“A Common Word Between Us and You: A Global Agenda for Change,” is a compilation of 138 signatures of Muslim scholars, politicians and clerics in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s 2006 Regensburg speech. As a Muslim student who has grown up attending Christian schools and who now studies at Georgetown University, the Common Word conference was a sign of inclusion, understanding and hope.

Last year my father, Akbar Ahmed, told me that he was a signatory for this message of peace. I was proud. For one of the first times in my life, I felt the Muslim community had made an effort to collaborate for positive global change. Muslims were embracing the words of the Prophet Muhammad who said, “The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.”

When this movement made its way to Georgetown, I was excited but not particularly surprised. Georgetown has a history of promoting inclusiveness and interreligious dialogue, manifested in the open-minded approach professors take to the Problem of God course and in the mission of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. This event was especially significant, as prominent world leaders such as Tony Blair, the Quartet’s envoy to the Middle East and former prime minister of the United Kingdom, and Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy prime minister of Malaysia, served as panelists.

The presence of these political leaders attracted hundreds of Georgetown students who lined up at dawn to get seats. As a young Muslim, I often feel that Islam is incorrectly defined in the media by its political and cultural surroundings. In this event, however, I felt that politicians were making an unbiased, apolitical attempt to understand one another’s religion as humans, rather than as political entities and enemies. Because these leaders are models for future policymaking, I was glad they could focus on interfaith bridge-building. Hopefully, they will use this peaceful message to inform many of their policies.

Furthermore, I hope that the Common Word panels motivated students to reach for cross-religious knowledge, understanding and peace. Surrounded by mainly Catholic students, I realized that I hardly speak about my faith or actively listen to the experiences and beliefs of my friends. This event served as a catalyst for me to initiate religious dialogue with my friends, as religion dictates so much of our personal lives, not to mention global events.

As a student at a Catholic institution of higher learning, it is easy to get wrapped up in our seemingly homogenous faith community. If we pride ourselves on being a diverse student body, however, we need to start asking our friends about the reasons they practice their faith, how they do so, and the implications of these practices in their everyday lives. This is the surest path to understanding the diversity that surrounds us.

Nafees Ahmed is a sophomore in the College.

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