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Talking Points

A mission to open dialogue between Christian and Jewish leaders in America and Islamic leaders in South Asia found a common ground. But professor emeritus of theology Paul Knitter found his moral principles challenged when presented with an opportunity to meet with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

At first, Knitter balked because of Musharraf’s reputation as a dictator who appointed himself president in a 1999 coup. But when encouraged by other members of his trip, Knitter relented and participated in a conversation that included hard-nosed questions about terrorism, democracy and women’s rights. He was pleasantly surprised by the opinions of his host, who said he supported U.S. efforts to take out Saddam Hussein though not the methods used, and his apparent desire to remove Islamic extremists from his country and improve human rights for Pakistanis.

Overall, Knitter says, the trip was successful in creating dialogue between the religious groups.

Knitter followed up the trip with a stop in New York City where he met with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. The next step, he says, is to bring together religious and political leaders from the U.S. and the Islamic countries visited—India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. “We want to bring the religious leaders into the conversation so we can be sure that religion is part of the solution, or it will continue to be part of the problem.”

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