Searching our souls for national unity

pic_8“Bareer kachhe arshee nagar

shetha porshee boshot kore

Ek ghar porshee boshot kore

Ami ekdino na dekhilam tare.”

This epic refrain of Fakir Lalon rings around our collective South Asian conscience every time people of one religious identity inflicts mindless violence on the people of other faiths, like Hindus murdering innocent Muslims in Maharashtra, Buddhists pillaging Rohingya villages in Myanmar or Muslims blowing up Christians in Sri Lanka. The simple fact of life is that ethnically we are all the same or of similar ethnic mix but we hardly know our own people belonging to other faiths, living in our midst. The ethnic similarity between a Christian, a Hindu or a Muslim family in any part of the sub-continent is hidden in plain sight by insurmountable walls of religious intolerance and bigotry. Similar complexion, language, customs and culture of Muslims, Hindus, Christians and agnostics in our region somehow have given way to siloed identities belying the stark homogeneity of the people irrespective of faith. This has frustrated great thinkers and humanists for generations like Lalon, Rabindranath and Nazrul.

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)

Dewi, a young Muslim woman, on her meeting with Pope Francis

INDONESIA_-_0710_-_Dewi_01Semarang (AsiaNews) – The sight of a smiling Pope Francis shaking hands with an emotional young Muslim woman (picture 1) has gone viral in Indonesia, becoming an iconic image in the world’s most populous Muslim country.

The woman in the picture is Dewi Kartika Maharani Praswida, a 23-year-old student from Wonogiri regency, Central Java province.

“I never expected that my pictures with Pope Francis would cause such hype in Indonesia,” she told AsiaNews,  “but I am happy, because these images reminded many of my compatriots that belonging to different religious communities does not prevent us from being brothers and sisters, children of the same almighty God.”

The photo that made Dewi famous at home was taken on 26 June, during the Pope’s general audience in St Peter’s Square.

“Pope Francis was busy with greetings when he approached the barrier. I was able to exchange a few words with him: ‘I am Muslim and I come from Indonesia. Please, Holy Father, pray for me, for peace in my country and in the whole world. The Pope replied: ‘Of course, I will.’”

“Being able to meet the leader of the Catholic Church, the ‘good man’, the ‘man in white’, was for me a true blessing. Being able to say ‘I am in the prayers of Pope Francis’ was an indescribable joy.”

Dewi has a BA and is now pursuing a Master’s Degree in Environmental and Urban Sciences at the Universitas Katolik Soegijapranata (Unika), a Catholic university in Semarang, the capital of Central Java.

She is involved in interfaith dialogue with Gus Durian, a youth movement affiliated with Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), a moderate Islamic group. With more than 90 million members, NU is the largest Islamic organisation in Indonesia and the world.

Between February and June of this year, the young woman was in Rome to study thanks to the Nostra Aetate Foundation[*], which grants scholarships to young people from other religions who wish to deepen their knowledge of Christianity at Pontifical academic institutions.

Dewi studied at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) and the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI).

“In my city, Semarang, I am involved in activities concerning interreligious dialogue,” Dewi explained. “I have also dedicated my studies to Rome to this topic. But since I was in the heart of world Christianity, I said to myself: ‘Why not to take the opportunity to deepen my knowledge of Christianity and the Catholic Church?’

FULL ARTICLE FROM ASIA NEWS (ITALY)

Philippine Muslims, Christians build bridges over dinner

5cfddd4fa1008_600

Muslim and Christian groups in Manila held a charity dinner on June 8 to promote peace and fight what they described as anti-Islamic sentiments.

The event included a discussion on the security situation in the southern Philippines and “prejudices against Islam” especially in the Mindanao region.

Amirah Lidasan, secretary-general of the Moro-Christian People’s Alliance, said the activity was designed to foster unity and encourage inter-faith dialogue.

“We want to show that despite our differences, Muslims and Christians have a lot of things to share because we are all people of faith,” said Lidasan.

She said the rise of “religious extremism among misguided Muslims” and the “projection in media that Muslims are terrorists” fuels mistrust and fear of them.

Catholic Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, chairman of the Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum said what fuels this fear and mistrust is public ignorance about Islam.

“As followers of Christ, we have to open our hearts and minds to understand other cultures and religions,” the prelate said.

“Dialogue leads to understanding and understanding leads to acceptance that would eventually result in peace,” he added.

Father Christopher Ablon of the Philippine Independent Church said intolerance of other faiths could be avoided “if we are capable of listening to our neighbors.”

“What is lacking is our sense of hearing. We do not listen to them and we perceive their grievances as superfluous,” he said.

FULL ARTICLE UCA NEWS

Muslim doctor encourages Christians to ‘love thy neighbor’ in new book

5d07e045e11d0.imageAyaz Virji had a well-paying position at a Pennsylvania hospital when he decided to uproot his family in 2013 and move to Dawson, Minn., a town with about 1,500 residents.

Virji’s Muslim faith and values inspired him to look for a job that was more than lucrative. In Dawson, he said, he felt he could spend time getting to know his patients in an underserved rural community.

Then came the 2016 election.

Most Dawson residents voted for President Trump. And many of Virji’s patients — stirred by Trump’s insistence that “Islam hates us,” his suggestion of a Muslim registry and his promise of a Muslim ban — began to question his family’s presence. As far as anybody knew, they were the first Muslim family to live in Dawson.

That’s when Virji discovered another vocation: speaking to Christian audiences about his faith to dispel myths about Islam. The Rev. Mandy France — then an intern at a local Lutheran church — first invited Virji to give a talk titled “Love Thy Neighbor” in a school auditorium.

“When we did our first talk, people protested,” Virji said. “They said Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to speak publicly. And I’m like, you guys know me. I’m the doctor. I treat you guys.”

Since then, he said, he’s given more than 25 lectures. He and France even addressed the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s national celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017.

Now Virji has turned his talk into a book titled “Love Thy Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor’s Struggle for Home in Rural America.”

“If it starts conversations — that’s all that it needs to do — then we’re going to be in a much better place,” he said.

Virji spoke to Religion News Service about his experience as a Muslim in rural America and what Christians and Muslims have in common.

FULL ARTICLE FROM VOICE NEWS 

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

An open letter to Christians and Muslims – Bishop Mario Grech (Malta)

Mary is ‘common heritage’ of Christians and Muslims

dd4015e83d6c704cdd088f6f1f73b0599b8041e3-1559372444-5cf2229c-620x348

As time goes by we are progressively seeing an ever increasing number of foreigners living and working among us. It would be silly of us to think of them as a threat or as a purely economic resource.

It is a real pity that there are those among us who are tempted to regard them as some kind of inferior class of people and so they despise them even with violent acts or they take advantage of their vulnerability.

This is the case when they are exploited by being made to work for a pittance without the benefit of social security as required by law, or when they are offered shelter at rental rates far higher than is normally the case.

Their presence among us does not constitute simply a social and cultural challenge, but it has also a religious dimension. Indeed among these foreigners there is a sizeable presence of Muslims, both those coming from African countries and those from Eastern Europe.

Given the context of interreligious dialogue, I feel that at this moment of our history, characterised by the phenomenon of migration, it cannot be that God’s Spirit is not telling our Church anything. This dialogue helps to achieve a certain social harmony. When one considers the lack of accurate knowledge about Islam and the prejudice against it, one sees the need to dialogue with the Muslim world without denying anything of our Christian identity.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE TIMES OF MALTA