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Sudan Tribune

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Jews, Christians and Muslims are cousins in religion

By Jacob K. Lupai

September 17, 2010 — This is not a scholarship in religion. Writers like musicians have ideas to compose into something perceived as worth the effort. Musicians entertain. Writers share and increase knowledge of various issues although they may also entertain as when in writing poetry or songs. Jews, Christians and Muslims are cousins in religion is to explore the extent to which religions could be used to promote peace and respect where terrorism, conflicts and natural catastrophes seem to threaten to deprive people of the quality of life all aspire to enjoy.

The central figures in Jews, Christians and Muslims as cousins in religion are Moses, Jesus and Mohamed. They correspond respectively to three of the world’s most important religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. However, Moses is arguably the most influential figure. His words are the foundation of faith for more than half of the population of the world. The great monotheistic religions of the modern world derived from the holy laws Moss revealed to the ancient Israelites. In the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), Deuteronomy 34:10 says, “Since then no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses whom the Lord knew face to face”. The God of Moses became not only the God of Judaism but also of Christianity and Islam.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam have the same concept of God. With regard to this in Judaism, Deuteronomy 6:4-5 says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength”. In Christianity according to the Gospel of Mark (New Testament) 12:29-30 when asked what was the most important commandment Jesus replied, “The most important one is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one Lord: Love the Lord thy God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”. In Islam when the faithful are called to prayer they hear, “God is great. I bear witness that there is no deity but God”.

It can be seen that regardless of how each of the three religions may interpret the scriptures, all believe that there is only one God and the acceptance of that fact is the most fundamental principle of their faith. This commandment was revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai in Egypt, what can be considered the Mountain of God, about three and half thousand years ago. The belief in only one God as revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai suggests that the adherents of the three faiths are cousins in religion. There may, however, be fundamental doctrinal differences. For example, in a creed formulated by a council of bishops some 400 year after the death of Jesus, Christians believe in one “Lord Jesus Christ the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father …” In contrast Jews and Muslims consider the concept of God as a father unacceptable. Christianity demands the belief that Jesus has in fact been co-creator and co-ruler of our universe throughout its entire existence. However, this has quite understandably been rejected by both Jews and Muslims as incompatible with their fundamental belief in the singularity of God. Also there are differences in adopting the holy laws of Moses. For example, God did not allow people to eat everything. In one of the Books of Moses, Leviticus 11:1-47 some animals and birds are considered unsuitable to be eaten. Jews and Muslims, for example, will not eat pork but Christians will eat.

It is not within the scope of this article to discuss in details the doctrinal differences between Christianity on the one hand and Judaism and Islam on the other. The concept that Jesus is God and divine was agreed upon by a council of bishops some four centuries after the death of Jesus. It is therefore arguable that the Christian creed was never a Bible quotation and other Christians understandably may see it less binding. Christian doctrinal practice had remained intact because of conservatism until the sixteenth century when a priest, Martin Luther, issued a challenge by nailing up his ninety-five theses on the door of a church in Germany. It may be appropriate for Christianity to adopt a new doctrine of the birth and divinity of Jesus. This can be done by holding a similar council as that of the fourth century after the death of Jesus and what is agreed upon will be binding. In the Gospel of Matthew 18:18 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”. Arguably what was agreed upon in the fourth century is also binding in heaven.

In the context of Sudan Judaism may be irrelevant. Islam and Christianity are the predominant religions. It is not even clear whether there are some practising Jews in Sudan. There may be none. However, the central theological question is whether salvation is possible outside Islam or Christianity. Muslims believe Islam was the last religion to be handed down by God and see it as the only route to God for salvation. He who is not converted is considered kaffir, a word that may be closer to the word pagan. On the other hand a Muslim who converts to another religion will face the pain of death as an apostate. For a Muslim, salvation is not possible outside Islam. In the old times Muslims converted people to Islam with the sword. However, in modern times people are now being converted through enticement devoid of an open threat of violence.

For their part Christians also believe that salvation is not possible except through Jesus. According to the Gospel of John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me”. The question to ask is what will happen to the majority of humankind who did not know Jesus through no fault of their own? Will the majority of humankind be without salvation? The Bible seems to have the answer. In the Books of Acts 14:17, 1 Timothy 2:4 and Romans 2:6-7, God in brief is portrayed as loving. In summary the Bible, as quoted in the books above, says God will give to each person according to what he has done by persistence in doing good he will give eternal life. This seems to suggest clearly that one’s salvation is not necessarily tied to a religion but through one’s good work for humanity. Belonging to a religion may be a bonus to increase one’s knowledge of God.

It seems it is obvious that Jews, Christians and Muslims are cousins in religion. They worship the same loving, merciful and compassionate God albeit in different languages and belief systems. Judaism, Christianity and Islam can be likened to three branches of the trunk of a tree which nourishes the three branches. Incidentally the founders of the three great religions were born in the same one region, the Middle East. Moses was born in Egypt, Jesus in Palestine and Mohamed in Arabia. They did what it took to make the Middle East a land of love, mercy and compassion and an example to the rest of the world. Strangely enough the Middle East is one of the most volatile regions in the world with conflicts and terrorism causing mayhem. Why is the message of love, mercy and compassion of the same God of Jews, Christians and Muslim not making impact on the region? Is Judaism the enemy of Christianity, Christianity the enemy of Islam and Islam the enemy of Judaism and vice versa? The three religions may have no problem co-existing side by side.

The problem seems to be the adherents of the three religions who create problems through greed, marginalisation and humiliation of fellow human beings. Another serious problem is poverty. Instead of pouring billons of money into military hardware and wars, addressing the causes of poverty could have been the answer in making the world a safer place to live in. Behind the mayhem caused by terrorism and conflicts is the perception of marginalisation and humiliation by the powerful that are considered insensitive.

In conclusion in the context of Sudan, Christians and Muslims are cousins in religion. This concept was absent where religion was and is used as an instrument of control and rule. Sudan needs a Christian Islamic Council to work on issues that divide Christians and Muslims for development of concepts that promote mutual understanding, tolerance, respect and peaceful-co-existence. This is important for equality of religions for people who believe in the same one God held as loving, merciful and compassionate. Probably that could have saved the unity of Sudan as religion could not have been politicised that too far where the concentration would have been on equitable development in the country.

The author can be reached at [email protected]