholics

The discussion group "Christians and Muslims" at the ZdK has existed since June 2000. It currently consists of 11 Christians and 7 Muslims and serves to facilitate understanding on current issues of Christian-Muslim relations in the German context. In 2008, the discussion group drafted the declaration "Islamic religious education as an opportunity for integration and dialogue", which contained a joint vote for denominational religious education. [1] It was an impetus for dealing with the question of what connects Christians and Muslims in Germany as partners in a pluralistic society. It is about a society that is shaped by a variety of lifestyles, interests, institutions and beliefs.

In addition to everyday coexistence, theological exchange and dialogue of spiritual experience, joint action represents a central dimension of interreligious encounter. Joint action combines religious foundations, the perception of current social reality and concrete activities. It opens a programmatic approach to the Christian-Islamic dialogue, to which the following declaration is dedicated.

I. Starting points

I.1. Solidarity in the belief in the one God

The basis of the Christian-Islamic dialogue is the belief in one God. In the exchange of what has ever been believed as revelation and through solidarity in the confession of the merciful and righteous God, ways to common action can emerge. Because it is the one God that Christians and Muslims profess. In sura 29,46 of the Koran it says: "[...] Our God and your God are one. And we are devoted to Him." The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) states in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: "The will to salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, especially the Muslims who profess the faith of Abraham and with us the one God worship." (Lumen Gentium, 16). The declaration on the relationship of the Church to the non-Christian religions Nostra Aetate formulates: "The Church [...] regards with great respect the Muslims who worship the only God, the living and self-contained, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and the earth that spoke to the people. " (Nostra Aetate No. 3).

This "Magna Charta" of dialogue, which is rightly much touted, marks a conscious emphasis on the common. To start the conversation between Christians and Muslims with the agreements is not little, it is essential for the dialogue. This does not mean to ignore the differences that undoubtedly also exist in the understanding of God and revelation as well as in the view of Jesus or to regard them as unimportant.

I.2. Experiences from integration debates and interreligious dialogues

All too often, Islam in Germany is only perceived and assessed as part of the current integration debate. However, it is no longer a new factor in social and religious coexistence, but has been present for decades and has since then been rooted in the community. Muslim believers have long been at home in Germany. However, their religious traditions are often perceived far less in terms of their positive potential, but rather as a threat, an obstacle to social integration or as a cause of conflict and violence. They often encounter distrust, prejudice and hostility. The other monotheistic religions are also faced with similar accusations.

The dialogue between the two religious communities has been continued and deepened over the past decades. Although the theological discourse did not primarily lead to common de fi nitions, it did perceive numerous parallels more strongly and also highlighted differences. This made it possible to deepen the common orientation towards the one God. In addition, an approach that is based on religious solidarity towards common places of social responsibility must increasingly be added.

Understanding and goals of partnership-based cooperation between Christians and Muslims need to be redefined in today's dialogue in view of the growing common tasks and challenges facing society. This expressly includes the common rejection of all fundamentalist currents. In contradiction to attempts at isolation and isolation, the aim is to deal with the current social situation and also with critical inquiries to the religious communities (contribution to social peace, integration, etc.). So we should collectively ask about the self-image and the role of religions in society, in which an increasing number of people no longer belong to any religion.

I.3. From advocacy to partnership

In connection with the immigration situation of most Muslims in Germany, church actors and groups initially assumed a kind of advocacy for them. Together with them, you have campaigned for prayer rooms, mosques, Islamic religious instruction and Islamic pastoral care in public spaces and continue to do so. However, asymmetries that characterize the Christian-Islamic dialogue have decreased in recent years. In the course of the integration process, the Muslims expanded and professionalized their institutions. The number of quali fi ed contact persons and people willing to enter into dialogue on both sides has grown significantly. There are now many projects, institutions and collaborations in which Muslims and Christians work together as partners. This development from the legal profession to an equal partnership needs to be strengthened and perpetuated.

Christian and Muslim believers are linked by their respective socio-political mandate, which is derived from their believing self-image. The common task of both religious communities is to let their religious convictions, horizons of meaning, values ​​and ethical standards become fruitful for the common good and in particular to take responsibility for the weak. Christians and Muslims are therefore specifically challenged to make their contribution to social peace, justice and the integrity of creation.

