Chicago-area faith leaders weigh in on ‘worship the same God’ Facebook controversy

ct-ctl-ct-ecn-a-leaders-20180201Do Christians, Jews and Muslims worship the same God?

That question became the center of a Facebook-fueled controversy after Elgin-area U46 School Board member Jeanette Ward commented on social media when her daughter’s 6th-grade language arts class was assigned to read, “Despite differences, Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God.”

Ward called the article, written by Philip Almond, emeritus professor in the History of Religious Thought at the University of Queensland in Australia, “utterly incorrect and false on many levels.”

Local faith leaders have a variety of views on the matter, as well as concern with how discourse on the topic was conducted.

Agreeing with Daubert’s point were Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein of Congregation Kneseth Israel, Haroon Qureshi of the Islamic Center of Kane County and Pastor Katie Shaw Thompson of the Highland Church of the Brethren, who recently met with the Courier-News to talk about the question and the aftermath of the assignment.

Allah, the name used by Muslims for God, and El, one of the names for God in the Jewish faith, are similar in sound, have the same root and refer to the same entity, Klein and Qureshi said.

As but one commonality, Qureshi said that his faith’s word for God is Allah, while Klein noted El is one of the names used for God in the Jewish faith.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE 

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Students’ Muslim Center visit offers interfaith experience

ct-ctlfl-mgc-muslim-center-poetry-pals-3-20180117Jack, a sixth-grader from Chicago’s Bernard Zell Jewish Day School, threw himself like a rag doll onto the rubber gym floor of the Muslim Community Center Academy in Morton Grove Thursday, pantomiming a Christmas tree being felled by a gang of Irish-dancing squirrels.

The 11-year-old’s theatrics drew giggles from the dozen other pre-teens in his group — some wearing hijabs, others plaid skirts — who were brought together by the Olive Tree Arts Network and tasked with combining their imaginations into a single, wacky story.

Jack’s group was among 150 students brought together by the network’s Poetry Pals program, which every year has students from Catholic, Muslim and Jewish Day schools participate in a shared curriculum focused on creative expression and cultural learning.

Getting the students to act out fantastical stories based on their religious customs is a subtle way of building tighter bonds across faiths, according to Ilene Siemer, director of the arts network.

“This is a really important stage in kids’ lives, because they don’t really have pre-seeded notions of each other yet,” Siemer said. “So we’re able to effectively convey how much we all have in common without having to deal with any of the baggage that many adults may carry.”

Earlier this year, students from Bernard Zell and the Muslim academy visited St. John Fisher School in Chicago’s Morgan Park neighborhood, where students led presentations on Catholic rituals and beliefs.

On Thursday, it was the Muslim students’ turn to educate their peers.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Muslims help with church’s homeless aid work so Christians can attend Christmas Eve service

ct-ctlh-ct-sta-muslims-help-christians-c-20171221When a group of Oak Lawn Christians mentioned they needed a hand, a group of Bridgeview Muslims offered theirs.

With Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday this year, Steve Hoerger, pastor of Salem United Church of Christ, had a dilemma.

Like several other area churches, Salem serves as a BEDS Plus overnight shelter, opening its doors one night a week to those in need. Every Sunday, Salem provides food and bedding to some 25-30 homeless women and children, Hoerger said.

But this Sunday also is the eve of a Christian holiday, among the biggest of the year. It is an evening on which Hoerger typically leads two Advent services.

Hoerger was explaining how “I didn’t know how we were going to be able to do both at the same time,” during a recent meeting of the Oak Lawn Clergy and Religious Workers Association, when a welcomed solution arose.

Karen Danielson, a member of the Bridgeview Mosque Foundation and a leader in interfaith collaboration, offered the services of Muslim volunteers.

“We said, ‘We’re there for you guys; the task is on us,'” Danielson said. “So on Christmas Eve we’ll provide meals for those coming into the church for homeless services, so the (church members) can be with their families and focus on their spiritual side.”

The Mosque volunteers will prepare and serve dinner that evening as well as bring supplies for breakfast and lunch on Christmas Day, Danielson said.

Hoerger said the homeless guests also will be welcome to attend service if they want, before partaking in the meal.

“The whole Christmas season is about light and I can’t think of a greater light than this kind of sharing across faith boundaries, especially in this time of darkness,” Hoerger said. “This is very much in keeping with the Advent, or Christmas, season.”

The takeaway message, Hoerger said, “is oneness and unity. We’re all one. That is the deepest place religion can go and, unfortunately, quite often it short circuits getting to that place. Too often religion becomes the barrier to that, when it really should be the facilitator.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE 

Jews, Christians and Muslims band together to protest Trump’s immigration orders

a7fb2355a538461eb7ea3055552982c8_1486179632799_2703119_ver1-0FOX 32 NEWS – Jews, Christians and Muslims all banded together Friday to protest President Trump’s immigration orders.

