Interfaith encounter at a mosque

bait-ul-futuh_mosque_in_londonIt started with our own curiosity. Every year at my church, St. Martin-in-the-Fields in central London, we have a fall lecture series. A parade of speakers, panels, and dialogues explores what we take to be the most pressing issues of our time. For the last few years, with series themes such as “Who is my neighbor?” and “Reformation,” we’ve felt the need to include a Muslim perspective. The great thing about inviting a speaker from a different social location is that it can draw in people who share that identity, and so we started to find a number of Muslims coming not just to the lectures given by a Muslim but to the other lectures as well.

And so it was that an invitation came for me to return the favor. A mosque in South London asked me to come and speak. We had decided our fall series theme for this year would be “Encounter,” and we had asked the usual pageant of distinguished speakers to come to St. Martin’s. But this year there was also something different: an opportunity to go to a mosque to­gether and not just talk about an encounter but actually have one.

“It’s the mosque,” he replied.

“But it’s huge,” I gasped.

“Oh yes, it’s the largest mosque in Western Europe. They get 14,000 people here for Eid and several thousand every Friday.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN CENTURY 

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Mitzvah Day: Jews and Muslims come together to cook chicken soup

Traditional Jewish dish is prepared at East London mosque on day of social action.

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 Jewish and Muslim volunteers prepare the soup for distribution to homeless centres. Photograph: Yakir Zur

It is a beloved Jewish dish, served at Shabbat dinners to family and friends and reputed to have powerful medicinal properties. It is not normally cooked or served in a mosque.

But on Sunday, vast quantities of chicken soup – often known as “Jewish penicillin” – were being made at the East London mosque by Jewish and Muslim volunteers to be distributed to homeless centres.

Mounds of carrots, garlic, onions and celery were peeled and chopped on long benches by Muslim scouts, volunteers from Muslim Aid, members of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organisation and the New Stoke Newington Shul.

Tahir Iqbal, events director of Elite Caterers, was in charge of preparing 90 halal chickens for the pot. His company, which caters for Asian weddings and corporate events, donated the ingredients, equipment and transport for the cookathon.

“This is a new experience for us. I’ve never made Jewish chicken soup before, but I’ve been practising for two weeks, including on my family,” he said. The nearest Asian equivalent was chicken yakhni, a spicy broth, he added.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN (UK)

I am better for having the Jewish friends I have made since moving to Texas from the Middle East

fbd1ad48522fa7e93f1e54649736c224I migrated to America from the Middle East more than 26 years ago. A Muslim woman by birth, I became American by choice. Having been raised in a culture dominated by political conflicts between Arabs and Jews, I never imagined back then that one day I would actually have a comfortable dialog with a Jewish person, and I certainly never expected to become friends with one. The mercy and grace of God had a different plan for me, one that helped me grow as a person, a citizen, as well as a believer.

My first encounter with a Jewish person started through a Texas based interfaith group, Daughters of Abraham, where women from the three Abrahamic faiths (Jewish, Christian and Muslim) come together. We meet monthly while alternating among our three places of worship. We drink coffee and hot tea and eat lots of snacks while having a dialog about our shared spiritual heritages and experiences. This fills our spirits with love and gratitude.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DALLAS NEWS

Interfaith dialogue really is relational, accessible

There is a particular urgency for Catholics to become participants in dialogue with Muslims

FINDING JESUS AMONG MUSLIMS: HOW LOVING ISLAM MAKES ME A BETTER CATHOLIC
By Jordan Denari Duffner
162 pages; Published by Liturgical Press
$19.95

Earlier this year while on a train in Europe, I sat down across from an Arabic-looking man who began reading the Quran. My immediate first reaction was apprehension and fear. My immediate second reaction was to check my implicit yet real bias for what it was, Islamophobia.

Most striking to me was this incident happened just a few days after I had finished a book on Muslim-Christian relations that addressed these implicit biases to which Catholics like myself are prone. It is precisely because these biases are so ingrained and because Islamophobia is on the rise that Finding Jesus Among Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic by Jordan Denari Duffner is such an important and timely resource.

Written primarily for a Catholic audience, the book explores present relations between Christianity and Islam. It does so, however, through the lens of Duffner’s lived experiences with Muslims and the ways in which encountering Islam has helped her find Jesus anew. She never intends the book to be a comprehensive analysis or work of systematic theology. Rather, in her words, Finding Jesus Among Muslims should act as a “facilitator of dialogue.” The book raises more questions than it answers, encouraging readers to go forth and learn more. The author’s rich commitment to Muslims and demonstrated courage in entering vulnerable, liminal spaces inspire readers to become active participants in dialogue.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NCRONLINE.COM

Thanksgiving provides opportunity to celebrate ‘collectively’

Screen-Shot-2018-11-14-at-11.26.28-AMInterfaith partnerships are emerging in nearly every community. The Treasure Coast isn’t behind in celebrating such religious pluralism.

Thanksgiving is one occasion to express this harmony. In the Community Church in Vero Beach, Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus unite annually for a joint service. This year, the Faith Congregational Church in Port St. Lucie will also host a similar gathering.

One year, Sana Shareef, a St. Edwards High senior, joined me. She played “Amazing Grace” on her clarinet. Imagine a young Muslim girl, her head covered, playing a Christian hymn. Senior Minister, Rev. Bob Baggott, to this day recalls that moment.

“That wrapped the gathering in a beauty only music can,” he said. “That shared moment lifted our souls, calming our minds, believing in peace.”

The following year, Sana joined Rabbi Bruce Benson at the Temple Beth El Israel in Port St. Lucie. He fondly remembers: “The joy of adding her musical skills to my song I had written added more than just words could.”

In July 2018, Pew Research reported: “The U.S. remains a robustly religious country and the most devout of all the Western democracies. In fact, Americans pray more often, are more likely to attend weekly religious services and ascribe higher importance to faith in their lives than adults in other wealthy nations. For instance, more than half of American adults (55 percent) say they pray daily, compared with 25 percent in Canada, 18 percent in Australia and 6 percent in Great Britain.”

Our inter-religious cooperation makes America stronger and our nation a beacon to the world. Religion remains a potent force for good — or for political conflict. Community by community, we must decide which path we take. A resilient community, overcoming the divisive and charged politics of the day, manifests itself in many of our synagogues, churches and mosques.

FULL ARTICLE FROM TCPALM.COM

21 faith leaders for the 21st century – #Interfaith21

Dr_NAv7W4AAwbFm-1024x640Young Christians, Muslims and Jews at the forefront of interfaith cooperation in the UK are honoured today in a unique collaboration between media outlets from the three faiths.

British Muslim TVChurch Times and Jewish News, together with Coexist House, joined forces for the 21 for 21 project to identify inspiring individuals aged under 40 who are increasing dialogue and breaking down barriers – particularly as volunteers but also in their working lives.

 

It is believed this is the first time media outlets from different faiths have cooperated in such a way anywhere in the world. Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said: “At a time of concerns about antisemitism and Islamophobia, this initiative between media outlets of different faiths is more important than ever.

Despite the challenges, we have much to be proud of when it comes to the depth and breadth of interfaith cooperation in this country.  It is right we should celebrate those leading the way now and in the future.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM JEWISH NEWS (UK)

Muslim, Christian leaders share story of interfaith friendship

At the back of a banquet hall in New Hope Presbyterian Church beneath an illuminated stained-glass window, Dr. Bashar A. Shala brought his hands together in prayer, looked to the ceiling, spoke quietly and then knelt, bringing his head fully to the floor.

Shala recited in Arabic a verse from the Quran and then translated to a room of bowed heads. Pastor Steven Stone followed him with a Christian prayer, asking God to bless those gathered.

Shala, president of the Memphis Islamic Center in Tennesseee, and Stone, senior pastor of the Christian Heartstrong Church, also of Memphis, led the Castle Rock churchgoers in prayer during a lunchtime gathering following New Hope’s usual Oct. 14 service, then took questions from congregation members.

Both men have been awarded the Freedom of Worship Award from the Roosevelt Institute, the nonprofit partner of America’s first presidential library, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum, and have been featured in national media outlets. Their mission, they said, is to encourage people throughout the U.S. to see past cultural and religious differences, to foster more curiosity between groups and diminish fear within people hesitant to build such relationships.

It’s a lesson they’ve preached for years through their own story of friendship.

Becoming, and loving, thy neighbor

Stone, Shala and their respective organizations built a national platform starting roughly nine years ago, as their relationship was first forming.

It began when Stone read a local media report about a group of Muslims who had purchased land to build an Islamic center across the street from his church, which he founded and has pastored for nearly 20 years.

Stone’s first reaction was rooted in fear and ignorance, he said. He didn’t know a single Muslim. He didn’t know if he should be concerned about another religious group so close by. So, he prayed.

Shala was among a committee and board searching for land to build a home for the Muslim community in Memphis — a place where they could worship and socialize.

“It was a post-9/11 world,” Shala said. “There were some struggles.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM HIGHLAND RANCH HERALD