Church of Pakistan looks to promote interfaith harmony through Christian-Muslim dialogue

The Church of Pakistan (CoP) has proposed to replicate the Christian-Muslim dialogue between the Anglican church and leading scholars of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University to foster interfaith harmony and peace in Pakistan.

According to a statement issued by the office of the Church of Pakistan (CoP) Moderator/President Dr Azad Marshall, the proposal was floated during a meeting between the Anglican church leadership and the scholars of the prestigious university of Islamic learning on the sidelines of a high-level event in Cairo where the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby launched the new Anglican province of Alexandria. 

The statement said that Archbishop Emeritus of the Anglican Province of Alexandria Mounir Hanna shared the idea of setting up a research center in Egypt comprising Muslim and Christian religious scholars based on their interactions over the last two decades. Al-Azhar University’s Grand Imam Mohamed Ahmed el-Tayeb welcomed the idea and assured his full cooperation, the statement added. 

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATION (PAKISTAN)

Three books offer hope-filled views on Christian-Muslim relations

Pillars: How Muslim Friends Led Me Closer to Jesus” by Rachel Pieh Jones. Plough Publishing (Wal-den, New York, 2021). 264 pp., $ 17.99.
“Islamophobia: What Christians Should Know (and Do) about Anti-Muslim Discrimination” by Jordan Denari Duffner. Orbis Books (Maryknoll, New York, 2021). 243 pp., $22.
“A World of Inequalities: Christian and Muslim Perspectives,” edited by Lucinda Mosher. Georgetown University Press (Washington, 2021). 253 pp., $34.95.

I recommend all three of these timely books for anyone who wishes to understand the history and present reality of Christian-Muslim relations both within this country and around the world.

The title of Rachel Jones’ “Pillars” echoes the five basic pillars of Muslim faith: There is no god but God, prayer, almsgiving, fasting and pilgrimage.

The book is a personal journal, organized in five sections reflecting the pillars, of the author’s life in the heart of Africa, Somalia, where she and her husband moved to take part in a humanitarian effort to help the local Muslim inhabitants to learn more and achieve a better lifestyle.

She and her family endured many difficulties, from being looked down upon and excluded to fears of the violence that killed three of her Christian friends. But Muslim women come to her aid, teaching her how to interact with Muslim women and men, and bringing her family into their homes so she could better understand.

Jones and her Muslim friends journey together through the Muslim year, learning about each other through dialogue, listening to each other and, hesitatingly, praying together to the one God whom Christians and Muslims both worship.

This very personal story will introduce readers to Muslim religious traditions and, more importantly, to people with whom readers can relate and learn from.

“Islamophobia” details the present-day reality of a negative and largely false set of ideas about Muslims and Islam that has been part of Christian culture since at least the Crusades.

Ignoring what the holy book, the Quran, which is largely based upon the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, actually states, Islam is portrayed as a religion that sees itself as having replaced Christianity and Judaism and is aimed at their destruction and creating a totalitarian structure to take over and rule the world.

Muslims are depicted as anti-women’s rights, as racists and evil slaveholders, as if Christians never “owned” slaves. While some Muslims might hold such views, and some Muslim societies have reflected them, this is not what the Quran teaches.

We Catholics, and Christians in general, have equally been guilty of such departures from the teachings of Jesus. So we must learn not to scapegoat Muslims by blaming them for the faults of our own history, and to a sad extent, the present.

The final third of the book, “Crafting a Christian Response,” provides the reader with a number of things Catholics and all Christians can do today to break the cycle of fear/hate of Muslims, both individually and communally.

Author Jordan Denari Duffner notes the good things that the Holy See has done but argues, correctly in my view, that more can and should be done.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CATHOLIC SENTINEL

A Jew, a Christian, a Muslim and a Baha’i: Welcome to Abrahamic House, an interfaith living community

(Washington Jewish Week via JTA) — Picture four young adults of different faiths sharing one house for one year. That’s not the premise of a new reality TV show. It’s just reality.

Abrahamic House is an interfaith fellowship program in which four people ages 21 to 35 share a home for one to two years. In exchange for subsidized rent, the residents organize programs and community events.

It’s a concept inspired by the Moishe House group-living program, but instead of involving only Jews, Abrahamic House is home to a Jew, a Christian, a Muslim and a Baha’i.

“We are trying to build bridges,” said Abrahamic House founder Mohammed Al Samawi, 34.

At the moment, there’s only one Abrahamic House — in Los Angeles. And the inaugural class of residents moved in just before COVID-19 hit. But a second house will open Sept. 1 in Washington, D.C. Now all it needs is a (physical) house and people to live in it.

Applications for the D.C. Abrahamic House are open. Once the four fellows have been selected, they will be offered three possible sites for their house, Al Samawi said.

With Abrahamic House, Al Samawi wants to promote collaboration among adults from often hostile religions, and to challenge their stereotypes of each other. With any luck, such success will spread to the broader community.

FULL ARTICLE FROM JTA.ORG

Promoting Peace Between Christians and Muslims In Ghana

IT SEEMS to me that neither science nor religion is good or bad in themselves. It is people who make good use or bad use of them. Thus, the goodness or badness of science and religion depends upon the goodness or badness of humans who use them to solve or create life’s problems.

The Bible advocates peaceful coexistence as it exhorts believers in these words, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbour…You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Leviticus 19:17-18). The Lord Jesus emphasized that loving God and our neighbours is the greatest commandment.

Prophet T.B. Joshua teaches that a person’s neighbours include those who do not share the same faith with him or her. This means differences in faiths should not serve as catalyst for religious conflict or oppression. Ghana’s Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, a Muslim recently expressed delight over peaceful Christian-Muslim relations in Ghana, describing it as enviable religious tolerance.

The Vice President was speaking at the commissioning of the National Mosque in Accra recently. The 5000-capacity Mosque complex described by Mrs. Gina Blay, Ghana’s Ambassador to Germany as hybrid in her Twitter post, was funded by the Turkish Government. Surprisingly, however, the imposing Muslim edifice was commissioned by a Christian.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MODERNGHANA.COM

These Christian, Jewish and Muslim women have been meeting monthly for almost two decades. One tumultuous year couldn’t stop them.

ARLINGTON, Texas — Janice Harris Lord has always believed the more time you spend with someone, the more you find in common.

And the more you find in common, the easier it is to build a friendship.

Time spent together over food is even better.

Lord teared up as she watched friends of almost 20 years arriving for a long-awaited picnic at Lake Arlington.

Everyone brought food, wore a smile, and opened their hearts and arms to hugs.

“I thought we might have some today who wanted to mask and distance, but everybody is just so ready,” Lord said. “Ready for real relationships again.”

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Lord longed to do something to build bridges. She’s a Christian and she felt like she had much to learn from other faiths.

So, she invited Jewish and Muslim women to join a few Christian women for a casual meeting.

Almost two decades later, her interfaith experiment has turned into a well-organized group called Daughters of Abraham. 

There are multiple chapters across North Texas and beyond.

A global pandemic threatened to shut them down, but it didn’t.

Daughters of Abraham moved their meetings to Zoom, teaching even their oldest members to use the platform.

“Our attendance didn’t wane. We had a good 30 people on each Zoom,” Lord said.

They could only see each other virtually as a chaotic year unfolded around them – COVID, social justice protests, a polarizing election, an insurrection, and rockets flying in the Middle East.

It was enough to test many American’s faith.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WFAA TV

Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi to open in 2022

The cultural landmark in the UAE capital, which includes a synagogue, a church and a mosque, is meant to be a beacon of understanding and peaceful coexistence, inspired by the Document on Human Fraternity.

By Robin GomesThe Abrahamic Family House, which encloses a synagogue, a church and a mosque in a single complex, and which is scheduled to be inaugurated in 2022, is 20 percent complete, the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity (HCHF) said in a statement on Tuesday.  The  Committee, which is also supervising the project , said it is inspired by the 2019 Document on Human Fraternity.  Constructed on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, the project is closely followed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb of al-Azhar, who endorsed the design, the HCHF said.

The  Abrahamic Family House derives its name from the Old Testament biblical figure, Abraham, who is recognized and greatly revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Shared values
The Abrahamic Family House’s design, by architect Sir David Adjaye, captures. the values shared by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, through three main buildings, including a mosque, a church, and a synagogue in one place. “As such, the complex innovatively recounts the history and builds bridges between human civilizations and heavenly messages.”

The names of the three separate iconic houses of worship in the Abrahamic Family House complex are officially unveiled as “Imam AlTayeb Mosque,” “St. Francis Church,” and “Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue”.   Moses ben Maimon was a prolific and influential Sephardic Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages.

Interfaith harmonious coexistence
Besides the 3 places of worship, the site includes a cultural center that aims to encourage people to exemplify human fraternity and solidarity within a community that cherishes the values of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence, while the unique character of each faith is preserved.

The design of the Abrahamic Family House was first unveiled by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, at a global gathering in New York in 2019, during the 2nd meeting of the HCHF. IT said the design was also presented to Pope Francis and the Grand Imam during a meeting with them in November that year.

“The Abrahamic Family House epitomizes interfaith harmonious coexistence and preserves the unique character of each religion,” said Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture Abu Dhabi and an HCHF member. He said, “It personifies Abu Dhabi’s vision for human fraternity and embeds coexistence into the already diverse cultural fabric of the UAE. Overseeing the development of this iconic project is inspiring and reflective of the UAE efforts in realizing the values of the Document on Human Fraternity and fostering its lofty principles.” 

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HERALD MALAYSIA

Putting Black at the center of interfaith

(RNS) — Every January, the city of New York hosts an interfaith breakfast that gathers my fellow New Yorkers who work to improve the lives of people in the five boroughs of NYC and beyond.

Gathered under one roof for several hours are representatives of the many different faiths that can be found in our city: Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and so many others assemble, not only to celebrate our diversity but to address pressing social justice issues, including racial equity, systematic racism and racially biased policing.

Interfaith coalitions have long taken up racial justice causes, most famously in the civil rights movements of the ‘60s, and New York’s is one of literally hundreds of similar gatherings I have attended in my life as a Black Christian minister.  

RELATED: Black religious leaders, stand with our LGBTQ family

Yet, interfaith organizations themselves have often not taken racial equity work seriously. Some of the great interfaith organizations of the early 20 century, such as the National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ), have either actively discouraged the participation of Black leaders or passively signaled their disinterest by ignoring the struggle for racial justice that their Black and brown neighbors and their religious leaders were facing. 

This is despite the interfaith mingling that is woven into the history of Black people in America in traditional African religious traditions, Islam and Christianity as well as other faiths such as Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism. The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., has more than 1,000 religious artifacts that demonstrate the breadth of faith expressions among Black people since the first enslaved people from Africa brought their Muslim faith to this country.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST

Interfaith dialogue can become a path to enlightenment, wonder and healing

“From the cowardice that dare not face new truth,

From the laziness that is contented with half truth,

From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,

Good Lord deliver me.”

—a Kenyan prayer, from “The Catholic Prayer Book”

This past weekend, I spoke via Zoom to a Lexington group called the Christian-Muslim Dialogue, which, as its name implies, is made up of Christians and Muslims who meet regularly to discuss religion and related matters.

I made a presentation to the group, and that was followed by discussion among the members and me.

I found the experience inspiring, and it reminded me why it’s important for people walking different paths to stay in touch with each other. Living in a fairly homogeneous corner of Kentucky, I don’t get to have interfaith conversations often.

In my presentation, I offered four observations about interfaith (and also interdenominational) dialogues that I think make them important.

First, if we hope to grow spiritually, it’s helpful to be able to hold more than one thought in our head at the same time. Getting to know people from other belief systems—whether we’re Muslims meeting Christians, or evangelical Protestants meeting Roman Catholics, or Mormons meeting Buddhists—introduces us to ideas, personal histories and theological traditions we might not have encountered before.

FULL ARTICLE FROM KENTUCKY.COM

PEACE FEASTS: A NEW CONNECTION FOR MUSLIM AND CHRISTIAN COLLEGE STUDENTS

Marquette University senior Anna Buckstaff said she appreciates opportunities to meet Muslims and Christians who are interested in connecting around common core values.

The Catholic from Palatine, Illinois, who attended the Lenten Peace Feast in February with Muslims and Christians, said the experience helped her reflect and deepen her understanding of her own faith.

“I really appreciated how the faiths share an emphasis for tradition and value the time spent with family and loved ones,” she said. “I have really enjoyed being exposed to different approaches to care and value God’s creation.”

She is looking forward to the Ramadan Peace Feast, online from 2 – 3:30 p.m. CDT, Sunday, April 18. College students and young professionals are encouraged to participate. Registration is now open.

Peace Feasts, new interfaith meeting experiences, offer Muslim and Christian college students in Wisconsin a chance to learn about each other’s sacred seasons, as well as to connect and build trust. The idea is for young adults of each faith to invite each other to their holiday feasts—this year during the Christian Lent and Muslim Ramadan.

The program is free to participants through financial support from Interfaith Youth Core, described on its website as “a national non-profit working towards an America where people of different faiths, worldviews and traditions can bridge differences and find common values to build a shared life together.”

IFYC was founded by Eboo Patel, a Chicago-based author, speaker and educator who said he was “inspired to build this bridge by his identity as an American Muslim navigating a religiously diverse social landscape.”

What to expect

The Ramadan Peace Feast is the second of a series. Young adults who would like to join in are welcomed, whether they attended Part I or not, said Rev. Nicole Wriedt, San Diego program director of Peace Catalyst International, who with Milwaukee-based PCI program director Steve Lied, is the Christian co-organizer for these events. They collaborate with the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition’s president Janan Najeeb.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WISCONSIN MUSLIM JOURNAL

Much gained from interfaith dialogues

Brookings has been home to an interfaith dialogue group for more than a decade. Participants gather monthly during the school year to meet, greet, eat and discuss topics of mutual concern. The first few times the group gathered, people were on their best behavior, avoiding any hint of provocation and being unusually polite. But as people got to know each other better, as ignorance and misunderstandings disappeared, serious dialogue and deeper relationships developed. No question or topic was off the table.

Known now as the Brookings Interfaith Council, one can access their information and schedule on their web-site. Like many similar community groups, the pandemic has curtailed activities. But when they resume, the group will continue to be an asset to students of world religions at the university and in the larger community.

It’s always a delicious meal. Eating together is a time-tried way of bringing disparate peoples together in a welcoming atmosphere. And where else can one find in South Dakota a room where there may be Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’i, Unitarians, Atheists; all interested in learning from the other?

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BROOKINGS (SOUTH DAKOTA) REGISTER