Egyptian Christians, Muslims share Ramadan meals despite Islamist violence

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CAIRO (Reuters) – In a display of communal solidarity defying the sectarian violence of Islamist militants, Egyptian Christians in Cairo organize daily meals for Muslim neighbors who must fast from dawn to dusk during their holy month of Ramadan.

Such intercommunal meals are held every year in Egypt, whose Copts are the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they took on more resonance this year after a spate of Islamic State attacks on Copts meant to stoke sectarian divisions.

Dawoud Riyad, a middle-aged Christian man, set up tables in a street near his Cairo home last week, serving free home-cooked meals to hungry passersby when it was time for them to break their fast for the Iftar evening meal.

“They invited me and my kids, and I was surprised. They laid the table out on the street with no difference between sheikhs, Christians or Muslims – they pulled everyone to the table to break their fast,” said Tarek Ali, a Muslim resident.

Several Christian families in Riyad’s area pitch in daily to provide the food and drink in what he calls an effort to unite people of different faiths during a holy time of year. Copts make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 92 million people.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BUSINESS INSIDER 

Jews, Christians and Muslims make holy ground in America’s heartland

170616134549-03-tri-faith-initiative-exlarge-169Omaha, Nebraska (CNN) When most people think of Omaha, they imagine sizzling steaks, billionaire Warren Buffet or even former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning calling out before the snap. (Remember “Omaha-Omaha”?).

But if a group of clergymen have their way, Nebraska’s largest city will soon also be known as the home of interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding.

A rabbi, a reverend and an imam (no, it’s not a setup joke) are partners in a decadelong quest to bring together the three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — to share and worship on the same property.

It’s called Tri-Faith Initiative.

The $65 million project, launched in 2006 and funded through donations, may be the first time in US history that the three faiths intentionally build their houses of worship side by side.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CNN

Terrorists will not divide us, religious leaders pledge after London attack

londonIF THE terror attack in central London on Saturday night leads to a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment, the terrorists will have won, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

“Every time a Muslims is abused on a bus or a mosque is attacked, the terrorists have taken another step forward,” Archbishop Welby said on Monday morning.

“If we attack or persecute a particular group of people on the grounds of their faith alone, the terrorists will give three cheers and say: ‘Thank you, you have done our work for us.’”

Archbishop Welby gave his warning during an interview on BBC Radio 4. He also said, however, that it was impossible to deny the connection between Islam and the massacre on Saturday evening, where three men armed with knives killed seven and injured 48 more on London Bridge and in Borough Market.

Stating that Islamist-inspired terrorism had nothing to do with Islam made as little sense as suggesting the Srebrenica atrocity during the Balkan Wars had nothing to do with Christianity, Archbishop Welby said.

“Throughout history, religious tradition and scriptures have been twisted and misused by people. If something is happening within our own faith tradition, we have to take responsibility for being very, very clear in countering it.”

But it was striking how quickly every major Muslim leader and organisation had spoken out in horror at the attack, Archbishop Welby also said. And while it was natural to be concerned about relations between faith groups after a terror attack, everyone could see London’s “extraordinary cohesion”.

“There isn’t a fundamental problem with cohesion. The vast majority of Muslims and everyone else have a single view about what kind of country they want to live in.”

The three attackers, who have yet to be named by police, are thought to have been inspired by Islamic State, which has released a statement claiming that they were its fighters. Officers investigating the attack have arrested 12 people and are searching homes in East London.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHURCH TIMES (UK)

Beyond Tolerance: Honoring the Call to Love our Neighbors

Masjid-Al-Madina-750x400Last week, members of the church where I serve in Springfield, Ohio, were graciously invited to attend a service at Masjid Al-Madina, a mosque that I have probably driven past at least a 1,000 times.

Each time I previously drove past the mosque, in the recesses of my mind, I thought, “They are in their world, I am in mine, and we have nothing in common.” It never crossed my mind that the mosque would be a place where friendships could form.

I had no idea what to expect. Inaccurate stereotypes had led me to believe that Muslims were reserved, distrustful, unfriendly, and completely uninterested in my Christian faith. To my shame, I believed these stereotypes to be true…until last week.

Prior to the events leading up to last Friday, I did not know a single Muslim with whom I could have a cup of coffee or tea and share a good story. In fact, I had never had a casual conversation with a person of Muslim faith. Never.

All of that changed dramatically for me over the last three days.

About 50 people from my church, male and female, young and old, were warmly welcomed to Al Madina Mosque for a Friday afternoon prayer service designed to help educate non-Muslims about their faith. Imam Yunus Lasania, his wife Zarina, and so many others (too many to name) extended a warm welcome. In fact, it was one of the warmest and most gracious welcomes I have ever received. They invited us back for dinner that night.

Instead of being reserved, they exuberantly welcomed us with open arms. Instead of being distrustful, they went out of their way to answer any question that we had, even hard ones about things like jihad and Sharia law. The Imam told self-deprecating jokes to put us at ease. They asked honest, deep questions about my Christian faith, and I realized that in many cases my faith was as mysterious to them as there’s was to me. We discovered areas of commonality, and we talked candidly of deep and significant differences. It was perhaps the most natural and easy conversation about Christianity that I have ever had with people who embraced a faith other than my own.

Yunus pointed out verses in the Quran that talk about the Muslim duty to protect the Christians and Jews who live in their midst. These verses come from the Ashtiname of Muhammad, a covenant signed by the Prophet Muhammad to protect Christians and Jews until the end of time. When Imam Yunus addressed members of his own congregation, he gave historical examples of times when Christians extended hospitality and protection to Muslims.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RED LETTER CHRISTIANS 

Muslims and Jews Break Bread, and Build Bonds

13DINNERS-2-superJumboFlorence Nasar kept checking her phone. She was at an interfaith dinner last Sunday aimed at building friendships between New York Jews and Muslims, and the guests, all in their 20s and early 30s, sat on couches around her, sharing stories about their religious practices, their pasts and their quests to define who they are.

Ms. Nasar, a Syrian Jew, was actually living those themes. Her secret Muslim boyfriend was on his way.

She had not told her family about him, she explained to the other guests, because in the insular community in New Jersey where she was raised, intermarriage is forbidden. But Ms. Nasar, 27, an artist and a dancer, no longer lived at home.

She has recently been hosting interfaith events between Syrian Jews and Syrian Muslim refugees, eager to explore their shared heritage. Out of her own interest in understanding people, she had met someone.

 Ms. Nasar was one of about 100 guests at a series of intimate Jewish-Muslim dinners that took place last weekend around Manhattan and Brooklyn to build interfaith understanding. Lonnie Firestone, a modern Orthodox Jew and freelance writer from Brooklyn, came up with the idea for dinners after President Trump’s victory. She wanted to bring Muslims and Jews together in a spirit of friendship, so they could work together against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

Peace will require leaders, Christian and Muslim, to address real grievances

Afghans perform prayers at the funeral for the victims killed by an air strike called in to protect Afghan and U.S. forces during a raid on suspected Taliban militants, in Kunduz(RNS) We are living through dangerous times. Christians and Muslims cannot afford more misunderstanding.

The challenges our world is facing are profound: The U.S. has forces engaged in armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, among other places. We have global poverty and starvation, threatening several places such as Yemen and East Africa.

The more wars the U.S. is fighting in Muslim lands, the more grievances Muslims will have. You would think that after decades of fighting these unwinnable wars we would have learned that negotiations will bring better results. But no, we are still expanding our engagement; it seems war is our default position.

In the meantime, organizations with warped ideas about Islam, like ISIS, keep finding new recruits as long as they can claim that Islam is under attack from the U.S. and its allies and that the future of Islam is in grave danger.

Intellectuals of goodwill, both Christian and Muslim, thought peace would begin if we could only identify convincing common ground for adherents of the two religions. They launched the Common Word Initiative. But this was not enough.

People on both sides have grievances and they need to feel their grievances are recognized and properly addressed.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS

Interfaith Friendship Will Save the World

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My Friend Sheima

The first face of Islam I ever encountered belonged to a smiling 11-year-old girl who kindly gestured for me to sit next to her on the bus that would take us both to our first day of middle school. I was shy and introverted, but I had been nervously excited to begin a new chapter of my life with all the thrills middle school had to offer – changing classrooms, having my own locker, no longer being just a “little kid” in elementary school. All of my eager anticipation was nearly crushed before the day even began, as many kids on the bus greeted me by making fun of the new perm I had been so eager to show off. But this one girl reached out to me in kindness, and I felt a rush of relief in the midst of my embarrassment as I sat down next to her. We gradually became good friends. Over the years, Sheima would become a sister to me, one of the first people who helped me see the beauty in God and humanity… and the potential within myself.

When we first met, I did not know anything about her religion. But as time went on, I realized that her faith had compelled her thoughtfulness in our first encounter. It is not that she felt obligated by her religion to reach out to me. Rather, in knowing God to be gracious and merciful, in learning from her faith the values of empathy and compassion, her natural inclination toward me and everyone else was one of love. Her love mirrored the love of God to which she opened herself multiple times a day in her prayers and meditations, and love from and for God shaped her understanding of the world.

This is the Islam I first encountered, manifested in one of the best friends I have ever had. Her family welcomed me into their home and hearts as well, and through them I learned not only the doctrines of Islam, but the values of Islam embodied in Muslims who take their faith seriously – values of hospitality, compassion, tolerance, patience, generosity and love.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS