A Praying Body of Christians, Muslims Overcomes Tragedy in Morocco

By Carolina McCabe

Monastery-Catholic-church-Notre-Dame-AtlasRabat – Behind massive walls in Midelt, central Morocco, lies the small Catholic community of Notre Dame de L’Atlas. The walls enclose a large courtyard, a small chapel, and a memorial for the seven brothers of Tibhirine who were killed in Algeria.

The community, belonging to the Cistercian order, was originally from the Atlas Abbey of Tibhirine near Medea, Algeria. During the Algerian Civil War, seven monks from the order were kidnapped, held for two months, and found decapitated in May of 1996. The Algerian government announced later that month that the heads of the clergymen had been discovered.

Two monks, Father Jean-Pierre and Father Amedee, managed to escape the kidnapping and survived the deadly attack.

In 2010, a film about the tragedy, “Des Hommes et des Dieux” (Of Gods and Men), won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.

The two surviving monks left Algeria and traveled to the current Notre Dame de l’Atlas monastery in Midelt, Morocco. The new order, which began in 2001, was formed by a community of monks who joined the two survivors of Tibhirine. Inside the compound, the monks work, pray, live, and welcome visitors. Father Amedee died in 2008, and Father Jean Pierre Schumacher is the only living survivor of the 1996 tragedy.

Read also: Rabat’s Cathedral: From a French Past to a Sub-Saharan Future

Living within the monastery are six brothers from France, Spain, Ireland, and Portugal. The brothers follow the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, also called Trappists, a Roman Catholic contemplative order dedicated to prayer.

Brother Anthony McNamara, a monk from Ireland, came to the monastery after recognizing the increasing anti-Muslim sentiment in the aftermath of ISIS killings. McNamara became invested in the Syrian crisis and learned about the devastation that Muslim people experience attributed to ISIS.

It was after McNamara saw powerful images and news stories about victims in Syria that he came to the realization that the violence was affecting everyone. “This brought home to me how we are all, Christian and Muslim, caught up in this terrible violence,” said McNamara. “We all believe in the same God, and here are these terrible murders being carried out in His name.”

As he celebrated midnight mass on Christmas Eve of 2015, McNamara decided to go to Notre Dame de L’Atlas to become a member of what he calls “a praying community amongst a praying community.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM MOROCCO WORLD NEWS 

Pope Francis gives historic 1st Mass in the birthplace of Islam

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Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates — Pope Francis ministered on Tuesday to the thriving Catholic community in the United Arab Emirates as he concluded his historic visit to the Arabian Peninsula with the first-ever papal Mass here and a call for his flock to remain meek in following God. A day after making a broad appeal for Christian and Muslim leaders to work together to promote peace and reject war, Francis celebrated what some considered the largest show of public Christian worship on the peninsula, the birthplace of Islam.

Cheers erupted inside and outside the Zayed Sports City Stadium as Francis arrived and looped through the crowd in his open-sided popemobile, as chants of “Viva il Papa” and “We love you!” echoed from the crowd, estimated to be around 135,000.

Organizers said faithful from 100 countries would attend, as well as 4,000 Muslims from this Muslim federation — evidence of the enormous diversity among the 9 million people who live in the UAE.

“We have to say it is really a big event for us which we never expected,” said Sumitha Pinto, and Indian native who has lived in the UAE for nearly 20 years. She attended the Mass with her husband and four sons, the youngest of whom held up sign with the pope’s photo that read: “Welcome Pope Francis. Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CBS NEWS 

Papal visit: Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi to mark a historic day for inter-faith relations – live updates

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History was made on Sunday when the wheels of Pope Francis’s flight from Rome touched down in Abu Dhabi. The Pope’s first day in the UAE will be a moment for all faiths to meet and build strong relationships based on religious tolerance.

Here you will find live coverage of the Pope’s visit from The National’s reporters across the UAE, as it happens. All times UTC+4

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5:12 Private meeting with Muslim Council of Elders begins

In a landmark moment for interfaith relations, Pope Francis will attend a private meeting of the members of the Muslim Council of Elders.

The meeting is expected to take between 30 to 45 minutes.

The National’s reporter, Sofia Barbarani, is at the Grand Mosque, at a uniquely quiet time.

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Sofia Barbarani@SofiaBarbarani

Pope Francis is at the Grand mosque in Abu Dhabi meeting with members of the Muslim council of elders. His busy schedule will see him end the day at an interfaith meeting this evening where he is due to give a speech. @TheNationalUAE

See Sofia Barbarani’s other Tweets

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17:08 Pope Francis arrives at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

A convoy of cars, carrying Pope Francis in the Kia Soul has arrived at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Pope Francis was met by the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Sharif University, Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, who welcomed him to the mosque.

John Dennehy@john_denn

Pope Francis. Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

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16:55 Pope Francis’ arrival is imminent

The live stream of Pope Francis’ visit to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has now begun and his arrival appears to be imminent.

The pontiff will attend a private meeting with the Muslim Concil of Elders.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL 

Popes in the Middle East: Highlights of papal outreach in the region

.- Pope Francis is set to celebrate the first papal Mass on the Arabian peninsula next week during his Feb. 3-5 visit to Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.

The pope’s Mass at the Zayed sports stadium on Feb. 5 is expected to draw at least 135,000 people. Many in attendance will be migrant workers from Asia residing in the UAE, a country in which 89 percent of the population are not citizens. It will not only be the first papal Mass on the peninsula, but the first public Mass in the country.

Since the Second Vatican Council there have been significant milestones in Muslim-Catholic relations in the region. Here is a look at some of the highlights:

First pope on a plane

The first time a pope ever traveled on a plane was on a trip to the Middle East. Saint Paul VI flew from Italy to Jordan in January 1964, making history as the first pope to leave Europe. Paul VI met with King Hussein in Amman before continuing his journey to Jerusalem.

First pope in a mosque

Saint John Paul II made history as the first pope to enter a mosque during his visit to Syria in May 2001. John Paul II went to Damascus’ Umayyad Mosque, which had been built in 715 on top of a fourth-century Christian cathedral said to contain the head of John the Baptist.

In March 2003, days before US President George W. Bush announced the official start of the Iraq war, St. John Paul II called for a worldwide fast for peace in the Middle East.

The Polish pontiff, known for his extensive papal travels during his 27-year pontificate, was also the first pope to visit several Middle Eastern nations, including Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY 

UAE Muslims prepare warm welcome for Pope


20170921T1318-11715-CNS-POPE-MUSLIM_800-690x450‘This is without doubt a historic visit, as a Pope has never been to the Arab Peninsula before and until recently this was considered unthinkable’

Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic of Southern Arabia, has said the Pope’s coming visit to United Arab Emirates next month is being warmly anticipated by Muslims as well as Christians.

Francis would be paying a visit to the “ very heart of Islam” so to speak, Hinder said in a long interview in the January issue of Alle Welt, the quarterly magazine of the Austrian branch of the Pontifical Mission Societies, or Missio.

The Pope’s visit to a mosque and the interreligious dimension of the visit could be compared to St Francis of Assisi’s visit to the Egyptian Sultan 800 years ago, Hinder said. “St Francis reached out to the Sultan across entrenched fronts at the time, which led to a friendly visit. I think Pope Francis is going to set a sign, namely that we must build bridges even if we do not believe in the same things”, he added. Such encounters and setting such signs were most important as far as the Muslim world was concerned, “as Muslims react very positively to them”.

“This is without doubt a historic visit, as a Pope has never been to the Arab Peninsula before and until recently this was considered unthinkable,” Hinder recalled. Francis was, moreover, coming in the year when the Catholic Church was celebrating the 800th anniversary of the meeting between St Francis of Assisi and Sultan Malik al-Kamil at Damietta in Egypt in the year 1219.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE TABLET (UK)

Interfaith dialogue really is relational, accessible

There is a particular urgency for Catholics to become participants in dialogue with Muslims

FINDING JESUS AMONG MUSLIMS: HOW LOVING ISLAM MAKES ME A BETTER CATHOLIC
By Jordan Denari Duffner
162 pages; Published by Liturgical Press
$19.95

Earlier this year while on a train in Europe, I sat down across from an Arabic-looking man who began reading the Quran. My immediate first reaction was apprehension and fear. My immediate second reaction was to check my implicit yet real bias for what it was, Islamophobia.

Most striking to me was this incident happened just a few days after I had finished a book on Muslim-Christian relations that addressed these implicit biases to which Catholics like myself are prone. It is precisely because these biases are so ingrained and because Islamophobia is on the rise that Finding Jesus Among Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic by Jordan Denari Duffner is such an important and timely resource.

Written primarily for a Catholic audience, the book explores present relations between Christianity and Islam. It does so, however, through the lens of Duffner’s lived experiences with Muslims and the ways in which encountering Islam has helped her find Jesus anew. She never intends the book to be a comprehensive analysis or work of systematic theology. Rather, in her words, Finding Jesus Among Muslims should act as a “facilitator of dialogue.” The book raises more questions than it answers, encouraging readers to go forth and learn more. The author’s rich commitment to Muslims and demonstrated courage in entering vulnerable, liminal spaces inspire readers to become active participants in dialogue.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NCRONLINE.COM

Catholic College in Detroit is Offering Classes to an All-Muslim Group

3a507f4ccb3aa3e94a93Steve Mustapha Elturk is getting his Master of Arts in Social Justiceat Marygrove College, a small Catholic liberal arts school located in Detroit. During a class break, he walks down a hallway to a sparse room with a chalk board on the wall.

This is an interfaith prayer room at Marygrove College,” says Elturk. “We have rugs in the basket for those who would like to pray during our times of prayer.”

As a practicing Muslim, Elturk prays five times a day. A few years back, the college converted the room to offer a space for everyone to pray, but particularly to accommodate its growing Muslim student population. Not long after that, Marygrove created a special social justice cohort exclusively for Muslim students like Elturk.

Even at a Catholic college, there you go!” says Dr. Brenda Bryant, chair of Marygrove’s Social Justice Program.  Bryant says the master’s program trains “scholar activists.” It was started after the September 11th attacks. This is the first time the school has had an all Muslim cohort.

WDET/LAURA HERBERG

The group is diverse. It’s made up of students who have been living in and around Detroit, but who originally came from the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Europe. They have professional backgrounds in media, art, education and more. Some are Sunni, some are “Shia.”

The idea for the program came from, Achmat Salie, a local Islamic faith leader who thought the program would be popular with Muslims who held high-level degrees from foreign countries that are sometimes less valued in the U.S. Bryant says the college was on board from the start. But she says some community members were a little confused as to why the group was segregated.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WDET