In the early Middle Ages, the caliphal courts of Damascus, Baghdad and Cordova witnessed countless meetings of Jews, Christians and Muslims in which the learned adherents debated the three faiths.
The reigning culture gave such honor to the three religions, such respect to their principles and institutions, that inter-religious debate was the subject of solon conversation, a public pastime.
Their deliberations gave birth to the discipline of comparative religion (‘Ilm al-Milal wal Nihal) which left us a great legacy.
Hardly any of the great scholars who lived in or near these great cities did not find the interest or time to contribute significantly to that legacy of human learning.
Since those days, unfortunately, no such encounters had taken place; and the discipline had been dormant until the present century.
The works of al-Ash’ari, Ibn Hazm, al-Baghdadi, al-Nawbakhti, al-Shahristani, al-Biruni, some of the luminaries of the discipline, are studied around the world; but these constitute only the exposed tip of an iceberg of literature on the subject.
In our days, the MJCC [Muslim-Jewish-Christian Conference] was the only attempt made by this generation to bring together Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars to communicate with one another on matters of religion.
Its purpose was rapprochement and mutual understanding between the three Abrahamic faiths.
Organized in 1974 through the tireless and noble effort of Msgr. Dr. Joseph Gremillion, former Director of the Vatican’s Justice and Peace Commission, and his colleagues, the MJCC held two international conferences- one in Bellagio Italy) in 1975 and another in Lisbon (Portugal) in 1977.
The former dealt with “Food/ Energy” and the Major Faiths”. the latter. with “World Faiths and the New World Order.” The MJCC published the proceedings of the two meetings in books carrying these themes as titles.
The MJCC meetings were the first to be held in modern times.
They were genuinely ecumenical in that they were attended by people of vision who looked forward to inter-religious understanding and cooperation as the only alternative to the hostility which has dominated relations between the three faith communities.
They were convinced that ignorance and misunderstanding, the twin feeders of inter-religious hostility, ought to be cut off by a serious return to dialogue.
But no dialogue between the three Abrahamic faiths was in evidence anywhere in the world.