Religious leaders unite for peace at open dialogue event in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is home to 18 religious’ denominations, making it one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world.

In September, it opened its doors for a global interfaith dialogue. Its capital Astana hosted the 7th edition of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. Delegates from more than 50 countries came together, urging peace and consolidation around the world.

“The efforts of world leaders, the efforts of international organizations are not enough to overcome the challenges that humanity is facing. And the voice of spiritual leaders who have great authority among the world’s population, calls for the joint overcoming of all the challenges. This is very important,” says Askar Shakirov, the deputy chairman of the senate of Kazakhstan.

“We have a common goal but we are no longer looking at our differences but we are recognising our common concern, for those who struggle or suffer.”

Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism as well as other world religions were represented at the Congress. This year Pope Francis as well as the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb were among the renowned guests.

“The main result is that we are sitting together, we are speaking together and we are understanding that to find solutions for the problems in the world is not by fighting, is not during by war, but sitting together and speaking,” David Baruch Lau, the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel said to Euronews.

One of the goals of the congress is to reintroduce the language of reconciliation and peace to a world shattered by conflict and tragedy. It also strives to put religion in the spotlight as a tool to help defuse confrontations.

The final declaration of the Congress calls upon world leaders to abandon all aggressive and destructive rhetoric, which leads to destabilisation in the world. It demands a cease from conflict and bloodshed in all corners. It says that extremism, radicalism, terrorism and all other forms of violence have nothing to do with authentic religion and must be rejected.

Participants of the Congress planted trees in the new Peace and Harmony park in the capital of Kazakhstan. This ceremony is a symbol of hope for the interfaith dialogue to grow and bring about change, to unite different communities across the globe and to inspire people to join their efforts in the name of peace.

FULL ARTICLE FROM EURONEWS.NEXT

‘Reasons for Our Hope’: Video Series Presents Christian Belief to the Muslim World

“In our time, when day by day mankind is being drawn closer together, and the ties between different peoples are becoming stronger, the Church examines more closely her relationship to non-Christian religions,” begins the Vatican II declaration Nostra Aetate, written in 1965. 

In our own time, a group of scholars are putting these principles into practice in a format that the Council Fathers would never have anticipated: YouTube. 

Reasons for Our Hope, a joint project between the Oasis International Foundation and the McGrath Institute for Church Life at Notre Dame, is a YouTube series intended to advance mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims. In so doing, the series seeks to be respectful to Muslim believers (quoting Muslim philosophers and writers, closely studying the words of the Quran and Muslim traditions, and consulting Muslim scholars) while also being honest about the different worldviews that Christianity and Islam present. 

The collaborative project traces its roots to a 2017 symposium between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and its Muslim counterpart, the Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue, held in Cairo. At the symposium, Gabriel Said Reynolds, Notre Dame professor of Islamic studies, met Martino Diez, the scientific director of the Oasis International Foundation. Founded with the initiative of Cardinal Angelo Scola in 2004, Oasis aims to foster dialogue and understanding between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East, facilitating research, conferences and public conversation on the topic. 

Both Diez and Reynolds realized while attending the symposium that, among Christians, there was both a lack of knowledge about Islam and a lack of resources for attaining that knowledge. Similarly, many Muslims regularly encountered misinformation about Christianity and Catholicism. 

John Cavadini, director of the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame, similarly noted the problems facing Muslim-Christian dialogue. A project that would aim to educate Catholics on theological differences between themselves and Muslims was a good fit for the McGrath Institute’s goal to “empower faithful Catholic leaders at all levels.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER

Joint Christian-Muslim study of sacred texts offers new insights to interfaith dialogue

lwi-dok-62-cover(LWI) – Joint theological study resources on the sacred texts of both Christians and Muslims open up possibilities to gain “new perspectives” and “fresh insights into the meaning and transformative dynamics” of each other’s Holy Scriptures.

Lutheran theologians Rev. Dr Simone Sinn and Rev. Dr Sivin Kit made these remarks while reflecting on The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) publication Heilige Schriften heute verstehen: Christen und Muslime im Dialog. The German edition of the publication Transformative Readings of Sacred Scriptures: Christians and Muslims in Dialogue is now available online and in hard copy.

Sinn, the publication co-editor is currently professor of Ecumenical Theology at the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland. While the new edition targets all German-speaking regions, she noted a particular interest in Germany due to its historical “contributions to the dialogue between philosophical and theological hermeneutics.” In recent years, universities there “have provided opportunities for new interreligious collaboration on scriptural interpretation and hermeneutics,” she said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM LUTHERNWORLD.ORG 

The Use Of Anthropological Mediation In Interfaith Dialogue – Analysis

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The West believed in the 1970s that, with modern societies becoming more rational, belief was going to fade. The idea that modernity and religion cannot mix, was very widespread.

The rise of fundamentalisms, the fall of the Berlin Wall, terrorist violence, have created a new climate, heightened new fears, and spread confusion in people’s minds. As a result, religion now occupies a central place in debates previously dominated by revolutionary themes and Marxist ideology. The new challenges require intellectual clarification in favor of a dialogue of religions still to be created.