II. Position

II.1. Common foundations in the image of man

Muslims and Christians understand human beings as God's creatures who owe their lives to God and who will return to him. All human beings, men and women, are centered on God and have an inalienable dignity. As representatives of God (khalifat allah) or the image of God, they are responsible for the world (Gen 1,27; Sura 2,30 [2]) and for other people. They care for their relationship with all other living beings and with the earth, which they should protect and preserve. In this they serve God, who created them as free beings: People are able to differentiate between good and bad, they can recognize what is commanded and act accordingly. Yet they are repeatedly confronted with their failure, their limits and the evil. As individuals and as a community, they need God's instruction in order to overcome failure. You are referred to his guidance or redemption and to his word.

God is close to people and can be called upon by them in prayer (Mt 7,7-8; Sura 2,186 [3]). Believing people experience this as essential for their existence and togetherness: Christians believe that God himself revealed himself to people in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and find fundamental orientation in this. Muslims follow the Koran, which they confess as the direct announcement of God and which they seek to orient their lives according to.

In his freedom, conditioned by the respective contexts of life, people arrive at different interpretations of the world and build up different social structures. The recognition of human freedom and, in particular, religious freedom is one of the indispensable prerequisites for successful coexistence and for interreligious dialogue.

II.2. Pluralism as a legitimate expression of human freedom

Pluralism is not a necessary evil, but an expression of human dignity, willed by God and a necessary consequence of human freedom. The message of the religions is a free offer that people may or may not accept. Even if in Islam and Christianity the claim of universality and final validity was raised again and again, this claim could not be implemented historically. Christians and Muslims, however, are united by the conviction that their credibility must be proven particularly in ethical action [4]. With regard to Christians and Muslims, the Second Vatican Council speaks of the goal of "working together for the protection and promotion of social justice, moral goods and, last but not least, peace and freedom for all people" (Nostra Aetate No. 3). The Koran knows religious diversity. From this an ethical mandate to Jews, Christians and Muslims can be deduced: "[...] We have determined a direction and a path for each of you. And if God had willed, He would have made you a single community. But He wills you examine what He has sent you. So hurry to the good things. You will all return to God, then He will make known to you what you disagreed about. " (Sura 5.48). In this way, diversity and unity can be combined in action.

Pluralism is not limited to religions, but is a broader social phenomenon. Even if there have been expressions of cultural and religious plurality in history, pluralism in an even more radical form is the characteristic of differentiated modern societies. As part of modern societies, religions are also affected by these processes of differentiation, which lead to a greater pluralization of forms of piety, theological conceptions and religious groupings. Only religious communities that perceive their inner plurality as such and allow a variety of interpretations can fi nd their place in a pluralistic society. It can be a common learning process for Christians and Muslims to deal with pluralism in religions and in society.

II.3. Christian and Muslim interpretations of pluralism

Especially when they meet, Muslims and Christians are faced with the task of admitting pluralism within their religions and using this diversity as an opportunity for dialogue. It can be helpful to build on traditions of both religions, which appreciate and affirm pluralism: "The diversity of opinions among Muslims is a mercy for the community" [5], as the prophet Muhammad says, meaning a diversity of religious expressions is legitimized in theology and law schools. In Christianity this is shown in the diversity of the biblical testimony, which among other things manifested in the four gospels as well as in the variety of church rites.

In Islam, the unconditional orientation towards the unity of God and the five pillars represent a common basis for Muslims worldwide. In both religions, a worldwide orientation and an inner diversity are combined with one another. In the New Testament, the Pentecost event (Acts 2) is fundamental for this: people with different languages ​​will be filled with the Spirit and form a community. In Islam, Muslims from all countries of the world with their respective religious and cultural characteristics come together on the pilgrimage to Mecca every year.

II.4. Partnership between Muslims and Christians within the framework of pluralism

In order to guarantee peaceful coexistence in a pluralistic society, a basic consensus based on trust is necessary. Religiously and ideologically neutral states such as Germany offer an appropriate framework for this, which is to be affirmed and promoted from an Islamic as well as a Christian perspective. A tendency to push religion out of the public space and to limit it entirely to the private and individual sphere must be countered. Religious communities must not only have the opportunity to practice their religion freely, but are also called upon to contribute their religious values ​​to the shaping of coexistence.

Due to social pluralism, a group or religious community is often not in a position to implement a specific concern on its own. It is therefore dependent on partners. Pluralism therefore requires a partnership, i. H. equal attitude and orientation. It contradicts the partnership model if one of the partners sets the framework for it. Even if partners remain different in many ways, they work together on an equal footing and in a dialogue. Because of the great similarities in the image of man and in ethics, Muslims and Christians can be preferred partners for each other in socio-political fields of action. The partnership is based on common positions and goals from which common activities can result. In 2007, the 138 Muslim scholars in their letter to Pope Benedict XVI. and the representatives of the other Christian churches "A word that is common to us and you" point out that the "unity and uniqueness of God, love of God and love of neighbor" [6] is the common basis of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. In addition, there is a commitment to justice, solidarity, especially with the poor and the weak, and striving for the broadest possible common good. These orientations shape the way Christians and Muslims perceive reality.

II.5. Openness to members of other religions and non-religious people

As partners, Christians and Muslims should not form an isolated special world, but should be part of society. Your partnership serves the good of all people. It should therefore be open to other religious or non-religious positions and groups at the same time and include them where possible. Since all people have the power to make ethical judgments by virtue of their reason, attempts to establish an alliance of the religious against a non-religious world that is viewed as hostile are to be rejected. Such an openness beyond religions was expressed, for example, by the first participation of atheists at the world prayer meeting for peace in Assisi in 2011. The aim is not to distinguish from one another, but rather to accept the different life paths of all people in their respective self-image. In doing so, one's own actions must never be used to the detriment of someone who thinks differently, but should always be seen in the light of mutual responsibility.

Sometimes, especially among religious people, there are ideas of a unified society, but this is unrealistic and ultimately not to be strived for. Retreating into one's own group cannot be an alternative to a constructive examination of social pluralism. Conversely, pluralism does not mean unlimited arbitrariness or indifference. In partnership mode, differences are not leveled out and claims to validity are not canceled. Human rights apply equally to all people and are a binding and binding element for religious and non-religious people and groups. They are not just an expression of a certain religion or culture, but can be justified by different religions and world views. This is also where their universal validity lies.

II.6. From the perception of concrete situations to joint action

How and in which fields church and Muslim groups can work together in partnership must be clarified in their specific location and in their specific situation. In doing so, they can orientate themselves on exemplary experiences that testify to the success of cooperation. Christians and Muslims have to deal with current social phenomena together, question them in the light of their religious sources, agree on their different perspectives and look for options for action. It is important not only to appeal to the actions of the individual. Many questions of the present are structural questions that deal with institutions, economic laws, political frameworks, etc., each of which has to be examined in its own logic, but also has to be critically questioned.

Pluralism always requires the strenuous search for consensus or compromise. In this way, the partnership between Christians and Muslims in current questions cannot be based on answers that have already been given. It is not enough to confront each other with scriptural quotations and norms.Rather, it is about a common search in the face of new social questions and problems. In this way, Muslims and Christians can work out common positions on current problems, which also identify differences fairly and clearly. In this way, they contribute to a constructive culture of discussion that promotes peaceful coexistence.

III. Exemplary concretizations

The similarities in the image of man, in the understanding of God and in ethics make it clear that Christians and Muslims also have a common mission in and for society, for the individual and collective well-being of all people. In concrete terms, there will always be different positions and judgments between Christians and Muslims as well as among members of one of the two religions. However, these do not rule out joint action, but rather challenge constructive solutions.

In the following, some possible fields in which Christians and Muslims can become active together are shown as examples:

  1. 1.   Working together against extremism and xenophobia

Extremist attitudes in the political and religious spectrum, xenophobia and racism, enemy images against Jews, Christians and Muslims violate the dignity of the individual and endanger peaceful coexistence in pluralistic societies. Christians and Muslims work together in civil society against any form of inhuman ideologies, for example in the form of counter-demonstrations, prayers for peace, joint declarations or district festivals against right-wing extremist and right-wing populist groups.

  1. 2.   Joint statements on ethical issues

The rapid and momentous developments in biotechnology and medicine confront Christians and Muslims with all other people with completely new ethical questions and problems that cannot be answered or solved by resorting to holy scriptures and religious traditions alone. The protection of human life is one of the basic principles of Christian and Islamic ethics; on this basis, the specific borderline cases of life (beginning of life, end of life, serious illness) must be evaluated, taking into account scientific and human scientific findings. With regard to the economy, family, media and the integrity of creation, ethical questions arise that concern Christians and Muslims alike. Despite different approaches and methods in both religions and despite the often intra-religious diversity of positions, it seems advisable for Christians and Muslims, churches and Islamic institutions to join the public discussion. So far, this has not happened or only to a limited extent. The cooperation between the new institutes for Islamic theology at German universities and the university institutions for Christian theologies plays an important role here.

  1. 3.   Joint commitment to education

According to scientific studies, deficits in structural integration (school education, vocational education, etc.) can often be found in socially disadvantaged and educationally disadvantaged groups. Migrant groups are particularly affected by this. There has already been a clear rise in education in the following generations. The remaining educational deficits need to be remedied. Early support in day-care centers, also sponsored by the church, can make an important contribution to this. The language skills of the parents must be taken into account.

