With interfaith exhibit, Boston’s Abrahamic faith groups revisit their shared roots

Sinan-Hussein-Welcoming-the-StrangerBOSTON (RNS) — Just over a year ago, the day after the deadly mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, more than a thousand locals gathered together on the Boston Common to mourn and pray.

As the Rev. Amy McCreath, dean of the historic St. Paul Cathedral that overlooks America’s oldest park, watched people of various faiths unite once again to mourn another national tragedy, she was hit with an emotional realization.

“I looked out over the crowds of people, and it was so clear that all of them really want a peaceful future,” she remembered. “We want to work together against violence, but we don’t even know each other. Unfortunately, the odds are good that something like that will happen again, and we need to be prepared to support one another and defend one another.”

That’s part of the reason the Episcopal cathedral agreed to host a new interfaith art exhibit that explores the faith and life of Abraham, the shared spiritual forefather of the world’s three largest monotheistic religions — and launched an accompanying interfaith book study to spotlight Abraham’s wives, Sarah and Hagar.

The two-year touring exhibition “Abraham: Out of One, Many,” is curated by the Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler of Caravan, an international art non-profit affiliated with the Episcopal Church. After premiering in Rome in May, the show began a 20-month U.S. tour at Nebraska’s Tri-Faith Initiative this fall.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE 

Boston cathedral’s call to be a ‘house of prayer’ extends to Muslims’ Friday prayers

ens_102519_FridayPrayer_main-768x576Episcopal News Service – Boston] Ayman Bassyouni arrives early at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul around noon each Friday to lay 15 rows of silk prayer rugs end to end on the sanctuary’s floor.

An Egyptian, Bassyouni regularly attends jumah, or Friday prayers, at the Episcopal cathedral. He is one of a few hundred men and a handful of women – mostly immigrants from North Africa, South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and the Balkans – who pray there together.

In Islam, Friday is considered the sacred day of worship; ordinarily, Muslims pray five times a day, but on Friday, males are obliged to pray in congregation at midday.

The cathedral’s longstanding welcome of the Muslim community is one way it lives into its mission to be “a house of prayer for all people.” In the United States, where religious literacy is in decline but religion plays an increasing role in the cultural narrative, interfaith relationships build tolerance.

Beginning on Sunday, in a partnership with Boston’s Jewish and Muslim communities, St. Paul’s will host “ABRAHAM: Out of One, Many.” Presented by CARAVAN, the Oct. 27-Dec. 6 exhibit explores the concept of living harmoniously through artists’ paintings interpreting Abraham’s life and faith journey.

“Many people struggle to really understand their own tradition, let alone other people’s tradition; and my experience has been that when you’re in conversation with people of a different tradition, it causes you to learn more about your own tradition too,” said the Very Rev. Amy McCreath, dean of the cathedral, about the exhibit in a parish newsletter. “It feels to me really, really important right now that we understand our tradition and how it’s connected both to Judaism and Islam, and that we counter that sectarianism and that violence, both intellectually by knowing the history, [as well as through] building relationships with real people in real time

FULL ARTICLE FROM EPISCOPAL NEWS SERVICE

Film highlighting interfaith prayer at the U.S.-Mexico border set for release

san diegoOn the last Sunday of every month, the Muslim call to prayer sounds across the U.S.-Mexico border. A Christian service also begins, as a sermon is delivered.

These are the shots captured in the short film, “A Prayer Beyond Borders”, produced by the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) California, MoveOn and Beyond Border Studios.

Members of the Christian and Muslim community in San Diego and Tijuana gather at both sides of Friendship Park to pray, listen to sermons and congregate. Gathering at the space is a way to show support to separated families at the border, according to a statement from CAIR San Diego.

The film, which will be officially launched on Oct.7, was months in the making. The Border Church, founded by Rev. John Fanestil, has been holding prayer services at Friendship Park since 2008. They were approached by some of the city’s Muslim community, now dubbed “The Border Mosque”, around six months ago. A collaboration soon sprung up.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUTE 

Extremists Won’t Hinder Interfaith Dialogue

shutterstock_560746489-1In this edition of The Interview, Fair Observer talks to Leonard Swidler, professor of Catholic thought and interreligious dialogue at Temple University, Philadelphia.

Interfaith dialogue is a necessity in our age. In a world suffering from armed conflicts, diplomatic standoffs and trade wars, cooperative and constructive interaction between people of different religious traditions is fundamental to solidifying peace and stability, and stemming racism, xenophobia, radicalization, violent extremism and terrorism.

