Dr. Maryam Mostoufi: Interfaith dialogue feeds the soul

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Over the years I’ve heard a number of jokes that begin — “A Jew, a Christian and a Muslim walk into a… ” It’s an effective stem for a joke because it’s based on a negative stereotype that suggests it highly improbable that the three would voluntarily associate with one another.

Yet, in Springfield we’ve been proving for 40 years that those of diverse theological backgrounds do just that.

Four religious leaders within the Springfield community — the late Rev. Dr. Richard Maye and the Rev. Mark Watkins, Rev. Andy Templeman and Rabbi Barry Marks — had a vision. They saw a possibility for entering into dialogue based on their shared values and jointly tackling community issues.

Originally, Jewish, Protestant, Catholic and Unitarian clergy met over brownbag lunches once a month, as we still do. What they did not anticipate was the deep respect and friendships they and future members of the Greater Springfield Interfaith Association would develop over the years. Nor could they foresee a future that included as many other faiths as it does today.

This year we developed our first logo (About time!). It illustrates our belief that all faiths grow out of a spiritual sense of mystery and thus should be held with reverence and respect. The faith symbols are representative of those in Springfield and our membership — Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Humanist, Islamic, Jewish, Native American, Sikh, Tao, Unitarian Universalist and Zoroastrian — all of which have participated in one way or another over the years.

Our monthly meetings have not been limited to chatting and chewing. We’ve used them as opportunities to educate ourselves about each other’s religious traditions, beliefs and practices and to learn about community issues and services. But we recognized early on that to be relevant, we needed to get out of our chairs and pulpits and into the larger community. We needed to literally practice what we preach.

FULL ARTICLE FROM STATE JOURNAL REGISTER 

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9/11 Brought Them Together. They’ve Been Preaching Love Ever Since

Sarah van Gelder: How did the three of you start working together?

Rabbi Ted Falcon: When 9/11 occurred, I called Jamal, and the two of us did a Shabbat service together. Since then, we’ve taken part in each other’s services, and it has become natural to work together.

When one awakens spiritually, there is an awakening to inclusivity. You start to perceive that each authentic spiritual path is an avenue to a shared universal. To deepen means to explore that territory together along with the ethic that naturally flows from it.

Sarah: Had you done those exchanges before 9/11?

Brother Jamal Rahman: Not much. After 9/11, as a Muslim, I felt a strong need for such a community.

Ted: A lot of attention at that time was focused on the perpetrators of 9/11 as representative of Islam, and we wanted to counteract that. We needed to put public faces on mutual understanding between our faiths.

FULL ARTICLE FROM YES

South Carolina interfaith group turns ignorance, hate into opportunities for connection

 

1068147_1_0827-Muslim-Americans-Praying_standardBy Isabelle Cueto The State of Columbia

 

Mayor Hardy King of Irmo, S.C., came under fire just a few months ago for anti-Islam Facebook posts. Back then, he stood by his posts but said he didn’t know much about Islam.

That was when Chaudhry Sadiq reached out to Mr. King, inviting him to an end-of-Ramadan celebration at a Columbia, S.C., mosque, Masjid Noor Ul Huda, where Mr. Sadiq is president. While there, Sadiq said he pitched the idea of hosting a “demystifying Islam” event, and King agreed.

“It was mutual. It was mutually benefiting, it was mutually rewarding,” Sadiq said in a phone interview.

The event, “Demystifying Islam: Understanding Your Muslim Neighbors,” will fill part of the Irmo Town Hall with a library of resources on Aug. 30 for locals to learn about Muslim traditions. Books such as the Quran and other literature on the contributions of Muslims to society will be on display, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A session.

“I hope that people that come will come with the open heart and open mind to understand,” King said. “I hope they’ll go, ‘Oh, OK, I didn’t know that,’ because I didn’t know that.”

Sadiq is president of the Peace and Integration Council of North America, which is a young national interfaith organization based in Columbia. He said what started as a sour situation that drew much attention and backlash was, in his eyes, a great opportunity.

“God has mysterious ways of bringing people together,” Sadiq said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR 

Interfaith Dialogue – What Mary means to Christians and Muslims

img_0029Interfaith Dialogue is an opportunity to gather with people from other faiths and learn from each other on a specific topic. Four speakers from Muslim and Christian traditions spoke about the recognition of Mary and what their holy books say about her.

The night began with a Welcome to Country, and interfaith prayer for peace and verses sung from Chapter Three of the Muslim Quran:

  1. God chose Adam, and Noah, and the family of Abraham, and the family of Imran, over all mankind.
  2. Offspring one of the other. God is Hearer and Knower.
  3. The wife of Imran said, “My Lord, I have vowed to You what is in my womb, dedicated, so accept from me; You are the Hearer and Knower.”
  4. And when she delivered her, she said, “My Lord, I have delivered a female,” and God was well aware of what she has delivered, “and the male is not like the female, and I have named her Mary, and have commended her and her descendants to Your protection, from Satan the outcast.”
  5. Her Lord accepted her with a gracious reception, and brought her a beautiful upbringing, and entrusted her to the care of Zechariah. Whenever Zechariah entered upon her in the sanctuary, he found her with provision. He said, “O Mary, where did you get this from?” She said, “It is from God; God provides to whom He wills without reckoning.”

Mary in Islamic tradition

Shaikh Mohammad Hamed from the Mayfield Mosque, began by saying: “To present Mary, we need more than one lifetime.”

In the Islamic tradition she is a perfect example of chastity, obedience, devotion and piety.

Chosen by Allah above all other women as the mother of the highly ranked prophet Jesus, she is the “Mt Everest” – model for all people to aspire to.

Mary is the only woman mentioned by name in the Quran and the only female to have a chapter of the Quran named for her. She is one of few characters whose life is written about in detail.

Muslim-Christian meeting in Taizé helps young people dialogue

Discussion began with a key question: How to engage in dialogue without renouncing the belief that one’s own religion leads to the Truth?

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Young Christians and Muslims from across France who participated in a three-day event at Taizé Ecumenical Community say they not only experienced dialogue for common good but also became aware of fundamental faith questions.

Filling three rows under a church marquee, participants addressed a series of tough questions from the organizers, including: Do you admire anything in each other’s religion? Has this diminished your commitment to your own religion?

Among those attending were Samia, a Muslim from Syria; Eglantine, Sylvain and Anne-Sophie, all French Catholics; Lydia, a German who was raised in a “strict” Protestant family; Marvin, a Muslim from Guinea; and Bart, a Pole who lives in the United Kingdom.

Their discussion began with a key question: How to engage in dialogue without renouncing the belief that one’s own religion leads to the Truth?

Each participant sought to answer to this delicate question, drawing on the comments by Auxiliary Bishop Jean-Marc Aveline of Marseille, who is president of the Council for Interreligious Dialogue of the Bishops Conference of France (CEF).

“If I claim to have the truth, it implies that I have had a good look around,” Bishop Aveline said. “Thus, I think that God enables me to discover the faith a little more deeply through others.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM INTERNATIONAL LACROIX 

With A Passion For Interfaith Dialogue And Diversity, Joel N. Lohr Takes Over At Hartford Seminary

Joel N. Lohr, the new president of Hartford Seminary who arrived in the West End earlier this month from California, is poised to transform the small nondenominational graduate school into a more prominent trailblazer for Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations.

“My hope is to continue to raise the profile of the institution, locally here in Hartford, but also nationally and globally,” Lohr said. “I’m just delighted to be here.”

Lohr, 43, called the historic seminary a small microcosm of global life, teeming with diverse perspectives that have long stirred his passion for interreligious dialogue.

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He smiles in recounting Hartford Seminary’s storied past dating to 1834 — the first seminary in the country to admit women, to create an accredited Islamic chaplaincy program, to establish a center devoted to the study of Christian-Muslim relations. Today, the seminary has about 200 students, alongside 17 core faculty members and associates.

Lohr, who is 6 feet 8 inches tall, tucks one leg beneath the other while sitting in the seminary’s library, which recently acquired his 10 published books.

FULL ARTICLE FROM COURANT 

5 things Christians and Muslims can agree on

20170921T1318-11715-CNS-POPE-MUSLIM_800-690x450At Acton University, Turkish Islamic scholar, Mustafa Akyol, gave multiple lectures on Islam, discussing topics ranging from its history to its controversial practices. Akyol has been speaking at Acton University for many years now and is a respected scholar in fields of Islam, politics, and Turkish affairs. He is a critic of Islamic extremism and the author of the influential book Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty.

After attending both of Akyol’s lectures, a few points stood out to me. He mentioned a few concepts in Islam also emphasized in Christianity, which often go unnoticed.

While there are undeniably a great number of fundamental differences between Islam and Christianity, there are a handful of concepts the two popular religions share.

1. Almsgiving

To both Muslims and Christians, caring for the poor is a duty bestowed upon believers. Both faiths stress the importance of donating to, praying for and protecting the needy. Furthermore, in both Islam and Christianity, it is made clear that giving alms in private is favorable in the eyes of God, as opposed to donations made in an attempt to receive praise and acknowledgement. Islam emphasizes the importance of zakatZakat is one of the five pillars of Islam, and refers to the requirement of believers to give offerings to the needy. The amount is not clear, but in general practice, one gives 2.5 percent of one’s wealth, according to Akyol. Similarly, in the Christian tradition, God commands each Christian to donate 10 percent of his or her earnings to the church, called tithes, which are used to provide for the poor.

[Al-Baqarah, 2:215] “Whatever of your wealth you spend, shall (first) be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof”

[Proverbs 19:17] “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM ACTION INSTITUTE POWERBLOG