In many places, volunteer networks for homework supervision have emerged in Christian-Muslim cooperation. In a similar way, cooperation between charities, social institutions and church and mosque communities with regard to educational sponsorships and reading projects for primary and secondary school students is possible. An important area in which Muslims and Christians can get involved together is intercultural youth education.[7]

  1. 4.   Cooperation in senior work and care for the elderly

The first generation of Muslim immigrants is reaching the age at which more and more care is required. Due to the heavy physical work of migrant workers, this group often becomes in need of care earlier and more often than in other parts of society. Caring for parents and grandparents is traditionally seen as the responsibility of the entire family, but today many families are overwhelmed with this task and need professional help. Caritas institutions therefore offer care and health advice in cooperation with Muslim communities and train care staff in a culture-sensitive manner. Other projects deal with suitable offers of help for life in the home environment.

  1. 5.   Cooperation in emergency support and pastoral care

The fact that in emergencies a feeling of helplessness and powerlessness robs people of the ground does not depend on religion. Every religion offers rituals, prayers, and actions that can bring comfort to people. Muslims know the concern for the seriously injured and sick, for the dying and surviving dependents as a religiously based obligation, but institutionalized pastoral care analogous to the churches is (still) largely missing on the Muslim side for structural and substantive reasons.

A few years ago initiatives to train voluntary Muslim emergency attendants arose. Building on the practical experience of the Christian churches, the training, which imparts specialist knowledge in dealing with those affected, as well as theological basics and cultural sensitivities, is carried out jointly by Christian and Muslim speakers.

Similar projects are conceivable in telephone counseling, hospital and prison chaplaincy, even if special legal framework conditions have to be considered for the latter. There are also current efforts to enable the deployment of Muslim military chaplains in the Bundeswehr.

  1. 6.   International development cooperation

In the context of international development cooperation, Christian-Muslim partnerships have developed which, with recourse to the religious foundations of the respective faith traditions and common ethical principles, provide decisive impulses for a common commitment to justice and peace. Christians and Muslims work locally for human rights, in particular religious freedom and equality between men and women, as well as for better living conditions. Cooperation in areas such as education, social work, health and nutrition is common practice in various countries and in some cases is still possible in conflict-ridden regions. Examples of successful cooperation in other parts of the world make it clear that the idea of ​​a partnership between Christians and Muslims is often more developed in other countries than in Germany.

The Christian-Muslim partnerships in Africa, Asia and the Middle East in particular offer little-used opportunities for global learning that can be made even more fruitful for the Christian-Muslim dialogue in Germany.

These fields of action offer a wide range of opportunities for Muslims and Christians to work together. Where such cooperation can begin must be considered in view of the specific situation and the possibilities of the partners. An action-oriented interreligious dialogue is also a suitable means of expressing the public relevance and effectiveness of religion.

Therefore, the discussion group "Christians and Muslims" at the ZdK would like to thank all those active in the Christian-Muslim dialogue and encourage them in their commitment. It is the express wish of the discussion group that Muslims and Christians make greater efforts to work together on social issues. In their actions, Christians and Muslims do not refer to themselves, but to the reality of the one God that supports them.

[1] see

[2] So God created man in his image; he created him in the image of God. He created them male and female. (Gen 1:27) - And when your Creator and Sustainer said to the angels: "I will appoint a governor on earth." They said, "Do you want to put someone on her who will wreak havoc on her and shed blood while we sing your praises and praise your holiness?" He said: "I know what you do not know." (Sura 2.30)

[3] Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, then you will find; knock, then it will be opened to you. For whoever asks receives; he who seeks finds; and whoever knocks, the door will be opened. (Mt 7: 7-8) - When my servants ask you about Me, I am close and I hear the call of the one who calls when he calls on Me. They are now to listen to me, and they are to believe in me, so that they show a right walk. (Sura 2,186)

[4] Amen, I say to you, what you did to one of the least of my brothers of mine, you did it to me. (Mt 25.40) - A community should arise out of you that calls for good, commands what is right and forbids what is reprehensible. These are the ones who are well off. (Sura 3,104)

5 This hadith is a.o. In the hadith collections of Bayhaki, Daylami, Hattabi, Tabarani, it is referred to as a weak hadith due to its incomplete chain of narration, but its content is classified as correct and reliable according to the tradition of the Prophet.

[6] "A word common to us and you - an open letter and appeal from religious leaders of Muslims to religious leaders of Christianity", Section III; see www.


Declarations and statements made by the discussion groups at the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) are statements made by these discussion groups. According to the rules of procedure of the ZdK, their publication requires the approval of the Presidium of the ZdK.

The present declaration was adopted by the discussion group "Christians and Muslims" at the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) on July 11, 2012 and approved for publication by the Presidium of the ZdK.

Selected further suggestions and references to Christian

Muslim dialogue and model dialogue projects

Prodia - Map of the Christian-Islamic Dialogue in Germany / Coordinating Council of

Christian-Islamic Dialogue e.V.

Dialogo's project "Interreligious and intercultural dialogue initiatives with Muslims in Germany: a quantitative one

and qualitative evaluation "- database of Christian-Muslim dialogue initiatives with scientific evaluation / University of Bremen

"Do you know who I am?" - Project of the Working Group of Christian Churches in Germany (ACK), the

Central Council of Jews in Germany, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) and the Turkish-Islamic Union of the Institute for Religion (DITIB) for peaceful coexistence in Germany:

  • Basic booklet, (Collection of Materials I) 3rd edition 2009
  • Project work for youth and school, (Collection of materials II) 1st edition 2007
  • Interreligious upbringing and education in day-care centers, (Collection of materials III) 1st edition 2012

"Christians and Muslims in Germany" - working aid of the German Bishops' Conference AH_172.pdf

Members of the discussion group "Christians and Muslims" at the ZdK (Term of office 2010-2013) *

Chair: Gabriele Erpenbeck, Hanover

Member of the ZdK, spokesperson for the subject area "Integration / Migration"

Dr. Martin Affolderbach, Hanover

Consultant for Islam and world religions in the church office of the EKD; Lecturer at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

Bekir Alboga M. A., Cologne

Islamic scholar, Federal Dialogue Commissioner of DITIB (Turkish-Islamic Union of the Institute for Religion)

Cornelius G. Fetsch, Düsseldorf

Chairman of the Georges Anawati Foundation for the promotion of dialogue between Christians and Muslims and of ORDO SOCIALIS Scientific Association for the Promotion of Christian Social Teaching e. V.

André Gerth, Wuppertal

Head of the Catholic Education Center in Wuppertal / Solingen / Remscheid

Dr. Timo Güzelmansur, Frankfurt

Managing Director of the Christian-Islamic Meeting and Documentation Center of the DBK (CIBEDO)

Dr. Abdelmalek Hibaoui, Stuttgart

Imam, research assistant at the Center for Islamic Theology at the University of Tübingen, lecturer at the Ludwigsburg University of Education

Pastor Dr. Ludger Kaulig, Ahlen

Parish priest, representative for the Christian-Islamic dialogue in the diocese of Münster

Ünal Kaymakci, Frankfurt

Deputy Chairman of the Islamic Religious Community Hessen e. V. (IRH)

D. Ugur Kör, Munich


Volker Meißner, Mühlheim / Ruhr

HELIOS Klinikum Duisburg, director for corporate culture and values; Formerly speaker for interreligious dialogue in the diocese of Essen and managing director of the working group integration in the diocese of Essen

Prof. Dr. Anja Middelbeck-Varwick, Berlin

Junior professor for systematic theology at the Free University of Berlin in the seminar for Catholic theology with a focus on "Theology of interreligious dialogue / Christian-Muslim relations"

Hamideh Mohagheghi, Hanover

Legal and religious scholar and theologian, co-founder of the Islamic women's network HUDA, research assistant for Islamic theology at the University of Paderborn, member of the German Islam Conference

Rabeya Müller, Cologne

Islamic scholar, Muslim theologian and religious educator, heads the Institute for Interreligious Pedagogy and Didactics in Cologne, Deputy Chairwoman of the Center for Islamic Research on Women and the Advancement of Women in Cologne

Dr. Andreas Renz, Munich

Head of the Department of Dialogue of Religions in the Archbishop's Office in Munich, lecturer at the LMU Munich

Dr. Hansjörg Schmid, Stuttgart

Speaker of the Academy of the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart with a focus on Christian-Islamic dialogue, coordinator of the scientific network "Theological Forum Christianity - Islam"

Gül Solgun-Kaps, Gersthofen

Teacher, lecturer at the University of Augsburg, specialist supervisor for intercultural education

Father Hans Vöcking, Brussels

Order member of the Africa Missionaries (White Fathers), Action pour la Rencontre des Cultures et Religions en Europe / Bruxelles

Permanent guest: Stefan B. Eirich, Bonn

Rector in the ZdK, General Secretariat of the ZdK

Management: Sigrid Schraml, Bonn

Department for international tasks, General Secretariat of the ZdK

* Working group members appointed by the Presidium of the ZdK