Interreligious dialogue is about encounters — it drives respect, mutual understanding and appreciation for common values. Interfaith dialogue helps debunk the myths and eradicate the stereotypes about religion that politicians abuse to further their (often populist) agendas.

The 1893 Parliament of World Religions at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, is often referred to as the birth of the modern interfaith movement, even though interfaith dialogue has ancient roots. There have been notable examples of collaboration between the devotees of different religions in the far past. In the 16th century, the emperor Akbar the Great encouraged tolerance in Mughal India where people of various faith backgrounds, including Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Christianity, lived.

It’s also narrated in the Bible that Cyrus the Great, the king of Persia, allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and ordered a temple to be built in Jerusalem upon a decree from God in the first year of his reign. It is for this reason that Cyrus is talked of favorably in the Bible and loved by the Jews.

While such plagues as Islamophobia and anti-Semitism continue to spread intolerance and mar relations between Muslims, Jews and Christians, faith leaders have a crucial responsibility to preach engagement, interaction and peaceful dialogue among their followers to prevent these social gaps from widening further.

Leonard Swidler is professor of Catholic thought and interreligious dialogue at Temple University, Philadelphia. He is the co-founder and director of Global Dialogue Institute and is a major figure in the scholarly study of interfaith dialogue. In this edition of The Interview, Fair Observer talks to Swidler about interreligious dialogue and the major obstacles blocking successful cooperation between the leaders and adherents of the world’s many faiths.

The text has been lightly edited for clarity.

Kourosh Ziabari: What are the prerequisites of successful interfaith dialogue? What should be done before religious leaders sit together to discuss their differences and shared values?

Leonard Swidler: The essence of interreligious dialogue is to learn from the dialogue partner so we can grow — and a growth of knowledge, no matter how slight, is a growth in me, and hence a change in me. My dialogue partner is not me, and so necessarily sees reality from his or her family, gender, wealth and religious perspective, which will be the same or similar to mine, and necessarily different from mine. That combination of the livening person is what I want to learn about in dialogue so I can live more fully on the basis of the always expanding, deepening understanding of reality. In brief, as in a mantra I composed, “Nobody knows everything about anything — therefore, dialogue!”

FULL ARTICLE FROM FAIROBSERVER.COM

Ancient agreements guarantee tolerance among Muslims, Christians

Note:  This post is from March.  What it underscores, however, is timely. 

ows_155200276897596Rep. Ilhan Omar’s views on American Jews and their support for the nation of Israel sadly contribute to a major misunderstanding of the Muslim faith for many Americans. She has been condemned for not putting behind her a deep-seated anti-Semitism.

Calls for Democrats and Republicans to condemn Omar in the House of Representatives confirmed what many non-Muslim Minnesotans suspect: that somewhere in the Islamic faith is persistent intolerance and prejudice.

Such suspicions of Islam as a wayward Abrahamic faith are, we believe, wrong. It is important to note that the prophet Mohammed professed respect for Christians and promised to protect their churches, bishops and priests, pilgrims, and values.

We have with us today texts of six covenants made by the prophet with Christian communities of his day.

Under the terms of these covenants, the Muslim community may not impose Shari’a obligations on Christians. Christian churches are to be protected and rebuilt if damaged; Christian pilgrims are not to be harmed. Christians will not be drafted to fight in Muslim wars or pay taxes levied on Muslims.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE 

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

Peacebuilding1 770LAGOS, NIGERIA — When 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.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER 

Interfaith marriages still a rarity in the Muslim world

Despite belonging to different religions, a Lebanese couple has tied the knot and shared their elaborate wedding video online. It sends a strong message celebrating their shared “humanist values and mutual respect.”

    
Interfaith marriage between a Muslim woman (Serena Mamlouk) and Christian man (Anthony Aour) (privat)

Wedding bells mixed in with traditional Arabic vocal music, a bride striding across a catwalk to meet her husband-to-be — Lebanese Instagram model Serena Mamlouk and her groom, Anthony Aour, staged their wedding like a fashion show. Their slick five-minute online video, shot from various angles, features elaborate lighting, female dancers, and a crowd on either side of the catwalk.

The stylishly produced wedding video makes a political as well as cultural statement, because Mamlouk is Muslim and Aour is Christian. Interfaith marriages like theirs are still a rarity in Lebanon and the rest of the Muslim world today. Which is why the couple first had a civil marriage in Cyprus, as they would have been unable to tie the knot in Lebanon, where marriages fall under religious law.

Their spectacular wedding video was celebrated by many on social media. One YouTube viewer wrote that it blurs the lines between religions, which is to be welcomed as we are all just humans. Another wished the couple a great future, and a third god’s blessing.