Does God want religious diversity? Abu Dhabi text raises questions

20190207T0836-24312-CNS-VATICAN-LETTER-DIALOGUE_800-690x450ROME – That many religions exist in the world is a fact, but what that plurality communicates to believers about God is a question that theologians are still discussing.

Pope Francis and Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar, a leading authority for many Sunni Muslims, stepped into the debate Feb. 4 when they signed a document on “human fraternity” and improving Christian-Muslim relations.

“The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in his wisdom, through which he created human beings,” the document said.

The document goes on to insist on the basic human right to freedom of religion, appealing to both Christians and Muslims not only to tolerate the religious faith of the other, but to recognize the other’s faith as something “willed by God in his wisdom.”

In other words, the message seems to be, if God “wants” religious diversity, who are human beings to be intolerant of it?

But can God really “want” a variety of religions? And is that what the statement Pope Francis signed really says?

In a post on the document, Father John Zuhlsdorf, a blogger, tried to explain things by saying that God has an “active or positive will” of what he desires and makes happen, and “a ‘permissive will’ by which he allows that things will take place that are not in accord with the order he established.”

In that case, God tolerates other religions.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUX NOW

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Catholics, Muslims bond over weekly lunch at Indianapolis deli

INDIANAPOLIS CATHOLICS MUSLIMSINDIANAPOLIS (CNS) — The openness to people of other faiths that Pope Francis modeled during his Feb. 3-5 visit to the United Arab Emirates has been embraced for more than 20 years at a weekly lunch shared by Muslims, Catholics and other Christians at Shapiro’s Delicatessen in Indianapolis.

John Welch, a longtime member of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Indianapolis, helped start the lunch meetings in 1997.

“It’s the presence of Jesus in our midst,” Welch told The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Over the years, Welch and those sharing lunch and their lives together at Shapiro’s have included members of the Italy-based Catholic lay movement Focolare, members of the Nur-Allah Islamic Center in Indianapolis, as well as Protestant clergy in the city.

Welch, 84, was honored at a recent lunch by those in attendance as he prepared to move with his wife, Mary, to Chicago to live closer to family.

He was inspired to reach out to Muslims in the Indianapolis community through his involvement in Focolare, which emphasizes building unity among people based on sharing the love of God with them.

Welch said that the members of Focolare, who are known as “Focolarini,” are called to embody in their daily lives Jesus’ teaching to love others as he loved them.

“Our vocation is that, when Jesus said, ‘Whenever two or more are united in my name’ — which means his commandment to love one another — ‘there am I present in their midst,'” Welch said. “So whether we’re a father (of a family), or a Protestant pastor, an imam, the vocation is to live such mutual love … that Jesus dwells in our midst.

“If people are touched by their exposure to us, it’s not us. It’s the presence of God in our midst that attracts them,” he added.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE 

Evolution of interfaith friendships led to powerful experience of ‘trialogue’

Interfaith6-web-696x472Elyse Goldstein, it seems, is a popular preacher at St. Anne’s Anglican Church, in central Toronto.

“My people love Elyse’s preaching,” Canon Gary van der Meer, incumbent at St. Anne’s, says with a wide grin. “Oh my goodness, if I could just have her fill in for me whenever I’m sick, the church would be full.”

You might say she’d be an unusual choice for a fill-in Anglican priest. Goldstein is in fact the founding and current rabbi of City Shul, a Reform Jewish synagogue a 45-minute walk away. Then again, you might also call van der Meer an unusual choice to preach at a synagogue. But to the congregation of City Shul, he’s become a familiar face.

“I now know people by sight who are from City Shul, and they know me—they make a mistake and call me ‘Rabbi Gary’ sometimes, and I think it’s a big compliment,” he says.

For about three years, Goldstein and van der Meer, who is also the diocese of Toronto’s interfaith officer, have been doing a preaching exchange; Goldstein has been preaching at St. Anne’s on Christmas, and van der Meer at City Shul for the Jewish holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The exchange was the natural evolution, they say, of an interfaith friendship they began more than five years ago, when van der Meer first approached Goldstein after his congregation had expressed a desire to learn more about other religions.

There are actually more than two members in this circle of spiritual friends. In early 2013, van der Meer met Ilyas Ally, the son of Shabir Ally—imam at the Islamic Information & Dawah Centre International, a nearby mosque, and former host of Let the Quran Speak, a Toronto-produced television show on Islam—and the two discovered they shared an interest in interfaith relationships.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ANGLICAN JOURNAL 

Tri-Faith Service in New York City

Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan, one of America’s oldest Protestant congregations, recently held a Tri-faith event during a Sunday worship service.  You can watch it here:

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NEW YORKFeb. 8, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Marble Church has been a pioneer in interfaith cooperation for decades. On February 3rd, as part of the United Nations’ World Interfaith Harmony Week, Senior Minister Dr. Michael Bosinvited Rabbi Rachel Ain from Sutton Place Synagogue, and Imam Khalid Latif, Executive Director and Chaplain for the Islamic Center at NYU, to talk about the future of faith and how it can work for the common good. Watch here: https://vimeo.com/315287385

The three religious leaders shared their thoughts on their own faith journeys, how religion is shaping our youth today, and what we can do to combat racism and hate in the world.

