Last summer, the pastor and rabbi of a church and synagogue that share a building in Denver raised their hands in blessing over the head of Araceli Velasquez and officially welcomed the undocumented immigrant and her family to take sanctuary in their house of worship.
Nearly a year on, Velasquez, her husband and three young sons are still living in the cavernous, 100-year-old building that is home to Temple Micah and Park Hill United Methodist Church.
Velasquez came to the United States to flee the gang violence she had experienced in her native El Salvador, but her asylum request was denied.
The subsequent decision to give her sanctuary is part of a groundswell of grassroots actions by Christians, Jews and Muslims seeking to protect undocumented immigrants in the United States – particularly Latinos – who are facing an unprecedented crackdown under the administration of President Donald Trump to detain and deport them.
Claremont-based Christ the King Church hosted iftar for its friends in faith on Friday 8 June.
About 50 members of the Open Mosque in Wynberg celebrated their iftar in a joint prayer moment with congregants from Christ the King Church.
Iftar marks the end of the day of fasting when Muslim families collectively enjoy the evening meal together to thank the Almighty for their blessings. It starts with the drinking of water followed by a fruit snack and sunset prayers.
Organiser Derek Hanslo says they have built relations with the mosque to extend the concept of breaking the divide, as the Bible promotes unity among faith groups of different religions.
He says although religions differ, they are most likely serving the same purpose in today’s broken world. “It is important that we come together and pray for the same purpose, building positive relations with the hope of healing and bringing people together.”
BAGHDAD — A group of Christians from Baghdad who visited the ruins of the Church of Kokheh, located 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of the Iraqi capital, were spontaneously invited by the local Muslim community for lunch after their tour.
The historical Church of Kokheh is one of the early points of departure of Christianity in the Middle East, Father Mansour al-Makhlissi, founder and head of the Center for Eastern Studies at the Roman Catholic Church in Baghdad, told the visitors as he took them around the site of the church on May 25. “It was the patriarchal residence of the Eastern Church for centuries,” he said, adding that 24 patriarchs were buried in the church built by Saint Mari in the first century.
Over the past 20 years, Christians could not visit the remnants of the church due to safety concerns, most recently due to the attacks by the Islamic State.
With the area now more secure, the Center for Eastern Studies organized the visit to the Church of Kokheh. The current al-Mada’in district was called Ctesiphon or Taysafun in ancient times, and served as the winter capital of the Parthian Empire and later of the Sasanian Empire. The area was discovered and partially excavated by the German Oriental Society in 1929.
Sadly, tensions have increased between Christians and Muslims but the truth is the two peoples and their religions could not be closer. Muslims and Christians have always gotten along and defended each other. And these days both need to stand together in the face of terrorism against civilians whether it is in New York City, in the Gaza Strip or in the Arab World. Ramadan Mubarak to all Muslims during their holy month of Ramadan
By Ray Hanania
This week as Muslims around the world celebrate the Holy Month of Ramadan, I have to wonder which religion has done more to embrace and honor the principles and beliefs of their religion, Muslims, Christians or Jews.
As a Palestinian Arab Christian, I have always been proud of my religious roots.
My father was born in Jerusalem and my mother was born in Bethlehem, two cities that are such important symbols of the Christian religion.
I grew up believing that though I am a Christian Arab, I am “Muslim by Culture,” a statement of deep respect for the powerful religious foundation of true Muslims.
Throughout the centuries, Muslims have always protected not only Christians but Jews, too. In college I studied the Ottoman Empire and the rule of the Sultans. It was always clear that the Ottoman Sultans always protected the Christians and the Jews, and that the real threat of true Christianity has come from the West where Christianity has been diluted with commercialism, xenophobia and selfish foreign politics.
The island of Djerba is just off Tunisia’s southern shore, 294km from Tripoli. Yet the peace that prevails in Djerba is as far from the mayhem of the Libyan capital as can be imagined. So is the very peaceful relationship maintained by the approximately 1,000 Jews who live there with their Muslim neighbours.
Even more unusual in a Middle East where wounded identities clash daily, often unleashing bloody mayhem, millions of refugees and failed states, the annual pilgrimage to El Ghriba involves the happy mingling of Jews and Muslims.
It was the case again this year, as citizens of Djerba came to share the celebration of the annual festival with their Jewish neighbours.
El Ghriba synagogue was, legend says, founded after the destruction of King Solomon’s temple in 586BC. It is more likely, however, that it was founded after the second destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70AD. A Jewish necropolis in Gammarth, near Carthage, attests to the presence of Jews in Tunisia half a millennium before Christ in what was then the thriving capital of a Phoenician empire which spanned the western Mediterranean. The Talmud mentions several Carthaginian rabbis.
Persecution against the Jews and other Christian minorities followed the legalisation of Christianity by the Roman Empire by the edict of Milan in 313 and Byzantine rule in North Africa in the sixth century. During the 1,400 years of Muslim rule in Tunisia and more broadly in North Africa, relations between Jews and Muslims seesawed but never were Jews treated with the callousness shown to them by European Christians in the 13th century or during the 20th century.
Members of a synagogue, mosque and church in Omaha, Nebraska, will soon be neighbors on a $65 million, 35-acre tri-faith campus in a bid to promote understanding and “a new vision of peace.”
“It’s a remarkable project, arguably the largest project in interfaith cooperation globally,” the Rev. Bud Heckman, executive director of the Tri- Faith Initiative, told the Independent Tribune this week. “It’s very bold and ambitious for the people of Omaha to think big like this and to build something on this scale.”
In 2009, Temple Israel, Countryside Community Church, and The American Muslim Institute went public with their vision to establish a joint campus at a banquet called “Dinner in Abraham’s Tent,” alluding to the connection all three faiths have with the biblical Abraham.
The vision for the initiative was sparked on 9/11, according to the Tribune, when Rabbi Aryeh Azriel of Temple Israel gathered congregants to help defend a mosque after the terrorist attack. Moved by the gesture, Muslims soon began engaging members of the synagogue at picnics and discussions. Five years later in 2006, they began privately considering building houses of worship together and find a Christian partner to help.
French cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran’s trip, the first by such a senior Catholic figure, raised hopes of more openness in the kingdom, which is home to Islam’s holiest sites but bans the practice of other faiths. It included a meeting with King Salman, his first with a Catholic official.
“I think all religions are faced with two dangers: terrorism and ignorance,” Tauran, who is head of the Vatican’s Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, told Vatican Radio.
“During my meetings, I insisted very much on this point, that Christians and non-Muslims are spoken of well in schools and that they are never considered second-class citizens,” he said.
Tauran, 75, who signed a cooperation accord with Saudi authorities, said he sensed that they wanted “to show that even in Saudi Arabia there is the possibility of discussion, and therefore of changing the country’s image”.