Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

20140301_blp508by Miroslav Volf

Muslims and Christians can work together to depose dictators and assert the power of the people. We’ve seen it happen on the Tahrir Square in Cairo during the 2011 revolution in Egypt, with devout Muslims and Coptic Christians protesting side by side. But can Muslims and Christians work together to build a democratic society in which rights of all are respected, the rights of minority Coptic Christians no less than the rights of majority Muslims? They can, if they have a common set of fundamental values. But do they? They do, if they, both monotheists, have a common God.

Ever since 9/11, the most common question I am asked when I speak about these two religions is whether or not Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Muslims don’t push the question. But Christians do, vigorously — in Europe, Asia and Africa no less than in North America. Maybe that’s not surprising. In the manual of the terrorists who flew the planes on a suicidal mission it read: “Remember, this is a battle for the sake of God.” In the name of God and with expectations of glory in this world and rewards in the next, they killed themselves and thousands of innocent civilians. To many Christians it seems obvious that the God who spills the blood of the innocent and rewards suicidal missions with paradisiacal pleasures can’t be the God they worship.

The question, however, isn’t mainly about the terrorists and their God. It’s about Muslims generally. It draws its energy from a deep concern. To ask: “Do we have a common God?” is to worry: “Can we live together without bloodshed?” That’s why whether a given community worships the same god as another community has always been a crucial cultural and political question and not just a theological one.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

The Wrong and Right Kinds of Interreligious Dialogue

Good-Friday-Bonds-UK-Muslims-Christians_

By Tim Muldoon

The wrong kind of dialogue among people of different faiths is the kind that works from the polite assumption that everyone has a little truth, rather like the blind mice exploring the elephant.  The parable goes like this: the first mouse feels the elephant’s ear and proclaims, “It’s like a giant leaf!”  The second feels the leg, and says, “No, it’s more like a tree!”  The third feels the trunk and is certain that it’s more like a huge snake.  The analogy to this parable suggests that interreligious dialogue is similarly a dialogue between different good people who have partial truths.

What’s wrong with this parable?  It eviscerates religions themselves as being capable of real truth claims, positing that there is some vague transcendent truth “above” the religions themselves.  Of course the only intellectually defensible posture in such a parable is to distance oneself from religions altogether and head straight for the putative transcendence itself.  Why be a blind mouse when one can take out a digital camera and just take a snapshot of the elephant?

I will speak of the view from Catholic theology, though I suspect that my friends from other traditions might make arguments that accept the structural difficulties of the parable.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS.COM

5 Things Everyone Should Know about Ramadan

A man carries a traditional Ramadan lantern known as "fanous" in front of a market stall ahead of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in CairoThe Muslim observance of Ramadan begins this evening and ends a month later on Monday, July 28. Here are five things to help non-Muslims appreciate why this month is the holiest on the Islamic calendar.

1. What is it?

Ramadan is the actual name of the ninth month on the Islamic calendar when Muslims believe that God began to reveal what would become their main religious text, the Koran, in the year 609 CE (common era). Muslims are taught that it took the subsequent 23 years for Allah to reveal his full message and guide to humanity.

2. Why do the dates change every year?

Like any other month on the Islamic calendar, Ramadan starts with the crescent moon that follows the new moon, meaning that adherents studied the sky Friday night to determine whether the observance of this holy month would begin today or Sunday.  So, because they mark a new month when they can actually see the crescent moon, there’s no way to know exactly when Ramadan will begin.

3. What do Muslims hope to achieve during Ramadan?

Adherents strive to purge their sins and cleanse their spirit, even to feel closer to the poor. And if the month reinforces discipline and self-control, then Muslims believe they will be that much more equipped to bear whatever the rest of the year might bring.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ABC NEWS 

Muslim World Cup Players Weigh Options for Ramadan

The month-long fast may affect players’ performance in the knockout stage

Ramadan observance could affect a decent number of World Cup teams: Among the 16 remaining squads, France, Nigeria, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Nigeria all have more than one Muslim on their squad, while the Algerian national team is made up exclusively of Muslim players.

Muslim players have some options, though. FIFA Chief Medical Officer Jiri Dvorak suggested at a Monday media briefing that players observing Ramadan can ask religious authorities for an exemption and make up for the missed fast days at a later time. And during the 2012 Olympics, the United Arab Emirates’ soccer team was exempted from fasting during the tournament by the country’s highest religious body.

FULL ARTICLE FROM TIME ONLINE 

Why the left must speak up about the persecution of Christians

Meriam Ibrahim with her daughter, who was born in Omdurman women's prison last weekIt seems as though Sudan’s persecution of Meriam Ibrahim will not end. After finally being released two days ago from a death sentence for converting to Christianity, she and her family have been arrested by Sudanese security agents after trying to flee for US shores. But as well as hoping that she is finally liberated, her plight should draw attention to the persecution of Christians across the globe.

It is an issue not discussed enough by progressives, partly perhaps because of a fear that it has become a hobby horse of Muslim-bashers. Anti-Muslim websites like Jihad Watch seize on examples of Christian persecution to fuel the narrative of Muslims as innately violent and threatening.

According to Rupert Shortt, who wrote Christianophobia: A Faith Under Attack, the persecution of Christians is a “liberal blind spot”, suggesting that we are “very, very sensitised to the perceived sufferings and complaints of Muslims, many of which I will be the first to say are justified.” I think this counterposing is unhelpful. According to the Pew Research Centre, Christians and Muslims are united in being the two most persecuted religious groups on Earth: in 2012, Christians faced oppression in 110 countries, and Muslims have suffered in 109. What should worry us is a general deterioration in inter-religious relations: according to Pew, 33% of countries had high religious hostilities in 2012, a dramatic jump from 20% in 2007.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE LONDON GUARDIAN 

Joint Christian-Jewish-Muslim worship center planned in Berlin

worldreligionBerlin - The three main monotheistic religions of Europe are building a joint house of worship in central Berlin. The House of One, hopes to help unite the three religions by promoting dialogue and fostering understanding.

Each faith will maintain a separate structure in the complex, but the presence of all three religions at one site is giving many hope of opening dialogue between faiths that have sometimes been at odds in the past. Pastor Gregor Hohberg, a Protestant Christian, said

Under one roof: one synagogue, one mosque, one church. We want to use these rooms for our own traditions and prayers. And together we want to use the room in the middle for dialogue and discussion and also for people without faith.

The planned construction site is the former location of St. Petri’s Church, which dated back to the 1100s. It was heavily damaged during World War II, and then demolished by the East German government after the war.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DIGITAL JOURNAL 

Who Is Leading the Muslim Peace Movement? Millions of Muslims, That’s Who.

islam peaceIt’s not altogether unusual to find anti-Islamic rhetoric in conservative circles these days, but a particularly vitriolic breed of Islamophobia was on full display on Monday at the Heritage Foundation, where speakers at a panel mercilessly mocked and berated a Muslim student who asked about religious diversity. The event was ostensibly convened to discuss the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, but according to Dana Milbank of The Washington Post, the panel “turned ugly” when Saba Ahmed, a Muslim American student at American University, inquired about the lack of Muslims on the panel.

“We portray Islam and all Muslims as bad, but there’s 1.8 billion followers of Islam,” she said during a question-and-answer session. “We have 8 million-plus Muslim Americans in this country and I don’t see them represented here.”