“People are seeking something. New York is a really big place where even though there are so many people you can feel alone and religion can give you that home base that so many of us need.” – Rabbi Rachel Ain

“The fundamental purpose of a house of God is that the attentiveness is not meant to be towards the house but towards God…God’s gatherings are based on principles of inclusivity, not exclusivity – whereas many of our gatherings are not just based on who we let in, but who we keep out.” – Imam Khalid Latif

“There is this provocative statement that was made 300 years ago by Jonathan Swift, the writer, poet and pastor; He said, ‘we have just enough religion to make us hate one another but not enough to make us love one another.’ This is a halting statement because I think we recognize there’s truth in it and in the same way the answer is also in it. The solution is not for us to back away from our religion. It’s to go deeper into our religions. That is what we have done today and I hope it provides hope for us all. – Dr. Michael Bos

LINK TO ARTICLE FROM PRNEWSWIRE

 

Muslim, Jewish college presidents focus on common goals with Christian educators

webRNS-Interfaith-CCCU1-020419ASHINGTON (RNS) —  Like most college presidents, Ari Berman and Hamza Yusuf care about giving their students the best education possible in the classroom.

They also want to support their students’ rights as people of faith.

Faith-based schools help students “to contextualize our lives in a greater mission, to have a sense of holiness about everything that we do,” Berman, president of Yeshiva University in New York, told a gathering of Christian college presidents in the nation’s capital last week (Feb. 1).

The Yeshiva University president’s comments prompted an “Amen” from an audience member.

Berman and Yusuf, president of Zaytuna College in California, took part in an interfaith panel focused on what faith-based schools from diverse backgrounds have in common. The panel, which also included presidents of Mormon, Catholic and Protestant schools, took place at the end of the Presidents Conference of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, an evangelical consortium of more than 180 schools.

Like their counterparts, both Zaytuna College and Yeshiva University aim to reinforce their religious traditions to a younger generation as they educate them in fields of study ranging from liberal arts to law, their presidents said.

They defended their institutions as alternatives for students of faith who may be met with hostility from college professors at secular schools who consider their religion to be superstition or fellow students who don’t understand their beliefs.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE 

‘We’re all children of Abraham’: The patriarch that unites Jews, Christians and Muslims

588e7b72a77c8.imageIn preparation for Sunday’s sermon, the Rev. Cress Darwin reviews the biblical book of Genesis.

He finds the story where God orders Abraham to leave his home and promises him numerous descendants comparable to the sand on the seashore and stars in the sky.

Darwin, who leads Second Presbyterian Church in Charleston, admires Abraham for his obedience and faithfulness.

“The hope that I take is that if God can use some of these characters, he can certainly use us,” Darwin said.

Abraham isn’t only revered by Christians. He’s a central figure in Judaism and Islam as well.

While the faiths are unique in their religious beliefs, customs and practices, Abraham is the common forefather that shows the religions have a lot more in common than what some may think.

Abraham is considered the patriarch of monotheism. According to the story recorded in Jewish, Christian and Islamic texts, he was instructed by God to leave his native land where his family worshipped pagan gods.

Texts say that Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. The former founded the Arab people from which the Prophet Muhammad came and founded the Islamic faith. From the latter, Judaism manifested and Jesus Christ is eventually born thousands of years later to initiate Christianity.

The faiths draw spiritual lessons from their elder who endured tests that challenged his commitment to God, including his willingness to sacrifice his son.

For Jews, he’s revered for his obedience. Christians say he was faithful like Jesus Christ. Muslims honor him for his submissiveness.

In the second annual James Sawers Jr. Speaker Series hosted by the Charleston Interreligious Council this week, Rabbi Reuven Firestone, Ph.D., who teaches medieval Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, will lead a session on Abraham’s importance across religious sects.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE POST AND CURRIER

Papal visit: Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi to mark a historic day for inter-faith relations – live updates

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History was made on Sunday when the wheels of Pope Francis’s flight from Rome touched down in Abu Dhabi. The Pope’s first day in the UAE will be a moment for all faiths to meet and build strong relationships based on religious tolerance.

Here you will find live coverage of the Pope’s visit from The National’s reporters across the UAE, as it happens. All times UTC+4

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5:12 Private meeting with Muslim Council of Elders begins

In a landmark moment for interfaith relations, Pope Francis will attend a private meeting of the members of the Muslim Council of Elders.

The meeting is expected to take between 30 to 45 minutes.

The National’s reporter, Sofia Barbarani, is at the Grand Mosque, at a uniquely quiet time.

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Sofia Barbarani@SofiaBarbarani

Pope Francis is at the Grand mosque in Abu Dhabi meeting with members of the Muslim council of elders. His busy schedule will see him end the day at an interfaith meeting this evening where he is due to give a speech. @TheNationalUAE

See Sofia Barbarani’s other Tweets

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17:08 Pope Francis arrives at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

A convoy of cars, carrying Pope Francis in the Kia Soul has arrived at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Pope Francis was met by the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Sharif University, Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, who welcomed him to the mosque.

John Dennehy@john_denn

Pope Francis. Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

See John Dennehy’s other Tweets

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16:55 Pope Francis’ arrival is imminent

The live stream of Pope Francis’ visit to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has now begun and his arrival appears to be imminent.

The pontiff will attend a private meeting with the Muslim Concil of Elders.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL