In central Africa, a cathedral shelters Muslims amid sectarian violence

St_peters_church_likoma_island_malawiBANGUI, Central African Republic (RNS) — Hundreds of Muslims are trapped on the grounds of a Roman Catholic cathedral in the southern city of Bangassou, unable to leave the compound for fear of being attacked by a Christian militia.

Muslims have been attacked and murdered in the area around Bangassou, a small market city on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as a nearly five-year-old civil war between the Christian majority and Muslims has divided the southeastern part of the country.

In July, a self-styled Church Defense Group for Christians called on all Christians in the country to carry out revenge attacks on Muslims for killing Christians.

The leader of the group, François Nzapakéyé, said “priests and pastors are systematically assassinated.” He cited Father Paul Emile Nzalé, murdered in an attack by 200 armed men in May at Notre Dame of Fatima in the capital, Bangui.

“We will avenge the killings of the many church leaders and men of God, killed in the exercise of their functions. Muslims or Christians, we shall see,” Nzapakéyé said in his communique to followers.

Yet in Bangassou, St. Peter Claver Cathedral has opened its doors to some 2,000 Muslims. And three hours east, hundreds of students and residents have taken refuge in a local parish in Zemio. In both places, Muslims and their protectors live in constant fear of attack amid threats from Christian militia.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS 

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Interfaith dialogue really is relational, accessible

web RNS-Muslim women Washington stateThere is a particular urgency for Catholics to become participants in dialogue with Muslims

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.

There is a particular urgency for Catholics to become participants in dialogue with Muslims who are being attacked for their faith in the U.S. and abroad. Duffner succinctly explains how very real and damaging anti-Muslim prejudices in the U.S. are, noting, “In recent years, people have broken into mosques and ripped up Qur’ans, spray-painted vulgar language on the exterior of buildings, shot bullets into signs, and left pig heads, bacon and even feces on the property.” These acts are accompanied by threats of other violence, arson attacks on mosques and even murder.

What has the Catholic response been to these evils? Unfortunately, dialogue and solidarity with our Muslim siblings is largely absent, despite being a mandate of discipleship. A report from The Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University, which researches Islamophobia, found 70 percent of U.S. Catholics do not know a Muslim personally and just 14 percent have a favorable view of Islam. Few Catholics grasp what the magisterium actually teaches about Islam and about interfaith dialogue generally. As Islamophobia soars in the U.S., the people of God remain collectively silent.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER 

Saudi Arabia ‘agrees deal with Vatican to build churches for Christians living in the Muslim country’

515fcf92a97931d5719e6ab6c697a146b585e43dSaudi Arabia has agreed a deal with the Vatican to build churches for Christian worshippers in the Arab country, it is claimed by Middle Eastern media.

The reported agreement between Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran (file photo) and Mohammed bin Abdel Karim Al-Issa of the Muslim World League would mark a first in Saudi history

Saudi Arabia has agreed a deal with the Vatican to build churches for Christian worshippers in the Arab country, it is claimed by Middle Eastern media.

The reported agreement between Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Mohammed bin Abdel Karim Al-Issa of the Muslim World League would mark a first in Saudi history.

The cardinal has visited Saudi Arabia this year and met the royal family, urging the Muslim country to treat its citizens equally.

The churches will be built alongside the establishment of a committee to improve relations between the two, Egypt Independent reports.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Vatican.

Saudi Arabia’s anti-extremism Etidal centre also hosted Cardinal Tauran last month as the crown prince pushes for inter-religious exchange in the ultra-conservative Sunni kingdom.

FULL ARTICLE FROM DAILY MAIL (UK)

Christian-Muslim dialogue depends upon knowledge and trust

20170921T1318-11715-CNS-POPE-MUSLIM_800-690x450[Dr. Rita George-Tvrtković is associate professor of theology at Benedictine University, where she specializes in medieval and contemporary Christian-Muslim relations. Recent books include A Christian Pilgrim in Medieval Iraq: Riccoldo da Montecroce’s Encounter with Islam, and the forthcoming Christians, Muslims, and Mary: A History (Paulist Press, 2018). She is former associate director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and currently lives in Chicago with her husband Zoran and their children, Luka and Anya Lucia. She spoke to Charles Camosy after participating in an interfaith discussion held Oct. 22 and 23 at Catholic University of America, which brought together five Christian and five Muslim scholars from around the United States.]

Camosy: How and why did you get involved in Catholic-Muslim dialogue more generally? 

George-Tvrtković: I’ve been involved at the grassroots level in Chicago since 1997. From 1999-2002, including during the drama of 9/11, I was Associate Director of Archdiocese of Chicago’s Ecumenical & Interreligious office. Then I studied theology and medieval Catholic-Muslim relations at Notre Dame.

Now I’m associate professor of theology at Benedictine University in the suburbs of Chicago, where over 25 percent of our student body is Muslim. I’ve always combined scholarship and grassroots dialogue.

As a Catholic, I am exhorted by Nostra Aetate [the Vatican II document on the relation of the Church with non-Christian religions – Ed.] and other teachings to engage in dialogue with people of different religions. Furthermore, my institution, Benedictine University has a special calling to interreligious hospitality, which is rooted in Ch. 53 of the Rule of St. Benedict (On the Reception of Guests), which itself is rooted in Christ’s call to welcome the stranger.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUX NOW

In Berkeley, Catholic, Muslim leaders seek common ground

A nine-point declaration emerged from an international gathering of Catholic and Muslim leaders in Berkeley Nov. 6-8.

