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 

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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Baccalaureate service: An interfaith celebration of diversity

bacc640Northwestern’s 161st annual Baccalaureate Service kicked off Thursday (June 20) with majestic music and a call to prayer from different faiths, giving graduating seniors, their parents and guests a time to reflect on the eve of Commencement.

The interfaith celebration of diversity included the sounds of a Tibetan singing bowl humming for several minutes as members of three other faiths took turns interjecting the sounds of their own religious traditions: Christian church chimes, a Muslim call to prayer and the Jewish shofar.

President Morton Schapiro, dressed in his purple regalia, welcomed some 600 guests in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, praising the power of the interfaith assembly and observing, “How beautiful is it to celebrate in one space the world’s greatest religions?”

The annual service welcomes all members of the University community, honoring multiple faith traditions. Above the stage hung seven flags representing Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism and the Baha’i faith — some of the many faiths represented on campus. An eighth flag had a Northwestern ‘N.’

The President noted that other “secular” Universities are sometimes known to avoid faith, but “at Northwestern, we interpret secular as meaning welcoming all religions equally, too, and watching these religious traditions thrive here.”

President Schapiro evoked a passage from the Book of Genesis, Chapter 23, “The Death of Sarah,” and he spoke of her age, recorded in the Bible to be 127 years at her passing. He talked about teaching his students how a life can be broken down into stages at which people learn different things. As they get older, they incorporate the knowledge gained from each of those stages, he said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NORTHWESTERN.EDU

How Jews, Christians and Muslims Disagree on Medical Ethics

Rabbi-Neril-and-Archbishop-PizzaballaEight Orthodox rabbis, two Catholic priests, one Sunni Muslim imam (religious leader in a mosque) and a Sunni Muslim kadi (religious judge) were asked to comment on four hypothetical questions on medical ethics.

Two pediatrician neonatologists (specialists in newborns Prof. Michael Schimmel and Prof. Francis Mimouni), one pediatric neurologist and Israel Prize-winning expert on Jewish medical ethics (Prof. Avraham Steinberg) and a professor at the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine (Dr.  Moshe Kasirer) presented the clergymen with a questionnaire related to four simulated cases – Case 1, a non-viable, extremely premature infant; Case 2, a severely asphyxiated full-term infant with extensive brain damage; Case 3, a small pre-term infant with severe brain hemorrhage and likely extensive brain damage; and Case 4,  a full-term infant with Down syndrome and a severe heart malfunction. All were asked to present the approach of their religious/ethical approach.

Their answers in the latest issue of the Israel Medical Association Journal (IMAJ) showed major differences among the three religious opinions in the definition of viability and in their approaches to quality of life. The aim of the study was to describe the attitudes of the three major monotheistic religions when encountering four complex neonatal situations.

Israel’s population consists of 75.6% Jews, 20.6% Muslim Arabs, 4.2% Christian Arabs or others. It is “diverse, with people of different religions, many of whom seek spiritual guidance during ethical dilemmas,” wrote the authors. “It is paramount for healthcare providers to be familiar with different religious approaches. Neonatologists must be sensitive to culture and religious when dealing with major ethical issues in the neonatal intensive care unit.”

Looking at Case 1, one of the two Catholic priests said that the case includes a premature delivery and not an abortion. From a Catholic Christian viewpoint, the important decisionmakers must be the family together with the local priest of the family’s church. “The issues at stake include the fate of the child in a holy world and issues of human dignity. Since we must rely on the medical team’s experience and expertise, and since they state that there are no survivors in the current medical settings, we advise that only comfort care be provided to this dying patient. After death, the baby should be baptized and buried according to Christian customs,” he wrote.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BREAKING ISRAEL NEWS 

An open letter to Christians and Muslims – Bishop Mario Grech (Malta)

Mary is ‘common heritage’ of Christians and Muslims

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As time goes by we are progressively seeing an ever increasing number of foreigners living and working among us. It would be silly of us to think of them as a threat or as a purely economic resource.

It is a real pity that there are those among us who are tempted to regard them as some kind of inferior class of people and so they despise them even with violent acts or they take advantage of their vulnerability.

This is the case when they are exploited by being made to work for a pittance without the benefit of social security as required by law, or when they are offered shelter at rental rates far higher than is normally the case.

Their presence among us does not constitute simply a social and cultural challenge, but it has also a religious dimension. Indeed among these foreigners there is a sizeable presence of Muslims, both those coming from African countries and those from Eastern Europe.

Given the context of interreligious dialogue, I feel that at this moment of our history, characterised by the phenomenon of migration, it cannot be that God’s Spirit is not telling our Church anything. This dialogue helps to achieve a certain social harmony. When one considers the lack of accurate knowledge about Islam and the prejudice against it, one sees the need to dialogue with the Muslim world without denying anything of our Christian identity.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE TIMES OF MALTA