Pope Francis Prays in Mosque in Show of Commitment to Christian-Muslim Relations

ISTANBUL— Pope Francis further demonstrated his commitment to improving relations between Christians and Muslims on Saturday, as he prayed in Istanbul’s historic Blue Mosque and visited the Hagia Sophia—two powerful symbols of the Muslim and Christian faiths.

On the second of a three-day trip to Turkey, the pontiff removed his shoes before entering the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles embellishing its walls. After a tour of the cavernous 17th-century mosque, he stood alongside Istanbul Grand Mufti Rahmi Yaran, facing in the direction of Mecca, and bowed his head in long prayer.

The move was an important public demonstration of Pope Francis’ commitment to Christian-Muslim dialogue. Some have raised questions as to whether such dialogue is fruitful given the persecution of Christians by Islamic extremists.

On Friday, the pope demanded that all religions enjoy the same rights, a veiled reference to the problems that Christians still suffer in Turkey, where about 99% of the population is Muslim. Christian communities complain that they struggle to gain permits to rebuild or refurbish buildings and say the government has been slow to follow through on promises to return properties confiscated decades ago.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL 

60 Imams, Rabbis Meet In Washington For Muslim-Jewish Interfaith Summit

thumbRNS-IMAMS-RABBISa-427x320(RNS) Frustrated by dangerously high tensions between Jews and Muslims in the Holy Land, 60 imams and rabbis gathered Sunday (Nov. 23) to hatch concrete plans to bridge the gulf between their communities, minus the kumbaya.

The “2014 Summit of Washington Area Imams and Rabbis,” its organizers hope, will be the first of many such gatherings of Jewish and Muslim clergy in cities across the U.S.

After prayers and a kosher-halal lunch at a Washington synagogue, the clergy resolved to limit the feel-good dialogue and spent the afternoon trading ideas both tried and novel. Among them: joint projects to feed the homeless, basketball games between Muslim and Jewish teens, Judaism 101 courses for Muslims and Islam 101 for Jews.

“Host a Seder in a mosque and hold an iftar dinner at a synagogue,” suggested Rizwan Jaka, who chairs the board at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Northern Virginia.

They threw out tough questions: “Do you invite people in your community who are particularly closed-minded to participate in interfaith dialogue?” asked Dan Spiro, co-founder of the Jewish-Islamic Dialogue Society. “Something to think about.”

And when Jews and Muslims meet, several imams and rabbis advised, do not sidestep the focal point of their mutual pain: the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Rage over the ability of both faiths to worship at Temple Mount — a site holy to Muslims and Jews, has heightened tensions with the violence culminating last week in a Palestinian attack on Jews praying in a Jerusalem synagogue that killed four worshippers and a Druze police officer.

“Discuss things from a spiritual narrative as opposed to a political narrative,” suggested Imam Sultan Abdullah of the New Africa Islamic Community Center in Washington, D.C.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

Prominent Muslim figures welcome Pope’s visit to Istanbul

Islamic HDR Wallpapers, Islamic architect 5Clerics hope the visit will shed light on Islam

Two prominent Muslim religious figures in Turkey have welcomed the upcoming visit of Pope Francis to their country, saying they hoped it could shed light on the “peace” of Islam and help change bad images associated with that religion.

At Istanbul’s famed Sultan Ahmed Mosque – often referred to as the Blue Mosque because of the turquoise tiles that adorn the early 17th-century structure – Ishak Kizilaslan said Muslims welcomed “everyone coming to us in a good way”.

Pope Francis’ scheduled visit to the mosque is important because the Pope will learn from mixing with those worshipping inside that “Islam is always peace,” Kizilaslan, the mosque’s head imam, or Muslim preacher, told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview last week.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CATHOLIC HERALD (UK) 

Christians and Muslims have co-existed peacefully before and must do so again

Mosque's minaret and cathedral's crossesToday I’ll be the first Muslim to address the General Synod of the Church of England. It is a blessing and an honour, and I am humbled by this historic opportunity. But the journey from Noor mosque in my native Mombasa, Kenya, to Church House has been a long and meandering one – full of trials and adventure, but ultimately worth it.

A couple of days ago, Humera, my wife of more than 25 years, asked what would make me consider my life a success. Recovering from a long bout of debilitating illness, I was trying to figure out what would be the best way to pursue the new lease of life that had been granted to me.

“If I can, somehow be involved in reconciling hearts and people. That would make me happy,” I replied.

Many moons spent in NHS wards, surrounded by diversity, suffering and death, not escaping to a zawiyah (monastery) retreat, made me spiritually mature and responsive. With plenty of time on my hands I embarked on a journey of rediscovering my faith and what it meant for our times.

Among the jewels I came across was a hadith (narration) of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, peace and blessings be upon him, which simply said: “Shall I not inform you of a better act than fasting, alms and prayers? Making peace between one another: enmity and malice tear up heavenly rewards by the roots.”

It is a message that all members of the synod would be familiar with, for it echoes Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN (LONDON)

Indonesian capital gets Christian leader

1e920a13-e1d5-4f27-9ef2-c46047741658A Christian was inaugurated yesterday as governor of the Indonesian capital for the first time in 50 years, despite weeks of protests from hardliners in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also the first person from the country’s tiny ethnic Chinese minority to become leader of Jakarta, was sworn in at a ceremony by President Joko Widodo.

He replaces Widodo, who took office as head of state last month, and like the president was a political outsider without deep roots in the era of dictator Suharto.

The emergence of leaders such as Widodo and Purnama has been praised as a sign that democratic reforms introduced after the end of authoritarian rule in 1998 have taken root.

Purnama, known by his nickname Ahok, was Widodo’s deputy and has been acting governor for several months.

However his appointment has not been smooth, with hardline groups staging regular protests against an “infidel” taking over as governor and political opponents in the city council attempting to block his inauguration.

But the hot-headed, straight-talking governor has shrugged off the challenges to his leadership.

“You can’t make everybody happy,” he said after his inauguration.

The tall, bespectacled politician promises a starkly different style to his predecessor. While Widodo, known by his nickname Jokowi, took a gentle, persuasive approach, Purnama is famed for his angry outbursts at bumbling officials.

Despite the opposition from groups, many Jakarta residents support the governor.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GULF TIMES 

Muslim and Christian Religious Leaders Unite to Denounce ISIS and Violence in Iraq and Syria

Muslim and Christian Religious Leaders Unite to Denounce ISIS and Violence in Iraq and SyriaIn an unprecedented demonstration of multi-religious solidarity, leaders of Christian, Muslim and other religious communities from Iraq, Syria and the larger Middle East region today have denounced with one voice all violence in the name of religion, and have called on the international community to protect religious and cultural diversity in Iraqand Syria.

Religious leaders from Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Mandean, and Yazidi communities across the Middle East today jointly issued the Vienna Declaration, “United against Violence in the Name of Religion”, at the international conference organized by the KAICIID Dialogue Centre.

This is the first time religious leaders representing so many different religions from a crisis region have come together as one to denounce oppression, marginalization, persecution and killing of people in the name of religion.

The religious leaders were united in acknowledging that the current conflict in Iraq and Syria targets followers of every religion. They jointly rejected all violence in the name of religion, and attempts by groups like ISIS to claim legitimacy for their actions within the teachings of Islam. They also condemned the serious violation of human rights in Iraq andSyria; especially against Christian, Yazidi and other religious and ethnic groups.

The religious leaders emphasized the right of all to be treated with dignity and humanity regardless of their religious tradition. Atrocities committed in the name of religion are crimes against humanity, and crimes against religion. The declaration also rejects and denounces the support or sponsorship of terrorism.

FULL ARTICLE FROM KAICIID Dialogue Centre