The protesters formed a human chain in front of a mosque in southwest suburban Bridgeview.

The human chain in front of the mosque was a symbol of many faiths linking together to fight the president’s orders.

“These are our neighbors living in communities next to us. And they need support and encouragement to know they don’t have to live in fear looking over their shoulder,” said Presbyterian Minister Adam Malak.

“I want them to know that I’m here in solidarity with them, as my faith tradition teaches me to love they neighbor, I wanted to be here to show that support to them,” said Deacon Michael Fakete.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FOX 32 NEWS IN CHICAGO

Chicago Muslims give thanks, 5,000 turkeys

ct-chicago-muslims-5000-turkeys-thanksgiving-video-20161122As a line of schoolchildren obediently marched past the canary yellow lockers Tuesday morning at Woodlawn Community School, two more lines had formed at the end of the hallway — an assembly line of volunteers unloading a semitrailer full of turkeys, and the mothers and grandmothers waiting to take one home to feed their families.

Volunteers also hung a banner advertising the Sabeel Food Pantry, a Muslim-run pantry on the city’s Northwest Side. The mission of Sabeel — an Arabic word meaning “way” — is to give the poor a way to survive, a central obligation of the Muslim faith, volunteers say.

For 16 years, the Chicago Muslim community has distributed free Thanksgiving turkeys to underprivileged families on the South Side. But this holiday season, the group more than tripled the number of free birds from last year to 5,000 and expanded the project to eight elementary schools in three neighborhoods.

Dr. Sofia Shakir, an organizer of the annual turkey drive, said while plans to expand the effort had been underway for almost a year, it was serendipitous that it all came together after what she considered a discouraging presidential campaign — and now amid fears of being viewed as un-American by the administration of President-elect Donald Trump. Last year, just days before Thanksgiving, Trump proposed the government register and track Muslims in the U.S. as part of the nation’s war on terror. Earlier this week, Trump’s incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus said there would not be a registry based on religion but would not “rule out anything.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE 

The moment when, I, a moderate Christian, was a misunderstood Muslim

This article was written by  Kristin Reed Klade, a senior Master of Divinity student at our seminary. She is a candidate for ordained ministry in the ELCA and is originally from Fort Worth, Texas.

blueFrom the outside, it looked like any old interfaith dinner. Religiously moderate people of various faith traditions smiling and getting to know each other, a picturesque panel of four faith leaders smiling on a stage, ready with speeches about unity and love—the works.

That night turned out to be a bit different for me, though. This time I was experiencing it as part of the minority.

As a Lutheran seminary student from Chicago, I was attending a conference of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), learning about how emerging Jewish and Christian leaders could work to become allies with American Muslims in their fight for equality, and against hate and Islamophobia.

I got a little nervous when I read in the program that a pastor from a large evangelical church in Fort Worth (my beloved hometown) was going to address the crowd. Being from North Texas, I am well aware of typical megachurch theology, with its emphasis on evangelism and conversion. So I was unsure about how the pastor was going to come across to a room of mostly Muslims. I was certainly willing to give him a chance, though. Maybe he’s different, I thought.

He started off by recognizing the Christian obligation to love and protect our Muslim neighbors, and furthermore to be in relationship with them, to know them on a deeper level. But as he went on I began to grow uncomfortable. He spoke about the importance of being “real” with each other in interfaith dialogue. He praised his Muslim friend for being honest in sharing his belief that Christians will not go to heaven. The implication was that this was a mutual belief of damnation to hell of “the other,” a belief which I do not share. He also made some questionable comparisons between the New Testament and the Qur’an, implying that the New Testament alone teaches peace.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS 

Owning our Past: Pondering Alternatives for the Future

24-YouthinMission2005Over the years as I’ve engaged Muslims in varied conversations it has become increasingly clear that good relations falter more on matters of politics and power than on faith and practice.  Because of this and based on recent readings I would like to venture a few thoughts that hopefully might open the way for an interfaith discussion inclusive of political and other forms of power, but not at the expense of faith and practice.  On the contrary, the focus will be primarily on faith but in a way that makes it central to the larger task of ordering society toward a common good. I begin with a recent experience.

In January of 1998 three Muslim students from Mahidol University in Bangkok arrived in Chicago.  They had come to study at LSTC as part of an exchange program.  As a way to stretch an already meager budget the two men, both from Indonesia, stayed at my home.  What had begun as an austerity measure turned out to be an experience with rich dividend.   For one thing it allowed me to work on my hospitality skills as together we set down guidelines for living together amicably.   It was Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims, so I decided to join in the experience of withholding food and other delights during the daylight hours.  I had often thought of doing this while living in the Middle East, but had never taken it seriously.   Now during these shortened winter days I made the plunge and it bonded us almost immediately.

FULL ARTICLE BY DR. HAROLD VOGELAAR