What can be the place of philosophy and anthropology in interfaith dialogue? What mediating, critical and propositional roles can it play within this context, particularly through its anthropological reflexions?

Religion is not only an ecclesiastical concern, but also and above all scientific

The religious question is not only an ecclesiastical concern, but also and above all scientific. This is why the construction of the object of this argument must have recourse to socio-historical facts and analyzes. In fact, religion, during Antiquity, foreshadowed socio-political organization. This is reflected in the election of the people of Israel to the promised land. From there, the Israelis, followers of a divine conviction, settled on this land promised to their father, Abraham, and confronted a Palestinian people who once enjoyed a presence there. And since then, permanent vicissitudes will make the Middle East a powder keg. 

Among these changes, the birth of Christianity following the message of Jesus, seals the salvation no longer of an elected and chosen people of God, but of all humanity irrespective of social status, color or origin. In contrast, emerges Islam, through the Prophet Muhammad who challenges Judaism, but also Christianity, not as a religion, but because its followers have turned away from the word of God by falling into “the mistake”.

In this way, Islam presents itself as a social and political-religious force in the face of Christianity. This is why thinkers according to their intellectual schemes, rightly or wrongly, speak of the war of religions or the war of civilizations which often leads to socio-political and theological confrontations. To this must be added the creation of the State of Israel by Jewish de-diasporization, following “combatant Zionism”, in response to “pogroms” in Russia and anti-Semitism in Germany, which will relaunch the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in suspension with direct consequence, the implication of the world.

FULL ARTICLE FROM EUROASIAREVIEW

Lutheran pastor, Muslim doctor discuss common ground in ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ conversation in Willmar, Minnesota

122419.N.WCT.LoveThyNeighbor.0062WILLMAR — While there are unarguably many differences between Christianity and Islam, the overarching message of the interfaith dialogue last week Willmar was there is more common ground than one might expect and the differences should not keep people apart.

“It is OK to be friends and neighbors with people that are different than you,” said the Rev. Mandy France, pastor of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Bird Island. “It is OK to be in a relationship with people who don’t believe what you believe.”

France and Dr. Ayaz Virji, of Dawson, conducted their 26th “Love Thy Neighbor” event Dec. 20 in front of a crowd of about 100 people at the Barn Theatre in Willmar. Virji and France have for a couple of years now been giving these talks, based on Virji’s book “Love Thy Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor’s Struggle for Home in Rural America.”

The duo started them following the 2016 election, when Virji and his family started to experience a significant rise in Islamophobia in their home of Dawson, where Virji is a family practice physician.

“After the election, things did change, for whatever reason,” Virji said.

At the start of the Willmar presentation, they made sure to let people know they had no other agenda beyond starting a conversation.

“We are not here to argue or debate anyone. We are not hear to convert anyone,” France said. “The religion or whatever you walked in with, you are going to walk out with.”

During the two-hour presentation, France and Virji shared their stories about how they came together to give these presentations across the country. Virji shared information about Islam, and the two questioned each other about their respective religions. There was also a short question-and-answer segment with the audience toward the end.

Virji and his family had moved to Dawson in 2013, when Virji felt a calling to practice medicine in rural America, where there is a shortage of physicians. The treatment his family was receiving following the election made him start to rethink that mission. His family, including his young children, were called suicide bombers and terrorists to their faces, and Virji regularly receives hate mail.

“This is nonsense,” Virji said and he was thinking of leaving it all behind. While he accepted a position with New York University in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Virji continues to live and work in Dawson for part of the year.

France, who in 2016 was an intern pastor, talked Virji into giving a presentation about Islam in Dawson, to teach people and show them there is nothing to fear.

“The message of the Bible is love. It was really conflicting to me,” France said of the treatment she witnessed Virji and his family receiving and the comments she heard from people who identify as Christian.

For Virji, Islam is a religion of peace and love and it’s just as much about good deeds as belief.

“Faith is a verb, you have to do it,” Virji said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WEST CENTRAL TRIBUNE (MINNESOTA, USA)

EVANGELICALS AND ISLAMOPHOBIA: Critical Voices and Constructive Proposals

The link below is to a pdf file of a magazine produced by Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California.  This evangelical institution has been at the forefront of a dialogue that is largely unknown and unheralded by the mainstream media – a lively and fruitful dialogue between Muslims and evangelicals.  It stands as a counterpoint to the assumption made by many that evangelicals as a whole are Islamophobic to the extreme.

Please read these articles then spread the word.  Not all evangelicals fit the stereotype.

Inter-religious meeting in a church

LINK TO MAGAZINE 

General Synod (Canadian Anglican) passes motion to sign, endorse Christian-Muslim dialogue

DSC_1579-696x463General Synod voted July 15 to sign on to “A Common Word Between Us and You” and endorse it as a model for Christian-Muslim dialogue.

“A Common Word” is a letter written in 2007 at the initiative of 138 Muslim scholars, clerics and political figures, according to the Rev. Scott Sharman, animator for ecumenical and interfaith relations, who gave a presentation to General Synod before the motion.

