I need to be willing to make some changes in how I think about “them.” It’s time for us to say “we,” not “we” and “them.”‘

Father Thomas Ryan,

The third annual National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue took place March 6-8 at the University of St. Mary of the Lake outside Chicago, and focused on the theme of “One God, One Humanity: Confronting Religious Prejudice.” In his opening remarks, the Muslim co-chair Dr. Sayyid Syeed observed how historically Catholics have ruled Muslims in different countries, or vice versa, but that “today, in North America, being neighbors is a reality, and it’s critical for us to develop a vision so that people in other countries can find hope for their future.”680x450_Box_Pilot_18163

In her opening address, Muslim educator Maria Khani from Orange County, California, said “We can do more than just have a meal together and talk. I need to be willing to make some changes in how I think about ‘them.’ It’s time for us to say ‘we,’ not ‘we’ and ‘them.'”

Khani observed that a statement of Dr. Martin Luther King fits Christians and Muslims today: “People fail to get along because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don’t know each other. They don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

She noted that ignorance often leads to a deadly cycle: Ignorance to fear. Fear to hate. Hate to violence. Violence to war. War to isolation. “It all starts from ignorance,” she said; “let’s get to know one another. Peace is not just the absence of war, but the presence of harmony.”



Peace-building between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon

3642739700_27ece7f930_bLebanon (MNN) – The Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) seeks to change discussions between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon. In a country that still feels the effects of a 15-year civil war, people often mistrust those outside their own groups. But the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary and its department, the Institute of Middle East Studies, equips leaders to go back to their communities and build peace in the middle of chaos.

Peace-building and the Gospel

Martin Accad, the Chief Academic Officer at ABTS and the Director of the Institute of Middle East Studies explains the goal of ABTS. “We feel very much that our role is not only to develop theologically-thinking leaders, but to also develop leaders that can do works of transformation in society within the area of reconciliation and restoration of communities.”

These students go back to areas where Christians feel out of place in society. As a minority in their country, Accad says there is a sense that they don’t have a place in their culture. But this is not the message of the Gospel.

Christ calls his people to be peacemakers in whatever place they live.

Accad explains, “Peacemaking or peace-building first of all looks at conflict not necessarily as a problem, but as an opportunity. That would be the first aspect of being a peacemaker, but also peacemaking is something you do proactively rather than reactionary, as peace-keeping sounds.”

ABTS seeks to build peace proactively with five key initiatives, three of which are currently in progress.

Initiative 1: Bread and Salt

This unique program brings together both Christian and Muslim youths between the ages of 14-17 who live in the same neighborhood. Though these young people live close by, they may never have dialogued about their faith. ABTS gives them the tools they need to connect on a deeper level as they talk about their personal beliefs and break down stereotypes.


Fuller Seminary: Muslim Christian Dialogue


A conversation on why Catholics need to dialogue with Muslims


“It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God,” Pope Francis said early in his pontificate. “But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people.”

Many U.S. Catholics have not only ignored their Muslim brothers and sisters but harbor discriminatory views about Muslims at alarming rates.

Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative, “a multi-year research project that connects the academic study of Islamophobia with the public square,” released a report in 2016 that documented how U.S. Catholics view Muslims. America’s national correspondent, Michael O’Loughlin, reported then:

When asked, “What is your overall impression of Muslims?” 30 percent of those Catholics polled said they held unfavorable views, 14 percent said favorable and 45 percent said they held neither favorable nor unfavorable views… Forty-five percent of Catholics said that Islam encourages violence more than other religions while 24 percent said it encourages violence as much as other religions.

Jordan Denari Duffner, an associate at the Bridge Initiative and author of the new book, Finding Jesus Among Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic, joins us on this week’s episode of Jesuitical. Jordan discusses why she felt called to work in Catholic-Islamic dialogue, and why it’s an essential part of the Christian vocation.



When Islam and Christianity clash, and when they don’t

112217islamMore than 50 years have passed since I first encountered Muslims. I was teaching English at a Catholic school in Akure, a provincial capital in southwestern Nigeria, when one of the Muslim students at the school took me into town for one of the two great festivals of the Muslim calendar. In Arabic that festival is called Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Oblation. It occurs at the climax of the annual hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca.

The oblation referred to is the sacrifice that Abraham was willing to offer of his only son, a story told in the Qur’an as well as Genesis. The relevant verses in the Qur’an are from Sura 37:

[Abraham] said: “My son, I have seen in a dream that I must sacrifice you. Look, now, what do you think?” [The son] replied, “Do what you have been commanded. God willing, you will find me among the patient.” When they had both surrendered themselves [to God] and [Abraham] had laid his son face down, We [God] called out to him, “O Abraham, you have proved true to the vision.” Thus do We reward those who do good. (Qur’an 37:102–105)

A particularly important phrase in this passage is “when they had both surrendered themselves.” In Arabic that is only two and a half words: fa-lammā aslamā. Literally it says (in the dual form of the verb from which the verbal noun islamderives) “when [the two] submitted.” The submission or islam of both Abraham and his only son, thought to be a fully grown man in later Jewish tradition and in Islamic tradition as well, is the ideal of faith for all Muslims.



Interfaith Dialogue: What it is and what it is not


Before we get into what the interfaith dialogue entails, let me start by making it clear what interfaith dialogue is NOT about. Interfaith dialogue is not intended for converting people to your faith!

This is a question that so many people, Muslims, and people of other faiths have asked me when I invite them to be part of the interfaith dialogue in their communities. They sometimes ask, “how many people have you converted to Islam in your years of working on interfaith issues?

My answer surprises some while disappointing others. I have converted exactly zero people to Islam as an interfaith worker. I have very likely changed the perception of Islam and Muslims for thousands of people, but have not ‘converted’ anyone. Would you consider this a ‘failure’? I certainly don’t feel it that way, simply because that is not the objective of interfaith dialogue.

What else is interfaith dialogue NOT about?

  1. It is not about telling who is right and who is wrong.
  2. It is not about agreeing or accepting everything about the other faith traditions (but it does involve respecting others’ views despite the disagreements. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree but in a civil manner)



Young Iraqi Christians, Muslims, and Yazidis are the seeds of dialogue in a Land broken by the Islamic State

6606442621494827991ERBIL: In order to overcome the murderous madness of the Islamic State, which has covered with blood a land already brutalised by years of wars and violence, it is necessary to start with “a plan of dialogue and outreach at the local level”, involving first of all children and young people, the new generations, “who will be tasked with building life together” beyond their respective religions.

Starting from such premises, Fr Samir Youssef, pastor of the diocese of Amadiya (Iraqi Kurdistan) who has long been on the frontline of the refugee emergency, is promoting a project to transform “young Muslims, Christians and Yazidis” into “seeds of dialogue ” to breathe new life into Mosul, the Nineveh plain, and Iraq as a whole.

Speaking to AsiaNews, the priest mentioned an initiative that is in its initial stage, but one that has already garnered “the enthusiastic participation” of some thirty of kids, aged 10 to 16, from various religious background. “We started with a group of about 30-35 kids,” Fr Samir said, “but we want to increase the numbers for the summer, involving young people from high school and university.”

The aim is to find youth “eager to talk, communicate, and bear witness” that living together is possible and that from this, a model can emerge applicable across the country, and beyond.

“We have already started to meet,” he added, “although getting the first results will take some time. At the moment, the first group, the base on which to start working, has been found. It includes a dozen Christians, eight Muslims and seven Yazidis. There are also Sabians and Turkmen.”

As parish priest in the diocese of Zakho and Amadiya (Kurdistan), Fr Samir is responsible for about 3,500 Christian, Muslim, and Yazidi refugee families who fled their homes and property in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain to escape Jihadis. Since the summer of 2014 and the start of the emergency, the clergyman has played a key role. Working with him and Iraqi bishops, AsiaNews has recently renewed its Adopt a Christian of Mosul campaign to provide refugees with kerosene, shoes, clothing, and school material for children.