Finding common ground between the faith traditions, emphasizing human dignity, rights and protection of others, the fourth Catholic-Muslim Forum ended on an optimistic note.

“We assert the equal dignity and value of all persons irrespective of their race, gender, religion or social status, and we categorically condemn any attempts to stereotype any people or attribute collective guilt to them for the actions of individuals among them,” was one of the nine points the participants made.

The Catholic-Muslim Forum was established in 2008 by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Signatories of the “Open Letter” (A Common Word) to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders. This gathering was hosted by Zaytuna College, the Muslim liberal arts college founded in 2009 in Berkeley.

This year’s topic was “Integral Human Development: Growing in Dignity, Catholic and Muslim Perspectives.” Participants included 12 delegates each from the Catholic and Muslim traditions. Additionally, there were six observers from each side. They came from as far away as Rome and Jordan; Argentina and Zambia.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CATHOLIC VOICE 

Islamophobia & the Catholic Media

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When I went to Catholic elementary school in the 1960s, the Crusades were taught as a glorious fight against the “Mohammedans.” One teacher said the next great war would be about religion, which presumably meant that we boys needed to be ready when called on to storm the bastions of atheistic communism.

That strain of the faith lingers in the anti-Muslim, Steve Bannon-style Catholicism found among some Baby Boomers and their elders, notwithstanding the new direction the Second Vatican Council charted in 1965 with Nostra Aetate, its document on relations with non-Christian religions. And, according to a study issued last week [.pdf] by Georgetown University’s Prince Alaweed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and its Bridge Initiative, anti-Islam polemics find friendly platforms across substantial segments of the Catholic media. Meanwhile, the study reports, nine out of ten Catholics have never heard of Nostra Aetate, and only 16 percent surveyed in a poll said they knew about church teaching on Islam.

In Nostra Aetate the council stated that the Church “has a high regard for the Muslims” and expressed appreciation for the religiosity of Islam’s faithful. “Over the centuries many quarrels and dissensions have arisen between Christians and Muslims,” the document reads. “The sacred council now pleads with all to forget the past, and urges that a sincere effort be made to achieve mutual understanding.”

Anti-Islam polemics find friendly platforms across substantial segments of the Catholic media

Since then, popes and others in the Catholic world, such as the Franciscan order, have steadily sought dialogue and cooperation with Muslims. Pope John Paul II, in particular, worked tirelessly at it. Pope Francis has too, while challenging the claims of anti-Islam polemicists that Islam encourages violence.

The Georgetown study covers a lot of ground, so I’ll focus on just one aspect: The attention it gives to the prolific author Robert Spencer, who runs the hardline website Jihad Watch. Spencer’s argument is essentially that Islam is inherently violent. He saysPope Francis was wrong for saying, “It’s not fair to identify Islam with violence. It’s not fair and it’s not true.” Spencer argues that the pope was also wrong when he wrote in Evangelii Gaudium that “faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence” (No. 253). Further, Spencer counters John Paul II—who said Christians and Muslims worship the same God—by insisting that Vatican II’s call for dialogue must be qualified in light of earlier Church tradition, such as the teachings of Pope Callixtus III, whom he says pledged in 1455 to “exalt the true Faith, and to extirpate the diabolical sect of the reprobate and faithless Mahomet in the East.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM COMMONWEAL MAGAZINE 

Muslims and Christians unite to call for bridges not walls

ap3841919_articolo(Vatican Radio) US President Donald Trump’s Executive Order to tighten restrictions on arrivals to the United States has been widely condemned, although polls suggest that US public opinion is sharply divided on the policy.

Amongst other restrictions, the Order issued on January 25, bans nationals from seven mainly Muslim countries from entering the US, it places a temporary ban on all refugee admissions and prioritizes refugee claims by religious minorities (Christians in mainly Muslim countries).

Faith-based organizations and human rights groups have called for a re-think of the Executive Order and have urged governments to address the structural causes of forced displacement and share the responsibility of providing for refugees.

Amongst them, the Jesuit Refugee Service – JRS – that has released a joint interfaith statement with the Italian Islamic Religious Community – COREIS- calling for bridges, not walls.

Linda Bordoni spoke to COREIS President, Imam Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini and JRS Advocacy Officer, Amaya Valcarcel about their appeal.

Imam Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini explained that a common sensitivity and Christian and Muslim shared values are at the roots of a continuing collaboration and cooperation between the Italian Islamic Religious Community and the Jesuit Refugee Service that goes back in time over the past 12 months or so.

“Unfortunately what is happening in the US, through the statements of President Trump, somehow pushed us to increase our brotherhood and react – or pro act – giving a joint brotherly interreligious Islamic-Christian response on the need to be much more consistent and honest on humanity, on refugees and migrants, and even on politics” he said.

Amaya Valcarcel pointed out that JRS is very glad to be able to speak out together with the Islamic Community in Italy and said that theirs is first of all a message of faith.

“Christians and Muslims inhabit religious traditions that are rooted in the experience of exile and in the hospitality of God and of God’s own, so hostile attitudes towards displaced persons have no place in our religious traditions and manifest a grave moral failure” she said.

In line with their faith, Valcarcel said, all people of goodwill should promote a more generous culture of hospitality.

She points out that within the Christian tradition, in the Old Testament there are no less than 36  explicit invitations to ‘love the stranger’.

“Also Jesus tells us to love the stranger and care for the stranger. He himself puts himself as a stranger” she said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM VATICAN RADIO