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

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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 

Women’s interfaith network builds bridges amid Nigeria’s violence, Muslim and Christian mistrust

Peacebuilding1 cWhen Fatima Isiaka, a religious Muslim teacher, asked the cab driver to drop her off at St. Kizito Catholic Church in Abuja, the driver thought she was lost. “The cab man that took me to the church, a Muslim, was surprised to see me enter a church,” Isiaka recalled of the summer 2014 meeting. “He told me, ‘This is a church!’ I said, ‘Yes, I know.’ ”

Isiaka was part of innovative effort to bring Christian and Muslim women together in hopes of fostering religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence. The Women of Faith Peacebuilding Network was first started in 2011by Sr. Agatha Ogochukwu Chikelue, of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy congregation, and local Muslim businesswoman Maryam Dada Ibrahim.

Isiaka, an observant Muslim who wears a grey jilbab, a long head covering and robe, the traditional dress of some Nigerian Muslim women, is a respected Muslim leader in Abuja. Today, she serves as deputy director in the network’s Abuja branch.

She looks back fondly on her time at the St. Kizito Catholic Church. “It was an amazing experience and I loved every bit of my stay there,” said Isiaka. “In fact, I found a place in the church where I performed ablution [ritual washing before Muslims prayer], to set up my mat and pray.”

Since the group started in 2011, the Women of Faith Peacebuilding Network’s activities have reached more than 10,000 Muslim and Christian women across the country through seminars, meditations, presentations by religious leaders, and dialogue.

The peacebuilding network also offers vocational training in catering, bead making, fashion design, and soap production to a smaller group of women who participate in the annual 21-day seminar. “The empowerment [training] serves as bait to lure more women to the network so that they’ll learn peaceful coexistence,” said Isiaka. The Swiss Embassy provided seed money to get the vocational training started in 2014. Cardinal John Onaiyekan’s Foundation For Peace (COFP), an organization working for peace in northern Nigeria, has sponsored the vocational training in subsequent years.

FULL ARTICLE FROM GLOBAL SISTERS REPORT 

Waco mosque gets hate mail with ironic stamp in response to interfaith dinner

19225281_566454596858491_8243670641069761336_nThe Islamic Center of Waco on Tuesday said it received hate mail accusing Muslims of preying on and killing people after the organization hosted an interfaith dinner to celebrate the holy Islamic month of Ramadan.

The mosque posted a photo of the letter, complete with a “love” stamp on the front, on Facebook and countered its accusations.

“We pray for this individual to cleanse the hatred in their heart for a people whom they refuse to even meet with,” the Islamic center said in the post. “What an eternal suffering it must be to live your life in fear and hate of a group of people you don’t even know.”

The sender tore a brief article from the Waco Tribune-Herald about an upcoming interfaith dinner at the mosque, where anyone from the community could join Muslims as they broke their fast during Ramadan, the sacred month of self-improvement.
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