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Scholar Engages in the Search for Muslim-Christian Understanding

Faculty Profile: John Esposito

John Esposito

John Esposito, the director of Georgetown's Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (CMCU), has made it his life’s work to emphasize the similarities between Islam and Christianity.

October 5, 2010 – University professor John Esposito has made it his life’s work to emphasize the similarities between Islam and Christianity and increase global understanding about both religions.

On Oct. 6-8, the director of Georgetown's Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (CMCU), will participate in a two-day conference at the university with other scholars and global political and religious leaders from many different faiths.

The conference, “A Common Word Between Us and You: A Global Agenda for Change,” began in 2007 to advance peace and reconciliation between Muslim and Western societies.

Major Muslim, Christian Leaders

“We have attracted many key Muslim signers of the original letter,” Esposito says, referring to the open letter to the pope about the true teachings of Islam, “including the Grand Muftis of Egypt and Bosnia.”

The conference, presented by CMCU and the Office of the President, will also convene major Christian leaders within the Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Evangelical denominations and feature major political leaders that include former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Esposito possesses an ability to bring together scholars to produce works that have impact on Islamic studies, colleagues say.

“Many of the introductions to Islam written by non-Muslim scholars essentially denigrate Islam. Many Muslim scholars, who write introductions to Islam, get involved in advocacy rather than explanation,” says John Voll, professor of Islamic history and CMCU associate director. “[Esposito’s] work … is neither advocacy nor refutation. It’s a balanced examination that provides an appropriate introduction to a major world religion.”

Religion No Longer a Relic

A professor of religion and international affairs in the Walsh School of Foreign Service, Esposito has written more than 35 books and numerous articles translated into 28 languages on Islam and Muslim-Christian relations. He also has organized and edited entire encyclopedias on Islam.

“Relative to when I first studied and began to write, I focused on the role of Islam in modern states and society at a time when many in Islamic studies and much of the literature was past oriented,” says the professor. “Religion [was seen], at best, as a relic from the past and an obstacle to development.”

That changed drastically after Sept. 11, Esposito says.

Great Faiths

“Islam and Christianity are great faiths; but like all religions they have had their transcendent and dark sides; their periods of conflict and of co-existence. In a post 9/11 world, the situation has become more difficult and often politicized,” Esposito explains.

The scholar now finds himself drawing more on the similarities of the religions tp promote better understanding.

“Having been raised to think in the Judeo-Christian tradition, I was astonished to discover [early in my career] that the children of Abraham or Abrahamic tradition consists of three interrelated religious traditions,” says Esposito, who was raised Catholic. “However, different each [faith] is, they also share much in common.”

Tracie Powell


For More Information

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian UnderstandingE-mail: cmcu@georgetown.eduGeorgetown University
3700 O Street, N.W.
Bunn Intercultural Center
Suite 260
Washington, D.C. 20057
Tel: (202) 687.8375

Georgetown University37th and O Streets, N.W., Washington D.C. 20057(202) 687.0100

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