More than 400 Muslim leaders from around the world have since signed on to the letter, which is addressed to Christian leaders and is “an invitation to Christians to dialogue.” The title comes from a line from the Qur’an, Sharman said: “O People of the Book, come to a common word between us and you.”

The letter extends “an invitation to look at two foundational principles present within both of our respective scriptures: the call to love God above all things, and the call that follows from that, to love our neighbours. Love of God and love of neighbour is the starting ground.”

The resolution presented to General Synod involved two steps: becoming, as a church, signatory to the letter, and endorsing it to “use as a model…a kind of Christian-Muslim dialogue starter kit,” Sharman said.

The letter presents “a new kind of relationship between Muslims and Christians than has been possible for so much of our history,” according to Sharman. “It does not look for agreement, but it seeks to find common ground that could make for peace.” Since 2008, the letter has received 70 responses and nearly 200 sign-on endorsements by churches and Christian leaders.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ANGLICAN JOURNAL (CANADA)

Pope seeks more freedom in theology, dialogue with Islam

190417_aptn_pope_thunberg_hpMain_16x9_1600Pope Francis called Friday for a reform of the way theology is taught in Catholic schools, saying students must learn about dialogue with Judaism and Islam, and that overall there must be greater freedom in theological research and academic pursuits.

The Jesuit pope made the call during a speech at the Jesuit-run theology university in Naples. It follows his outreach this year to the Muslim world with the signing of a joint statement with the imam of Cairo’s Al Azhar, the seat of Sunni learning, establishing the relationship between Catholics and Muslims as brothers, with a common mission to promote peace.

In his speech, Francis said dialogue and partnership with the Muslim world is necessary “to build a peaceful existence, even when there are the troublesome episodes by fanatic enemies of dialogue.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM ABC NEWS

Faith and Values : Muslims, Christians have much in common

islamic-christian-f7956d513f609d5d620cf096093d8243b1fa84f3-s800-c85All months tend to bring to mind the special events that occur within them; for the month of April, it is Spring and Easter.

Muslims also believe in Jesus, the son of Mary. As a matter of fact, from the 114 chapters that consist in the Holy Qur’an, the 19th one is named after his Mother, Surah Maryam, or Chapter Mary.

Within this chapter, the story of Jesus’s miraculous birth is told. He is mentioned many times throughout the Holy Qur’an. Millions of Muslims are also named after the son and mother, which is Isa and Maryam in Arabic. Thus, if studied, one will find many similarities with the Christian faith when it comes to Jesus, from his virgin birth to his miracles, i.e. curing the lepers and bringing the dead back to life.

The main differences between Muslims and Christians about Jesus regard his divinity and his death. Muslims honor Jesus as a great prophet of God who was not crucified, but taken to the heavens alive, and that he and will reappear during the end of time, the Second Coming of Christ.

A very interesting note is that Easter this year will be on April 21, 2019, which will fall on the Islamic date of the 15th of the month of Shaban, the birth anniversary of the 12th Imam, Muhammad al Mahdi. He is the great-grandson of Prophet Muhammad.

The Muslims believe the Mahdi is the Messiah. He too is alive, in occultation, (hidden from view) on Earth, and will reappear during the end of time, along with Jesus. The Mahdi will lead in establishing peace and justice on Earth.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MCALL 

A milestone in the complex dialogue between Islam and Christianity

000_1d12n2When the head of the Roman church representing 1.2 billion Catholics signs a joint declaration with the head of the highest seat in Sunni Islam, it ought to be big news.

Yet the significance of the declaration signed in Abu Dhabi this month by Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar, has slipped under the radar amid criticism over the Pope’s decision to visit the UAE while it is involved in the war in Yemen and the blockade against Qatar.

But for those who have focused their attention on the contents of the document and the two leaders’ speeches, it is clear that the Grand Imam and the Pope have set a milestone in the complex dialogue between the two faiths.

The “Document on Human Fraternity” is the first ever signed by representatives of the two religions in which they pledge to work together for the benefit of the “human fraternity”. It implies the two faiths have found a common understanding and a united front against attempts to abuse God’s message and manipulate religion.

Rejecting violence

“We resolutely declare that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood,” the document states.

“These tragic realities are the consequence of a deviation from religious teachings. They result from a political manipulation of religions and from interpretations made by religious groups who, in the course of history, have taken advantage of the power of religious sentiment …. This is done for the purpose of achieving objectives that are political, economic, worldly and short-sighted.”

Both Sheikh al-Tayeb and Pope Francis have launched a joint appeal to political and religious leaders, intellectuals, artists and media worldwide to reject violence in all its forms, promote positive values and strive for establishing a more righteous and peaceful world – not only for the benefit of believers of the three monotheistic faiths, but also for non-believers.

Questioning the East-West dichotomy, the two leaders warned that religious hatred is causing ‘signs of a third world war being fought piecemeal’

“The fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept,” the declaration notes.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MIDDLE EAST EYE