Ahmed’s seemingly innocuous question sparked the rage of panelist Brigitte Gabriel, founder of ACT! for America, a grassroots group that promotes Islamophobia. When Ahmed finished speaking, Gabriel launched into a lengthy rant in which she scolded the student for even bringing up the question and argued that peaceful Muslims are ultimately “irrelevant” because religious extremism still exists in spite of them. The crowd then erupted into cheers for almost a minute, Milbank reported, giving Gabriel a standing ovation before panelist Chris Plante, a conservative radio host, accusingly asked, “Can you tell me who the head of the Muslim peace movement is?”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THINK PROGRESS

Situation Has Improved for Christians in Egypt, Says Open Doors CEO

Dr. David Curry is the CEO of Open Doors USA, an organization which advocates for persecuted Christians around the world. In part one of CP’s interview with Curry, he discusses ISIS’ surge in Iraq and its implications for Iraq’s remaining 500,000 Christians and its effects on neighboring Syria. This is part two of the interview where he shares with The Christian Post why 2014 has generally been a more peaceful year for the Egyptian church than 2013. Curry had recently returned from Egypt.

Bishop-General Macarius, a Coptic Orthodox leader, walks around the burnt and damaged Evangelical Church in Minya governorate

 

Bishop-General Macarius (R), a Coptic Orthodox leader, walks around the burnt Evangelical Church in Minya governorate, south of Cairo, August 26, 2013.

CP: What’s the situation like in 2014 for Egyptian Christians?

Curry: The situation has improved for Christians in Egypt.

CP: What do you attribute that to?

Curry: It’s been due to the willingness of the new government to protect Christian areas to allow for free expression of faith for Christians, for people to attend church in safety, to be able to associate themselves with their faith. I am encouraged; this is not a political statement for the government because I’m not an expert in political situations, but I can tell you that this is an improvement for Egyptian Christians; it’s stability that they welcome.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN POST 

The second-largest religion in each state

Christianity is by far the largest religion in the United States; more than three-quarters of Americans identify as Christians. A little more than half of us identify as Protestants, about 23 percent as Catholic and about  2 percent as Mormon.

But what about the rest of us? In the Western U.S., Buddhists represent the largest non-Christian religious bloc in most states. In 20 states, mostly in the Midwest and South, Islam is the largest non-Christian faith tradition. And in 15 states, mostly in the Northeast, Judaism has the most followers after Christianity. Hindus come in second place in Arizona and Delaware, and there are more practitioners of the Baha’i faith in South Carolina than anyone else.

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All these data come from the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, which conducts a U.S. Religion Census every 10 years. Here’s what their map of the second-most-practiced religions looks like:


Source: 2010 U.S. Religion Census, sponsored by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies

Berlin Plans ‘House Of One,’ A Place Where Jews, Muslims, And Christians Will Pray Under The Same Roof

Ev. Kirchengemeinde St. Petri - St. Marien, Bet- und LehrhausA rabbi, an imam, and a pastor are planning to pull off an interfaith miracle in the heart of Berlin, Germany by creating a sacred space for three religions under one roof.

The House of One will be a shared place of prayer and learning for the city’s Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities that celebrates the commonalities of the religions longest associated with Berlin. On Tuesday, it came one step closer to becoming a reality with the kickoff of a crowdfunding campaign, reports The Local.

The unusual project was initiated by Gregor Hohberg, a Protestant pastor. He is joined by Rabbi Tovia Ben-Chorin and Imam Kadir Sanci. “Berlin is the city of the peaceful fall of the Berlin Wall and the peaceful coexistence of believers from different faiths – they yearn to understand each other,” Hohberg told The Independent.

The chosen site on Museum Island is rich with history, housing the remains of Berlin’s earliest church, the Petrikirche, and a Latin school which dates back to 1350. When archaeologists excavated the area in 2009, they “quickly agreed that something visionary and forward looking should be built on what is the founding site of Berlin,” Hohberg says.

The organizers are planning to finance the €43,500,000 project entirely through crowdfunding, with one brick costing just €10. A symbolic first brick was handed over on Tuesday to start the process. According to The Local, construction will begin in earnest once the first €10,000,000 is raised.

Designed by architect Wilfried Kuehn, the building will house a separate church, synagogue, and mosque under one roof, with all prayer spaces leading to a common room where the congregations can socialize, reports the Times of Israel. The planners decided to make space for individual places of worship rather than simply a common prayer room in order to attract more worshippers.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST