In These Sacred Spaces, Judaism, Islam And Christianity Intersect

ShowImageChristians in Muslim countries face violence and harassment. The same goes for Muslims in Christian countries and Israel. And, as Tom Lehrer sang, “everybody hates the Jews.”

This isn’t new information, and many before me have pointed out the irony that the three main Abrahamic religions are so often at each other’s throats. Even if the confrontations are not, as some believe, constant and apocalyptic, it’s certainly reasonable to see Christianity, Islam and Judaism as a kind of Venn diagram of grievances.

It’s reasonable but not entirely correct. As the new “Shared Sacred Sites” exhibition at three New York venues demonstrates, there is no shortage of places where followers of these religions intersect in fellowship and peace.

As its title makes self-evident, “Shared Sacred Sites” is an exploration of places of worship. It’s also about overlapping themes and figures. The exhibition bills itself as “a contemporary pilgrimage,” as it is spread across three sites in midtown Manhattan: the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library (aka, the place with the lions); the James Gallery at the CUNY Graduate Center; and the Morgan Library & Museum.

Despite the enormity of the subject matter, “Shared Sacred Sites” is charmingly modest. In the Schwarzman Building, it occupies a smallish room on the ground floor. This part of the exhibition explores the past: the “shared” city of Jerusalem and the shared scriptural figures of Abraham, Moses and Elijah.

The objects are interesting if not mind-blowing: There are medieval maps and a few of the photographer Félix Bonfils’s wonderful albumen silver prints from the 1870s and 1880s — one of the Western Wall and another of Mary’s Tomb near the Mount of Olives. I particularly enjoyed the compare-and-contrast of the Annunciation. In a pristine 16th-century Book of Hours, Mary appears calm as Gabriel breaks the news. In the gorgeously lettered 16th-century Muslim commentary on the Quran, Mary’s incredulousness is endearingly human: “How can I have a son,” she asks, “when no man has ever touched me and I am not an adulteress?”

A few blocks south of the New York Public Library and the Morgan Library & Museum, at CUNY Graduate Center’s James Gallery, the focus is more contemporary. This part of the exhibition leans heavily on the work of Manoël Pénicaud, a talented French ethnologist who studies and documents interreligious relations across Europe and the Mediterranean.

You can watch Pénicaud’s short films on “Interfaith Bridge Builders,” such as “The Last Rabbi of Crete,” an interview with Nicholas Stavroulakis, the recently deceased Greek-American preservationist of Crete’s Etz Hayyim Synagogue.

Stavroulakis speaks of his well-earned pride in creating “the only synagogue in Europe that has its doors wide open” to people of all faiths, or even no faith at all. The only criterion is the shared values of “pity and compassion for the world.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM FORWARD 

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Iraq’s Christians, Muslims agree to revive site of ancient church

kokheh-870BAGHDAD — A group of Christians from Baghdad who visited the ruins of the Church of Kokheh, located 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of the Iraqi capital, were spontaneously invited by the local Muslim community for lunch after their tour.

The historical Church of Kokheh is one of the early points of departure of Christianity in the Middle East, Father Mansour al-Makhlissi, founder and head of the Center for Eastern Studies at the Roman Catholic Church in Baghdad, told the visitors as he took them around the site of the church on May 25. “It was the patriarchal residence of the Eastern Church for centuries,” he said, adding that 24 patriarchs were buried in the church built by Saint Mari in the first century.

Over the past 20 years, Christians could not visit the remnants of the church due to safety concerns, most recently due to the attacks by the Islamic State.

With the area now more secure, the Center for Eastern Studies organized the visit to the Church of Kokheh. The current al-Mada’in district was called Ctesiphon or Taysafun in ancient times, and served as the winter capital of the Parthian Empire and later of the Sasanian Empire. The area was discovered and partially excavated by the German Oriental Society in 1929.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL-MONITOR

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/06/christians-muslims-want-to-revive-visits-to-old-church.html#ixzz5I9J2chx3

Muslims and Christians Pray Together in Jordan “Church of Miracles”

cuhrchSALT GOVERNORATE  — Climbing up the 50 yellow stairs in the Salt Governorate leads visitors to a small iron gate that opens to what locals believe to be the church of miracles, known as “Al Khader Church”.

Father Marwan Taamneh, the church’s priest, told The Jordan Times in a recent visit that, despite its modest size, Saint George Church has been life changing for many believers, both Christian and Muslim.

He said that the actual church is located in the cave inside, where the whole story started in a cold winter night.

“As-Salt city is a hill town where people used to rely on shepherding along with other animal farms. One winter night, a shepherd took the town’s sheep to one of the caves for shelter from the heavy rain,” said Father Taamneh.

St George is said to have appeared to the shepherd inside the cave that evening, telling him to inform the villagers of the saint’s wish to build a church at “the exact same spot”. 

At that time, the cave was 1km long, and 1.5m high, according to Father Taameh who added that “sadly, due to modernisation and the establishment of new buildings, the cave almost completely vanished leaving no less than a big opening in the mountain inside the church.” 

“However”, he stressed, “visitors to the church can still see the depth of it from a small opening.”

“This 300-year old church is very special indeed,” Father Taamneh uttered, looking around the church with admiration. 

“Not only because of the story of its existence,” he continued, “or the many miraculous healings of difficult diseases, but because it is probably the only place in Jordan where Christians and Muslims pray together.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE JORDAN TIMES 

Evidence of protecting Christians’ rights, churches in Islam

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CAIRO – 27 January 201: Following allegations made by the U.S. Congress regarding violations committed against Coptic Christians in Egypt, Egypt Today provides evidence of Islam’s preservation of Christians’ rights.

Recently, Egypt’s Minister of Endowments Mokhtar Gomaa said that the protection of churches is as legitimate as defending mosques, stressing that those who died in the defense of a church are martyrs.

Religious freedom is a well-known Islamic principle. {There is no compulsion in religion; the right direction is clearly distinguished from the wrong} (Quran 22:56) . So it’s clear that each person should be allowed to find their own path in life. People of other religions are free to practice their own faith, as Islam does not force any one to embrace it.

Not only does Islam demand their freedom to practice religion, but also that they be treated justly and kindly as any other fellow human. {Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah love those who are just} (Quran 60:8) .

Regarding the protection of churches, Allah says, {Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid his (cause)} (Quran 22:40) .

Islamic scholar Ibn Khuwaiz stated that this verse included the prohibition of demolishing the churches of non-Muslim citizens, their temples, and their houses of worship.

FULL ARTICLE FROM EGYPT TODAY 

Jews, Christians and Muslims make holy ground in America’s heartland

170616134549-03-tri-faith-initiative-exlarge-169Omaha, Nebraska (CNN) When most people think of Omaha, they imagine sizzling steaks, billionaire Warren Buffet or even former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning calling out before the snap. (Remember “Omaha-Omaha”?).

But if a group of clergymen have their way, Nebraska’s largest city will soon also be known as the home of interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding.

A rabbi, a reverend and an imam (no, it’s not a setup joke) are partners in a decadelong quest to bring together the three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — to share and worship on the same property.

It’s called Tri-Faith Initiative.

The $65 million project, launched in 2006 and funded through donations, may be the first time in US history that the three faiths intentionally build their houses of worship side by side.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CNN

Historic Bridgeport Church to Become Mosque

BRIDGEPORT, Conn.—One of the oldest Christian congregations in this community said it would sell its historic church to a regional Islamic center.

The United Congregational Church said Monday it plans to sell its brick Georgian-Revival style church, built in the 1920s, to the Bridgeport Islamic Community Center for $1 million.

The two groups will also form a partnership to provide community programs including a soup kitchen and a homeless shelter from the site of the current church.

bn-rb957_nybrid_m_20161205165020In recent years, more Muslim communities across the U.S. have begun to engage in the types of fundraisers and social-service projects that Christian congregations and Jewish synagogues often host or organize, said David Grafton, professor of Islamic studies and Christian-Muslim relations at Hartford Seminary in Hartford.

“As the national landscape has become much more suspicious of Muslims, and as Islamophobia has become more common, Muslim communities have consciously engaged in the process to normalize—or become part of the religious landscape of organizing into voluntary associations that form the bedrock of American civil and religious life,” he said.

The lineage of the United Congregational Church dates back to colonial days. It was first established in 1695 and called the Ecclesiastical Society of Stratfield. It later merged in 1916 with another congregation to form the United Congregational Church. Rev. Sara Smith said the Bridgeport church had 3,000 members when the main structure was built, but the numbers have now dwindled to 300. She said it made financial sense for the congregation to look for a new home.

The United Congregational Church will be renting space in another part of Bridgeport until it finds a new space to buy, Rev. Smith said. “We are not dying, we are just moving,” she said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL 

Sign of the times? Canadian Church becomes a mosque

WINDSOR, ON. AUGUST 19, 2015. -- The former Lincoln Road United Church is seen in Windsor on Wednesday, August 19, 2015. The church is now the Masjid Noor Ul Islam.                           (TYLER BROWNBRIDGE/The Windsor Star)
WINDSOR, ON. AUGUST 19, 2015. — The former Lincoln Road United Church is seen in Windsor on Wednesday, August 19, 2015. The church is now the Masjid Noor Ul Islam. (TYLER BROWNBRIDGE/The Windsor Star)

The long-standing Lincoln Road United Church has been sold and the historic building that was erected 100 years ago for Protestant Christians will now serve Windsor’s Muslim community.

The Masjid Noor-Ul-Islam Madressa and Cultural Centre of Windsor is not yet in full operation, but crosses came down and new signs recently went up for the mosque.

The building, constructed in 1915 as a Methodist Church, had been for sale for almost three years. It sold in February for under $500,000, significantly less than the United Church’s original asking price of $895,000.

“It was very sad when we closed but our resources were dwindling and the congregation was getting older and reducing in size,” said Ross Mitton, chair of the finance and property committee of the United Church Essex Presbytery. “Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough of the next generation — and I’m talking about 60 years old — taking the (church director) positions. So it had to close.”

Mitton, who attended the neo-gothic church for 25 years, expects to see the impressive stained-glass windows, which depict Biblical scenes and which were custom made for the space, eventually covered.

“Their religion is different than ours, but it’s still going to be used as a house of God,” Mitton said. “So we were OK with that.”

The Masjid Noor-Ul-Islam Madressa and Cultural Centre of Windsor, established in 1983, was a longtime neighbour of the church, operating in a cramped house in the 700 block of Lincoln Road for years.

The building is listed under the heritage act but not designated, which means the new owners can renovate the property but cannot demolish it.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WINDSOR STAR