‘A Common Word’ 10 years on: Christians and Muslims must work together for peace

CNS-Catholic Islam CPeople today still need to hear document’s message that Christians, Muslims share two great commandments

On Oct. 13, 2007, 138 Muslim leaders signed “A Common Word Between Us and You,” a document stating that Christians and Muslims share two great commandments — love of God and love of neighbor — and should work for peace together.

Now 10 years later, the influence of the document continues through the projects and relationships it inspired, but experts on Muslim-Christian relations say many people still need to hear its message.

 

“When Catholics in the U.S. are hearing about Islam and Muslims, they’re not hearing about the heart and soul of the tradition,” said Scott Alexander, director of the Catholic-Muslim studies program at the Catholic Theological Union. “They’re hearing about different events in which there was conflict or if ISIS sponsored some sort of terrorist attack.”

“A Common Word” “gives people a way to see that Muslims are taking action all the time on the local and global stage for the good of humanity,” Alexander said. “The actions of a relatively small minority get so much more publicity that it leads to people having a distorted image of Islam and Muslims.”

Prior to the publication of “A Common Word,” Pope Benedict XVI exacerbated interfaith tensions during a 2006 address at the University of Regensburg by quoting a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who said that Mohammed only contributed “things evil and inhuman,” such as spreading his faith by violence.

While the pope did not endorse the emperor’s view, the Regensburg address provoked outrage from Muslims around the world. Amir Hussain, professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University, says it was also the “impetus” for “A Common Word.”

The authors of “A Common Word” could have written about how offensive and concerning the pope’s words were, said Hussain, but instead they took a positive approach and wrote about the connections between Muslims and Christians.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER 

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Some think interfaith dialogue goes nowhere. A veteran rabbi begs to differ.

web-RNS-CHABIN-KRONISH-100317-690x450Ron Kronish, an American-born rabbi in Israel, has devoted much of his life to dialogue among Jews, Muslims and Christians. His new book discusses the merits of dialogue. He says, the Vatican’s increasingly warm relations with Israel, for example, were rooted not only in diplomatic moves but 35 years of “systemic and substantive progress in Jewish-Catholic relations” fostered by hard-working priests and rabbis.

JERUSALEM – In Israel, when a rabbi, a priest and an imam walk into a room, it’s not a joke begging for a punchline.It’s an opportunity for the clerics to find some common ground and engage in peace building in an often-violent region, says Ron Kronish, an American-born rabbi who has devoted much of his life to interreligious peace building in Israel.

To Kronish, who has a new book out – “The Other Peace Process: Interreligious Dialogue, a View from Jerusalem” – the purpose of interfaith dialogue “isn’t to solve the peace process.”

Rather, said the Reform rabbi, it has defused many a tense situation.

“Our role isn’t political. There are tens of seminars and think tanks working on solving the political peace process,” said Kronish, 71, during an interview in Jerusalem, which he has called home for 38 years.

“It’s not kumbaya, saying nice things about others’ religions. It’s painful and people wince a little, but an atmosphere is created where you can say what bothers you, and there is compassion and caring.”

Over time, Kronish said, “you learn to live with one another, to understand other cultures. Our mission is to keep the hope for peace alive by creating real human relationships.”

In his new book, Kronish relates how ongoing, substantive meetings between faith leaders have fostered better relations on both the grass-roots and national levels.

The Vatican’s increasingly warm relations with Israel, for example, were rooted not only in diplomatic moves but 35 years of “systemic and substantive progress in Jewish-Catholic relations” fostered by hard-working priests and rabbis.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUX 

When Muslims come to the Jewish-Christian table

study-862994_1280-771x514(RNS) — I spent the 16th anniversary of 9/11 at the 16th annual meeting of the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations, held under the joint auspices of the Union and Jewish theological seminaries in New York City. Appropriately, the central question before the group was how best to expand long-standing Jewish-Christian interfaith encounters in America to include Muslims.

My assignment was to discuss the use of “Judeo-Christian” language to reinforce the idea of a clash of civilizations. As in when Tony Perkins said on the Family Research Council’s “Washington Watch” in 2014, “We are a nation that was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, that’s the foundation of our nation, not Islam, but the Judeo-Christian God.”

Or when, last year, retired Air Force Col. Tom Snodgrass, a contributor to a website called Right Side News, referred to “the overt and covert war being conducted by the political forces of Islam in order to subjugate the Judeo-Christian religions and their societies.”

A fellow panelist was Columbia’s distinguished Middle East historian Richard Bulliet, who spoke about his “Islamo-Christian” conception, first published in 2004 as “The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization.” Bulliet’s idea is that theologically, doctrinally, and historically, Islam and Christianity have far more in common than most adherents of either faith tradition realize.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGIOUS NEWS SERVICE 

Hundreds of Jews, Christians and Muslims unite against racism, anti-Semitism

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A diverse and growing coalition of New York City religious clergy and faith organizations called people of faith to gather, in the face of the emboldened racism and resurgence of anti-Semitism in America, for “Yes to Love, No to Hate” Interfaith Solidarity, Hope and Action, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, at the Fourth Universalist Society, 160 Central Park West.

Organizers Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann (Society for the Advancement of Judaism), the Rev. Dr. Nigel Pearce (Grace Congregational Church), Rabbi Shuli Passow (B’nai Jeshurun), Rabbi Joy Levitt (JCC Manhattan) and the Rev. Shuyler Vogel  (Fourth Universalist Society) see this event as the spark to empower faith communities to take part in ongoing action to dismantle white supremacy in New York and around the country.

Soon after the plans were announced, interested co-sponsors began to pour in from all over the city. More than 60 organizations signed on to be part of the evening’s program, which featured music from different religions, as well as speakers Imam Shamsi Ali, the Rev. Brian Gibbs-Ellis, Rabbi Roly Matalon and the Rev. Chloe Breyer, who emceed the program.

Despite the diverse landscape of religion, race and ethnicity represented by the sponsors, the communities of faith share a common set of values and morals:

• The belief that all people are created equal in the image of God. All God’s children are worthy of love, respect, safety and security.

• Rejection of white supremacy, in all of its forms, and commitment to standing up for the rights and safety of people of color, Jews, Muslims, immigrants and LGBTQ individuals.

• Commitment to action, however small or large, that will reach across political, religious, denominational and racial divides in spreading understanding, acceptance, respect and love.

• The understanding that though the communities and individuals may not agree on everything—from tactic to policies—they share a vision of a future in which we are all free to live without fear and to live up to our God given potential.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NEW YORK AMSTERDAM NEWS 

The Rise of Nashville’s Interfaith Culture

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But Nashville’s interfaith culture has not always boomed. The rise of interfaith efforts only emerged in the last 15 years, and has flourished even more recently, according to members of the local faith community. It’s a development that has united people of different faith backgrounds and, as a result, helped to repair the damage from religious tension.

Interfaith work’s entrance

Lifelong Nashvillian Rashed Fakhruddin witnessed his father help found the Islamic Center of Nashville in 12 South in 1978. Today, Fakhruddin serves as president of ICN, and his long-term involvement with the mosque allows him to observe the overarching trends that have defined his congregation and others surrounding it.

Fakhruddin tagged the early 2000s as the beginning of interfaith work’s development. He said he saw a rise in the frequency of interfaith opportunities in those years — in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, religious organizations rarely broke boundaries and coordinated. As the opportunities increased, however, the ICN community was also more prepared to represent themselves.

“All of the sudden in the early 2000s, a lot of people started recognizing who we are, where we were,” Fakhruddin said. “We had more people in leadership that were engaged and could take on more interfaith roles. It’s been wonderful.”

To illustrate this growth, Fakhruddin pointed to a rise in exchange visits between houses of worship, in educational events like panel discussions and in multi-faith collaboration on service projects. All of this, he said, began to emerge around 2010.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE TENNESSEAN 

Holy Land Festival unites Muslims, Christians in hope for restored peace

WASHINGTON HOLY LAND FESTIVALAlong the western banks of the Jordan River, the place of Christ’s baptism and today known as Qasr al-Yahud, numerous churches and monasteries of different religions sit vacant and silenced due to the dangerous landmines that lie beneath them.

For almost 50 years, Qasr al-Yahud has been empty due to the landmines installed during the 1967 Six Day war between the Arabs and the Israeli people.

Halo Trust, a nonprofit organization, has worked to remove the landmines in the Qasr al-Yahud area since 2012. The group is dedicated to providing save environments for those living in areas surrounded by landmines through landmine removal, as well as assisting in local community rebuilding in the aftermath of war.

Their work has brought together various religious denominations in efforts to preserve the sacred churches, such as the Coptic church, the Franciscan church and the Syrian church, that all sit on the site of Qasr al-Yahud.

“We’ve got agreements with the eight churches, we’ve got agreements with the Israeli government, and we’ve got agreements with the Palestinian authorities,” said Adam Jasinski, executive director of Halo Trust, in an interview with Catholic News Service July 15.

Jasinski spoke about the Jordan River landmine removal in a seminar at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America as part of its fourth annual Holy Land Festival held July 15.

The festival cultivates a conversation of hope around the Holy Land, with many groups coming together to engage visitors with the situation of Christians and of peace in the Holy Land.

Father Jim Gardiner, a Franciscan Friar of the Atonement as well as a member of the Holy Land Committee of the Archdiocese of Washington, spoke to CNS about how the festival brought together so many different groups of people.

“Nobody knows who is Christian, Muslim or Catholic,” Father Gardiner said.

The interdenominational environment at the festival was a mere taste of what takes place at Bethlehem University, the first Catholic university in the Holy Land. Two Bethlehem University students, Lela Abu Ayyash and Lara Kasbari, spoke about their experiences living and going to school in Palestine during the Holy Land festival in a seminar.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CATHOLIC STANDARD 

Interfaith Dialogue: What it is and what it is not

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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)

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS