By: Gail Hinchion Mancini
A new chapter in the history of relations between Christians and Muslims is being revealed with the English translation of a 12th century manuscript by a Christian archbishop living in Baghdad.
The document, by the medieval Syrian bishop Dionysius Bar Salibi titled “A Response to Muslims,” has been translated from its original Syriac and Arabic and interpreted by Rev. Joseph Amar, professor of Classics at the University of Notre Dame.
Considered the longest and most comprehensive Syriac text to jointly examine the fundamental points of Muslim and Christian doctrine, it is unique among historic Syriac texts “for the amount of information it contains on the origins, history and doctrinal development of Islam,” says Father Amar.
The manuscript was written during a period when politics and religious relations in the Western world were defined by conflicts between the Byzantine empire and Arab invaders. A sample of that ongoing bitterness and its resonance today — was recalled recently when Pope Benedict XVI quoted statements by 14th century Emperor Manuel II Paleologus about violence and the Muslim religion.