‘Reasons for Our Hope’: Video Series Presents Christian Belief to the Muslim World

“In our time, when day by day mankind is being drawn closer together, and the ties between different peoples are becoming stronger, the Church examines more closely her relationship to non-Christian religions,” begins the Vatican II declaration Nostra Aetate, written in 1965. 

In our own time, a group of scholars are putting these principles into practice in a format that the Council Fathers would never have anticipated: YouTube. 

Reasons for Our Hope, a joint project between the Oasis International Foundation and the McGrath Institute for Church Life at Notre Dame, is a YouTube series intended to advance mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims. In so doing, the series seeks to be respectful to Muslim believers (quoting Muslim philosophers and writers, closely studying the words of the Quran and Muslim traditions, and consulting Muslim scholars) while also being honest about the different worldviews that Christianity and Islam present. 

The collaborative project traces its roots to a 2017 symposium between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and its Muslim counterpart, the Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue, held in Cairo. At the symposium, Gabriel Said Reynolds, Notre Dame professor of Islamic studies, met Martino Diez, the scientific director of the Oasis International Foundation. Founded with the initiative of Cardinal Angelo Scola in 2004, Oasis aims to foster dialogue and understanding between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East, facilitating research, conferences and public conversation on the topic. 

Both Diez and Reynolds realized while attending the symposium that, among Christians, there was both a lack of knowledge about Islam and a lack of resources for attaining that knowledge. Similarly, many Muslims regularly encountered misinformation about Christianity and Catholicism. 

John Cavadini, director of the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame, similarly noted the problems facing Muslim-Christian dialogue. A project that would aim to educate Catholics on theological differences between themselves and Muslims was a good fit for the McGrath Institute’s goal to “empower faithful Catholic leaders at all levels.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER

What Jesus means to me as a Muslim

(RNS) — “So, what are you doing for Christmas? ” asked a pastor, a good friend of mine, after a recent interfaith panel discussion on Zoom that we’d both participated in. I responded, “Saving my money!”

He jokingly responded, “Oh, OK, I’ll make sure to hit you back up on Eid, and we’ll see how that money-saving is going.”

Then we had a nice conversation about holidays and rituals — why we Muslims don’t try having an Eid Santa (we agreed he could have the same beard!), and our favorite topic: Jesus (peace be upon him). 

Jesus (peace be upon him) is truly special to Muslims, and not in any superficial or ambiguous sense. One of the highest prophets and messengers of God, Jesus is mentioned in the Quran 25 times, with an entire chapter named after his honored mother, the Virgin Mary, to whom he was born miraculously, and who some Muslim scholars have deemed a prophet herself.

For Muslims, Jesus is also the chosen Messiah to return to this earth in its final days (though the implications of the term Messiah differ between Muslims and Christians), and distinguished in the hereafter with a special place in paradise. 

But in our talk this time, my pastor friend asked me something that I’d never been asked before: Do Muslims have any connection to Jesus beyond how he fits into Islam’s overall theological conception as a messenger of God? After all, Muslims don’t celebrate any holidays surrounding Jesus or pray to him. How often does Jesus come up in the average Muslim’s life?

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE

Decolonising Jesus Christ

The figure of Jesus Christ goes way beyond the image of him which hegemonic European Christianity imposed on the world.

5ad05132e3834125be15b3de80432865_18Christians around the world are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Some do so on December 25 and others on January 7, depending on what church or liturgical calendar they follow. 

Given the overwhelming hegemony of Western Christianity in Europe, the Americas, Australia and throughout the colonised world where European Christianity has been the vehicle of colonisation, the fact of celebrating the birthday of Jesus early in January has become something of an afterthought.

But why? The difference is not just liturgical, canonical or doctrinal. It is also cultural, historical and the prelude of decolonising Christ and Christianity.

Eurocentric hegemony over Christian practices and perceptions of its central figure, Jesus Christ, have systematically sidelined various other rites and conceptualisations of his figure. Shifting the point of emphasis from one branch of Christianity to another – or any other religion – points to the multiplicity of ways in which a religious figure such as Jesus has been celebrated.

As millions of Eastern Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, it is an opportune time to revisit how he has been imagined throughout time and across the world. 

Revolutionary Jesus

For those familiar with Jaroslav Pelikan’s magnificent book Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture (1999), this is not unusual for a different cultural milieu giving birth to a different figure of Christ.

In his study, we encounter a floating figure of Jesus which moves from a Jewish Rabbi in the first century after his birth, to “the Light of Gentiles”, and “the King of Kings” during the Roman Empire in the second and third centuries, “the Cosmic Christ” in the aftermath of encounter with Platonism, “the Son of Man” in St Augustine’s work in the fifth century, and “the Prince of Peace” during the Reformation in 16th-century Western Europe.  

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA 

9/11 and the Challenge of Jesus

love your enemies

As an American Muslim, I felt the tension experienced by all Americans after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, yet all Muslims were and still are suspects. The media put Muslims on the defense, and we are still trying to prove our innocence. Explaining Islam became an urgent necessity especially in view of the hatred preached by Islamophobia.

During that infamous morning, my wife was in our house in Fairfax, VA, with my two boys who were attending George Mason University. I was in Saudi Arabia doing a project for a Saudi prince. My wife suddenly called and asked if I was watching TV. I said, “No, I’m busy working on a business plan for a client.” But with a horrified voice she said, “Oh my God, a plane hit the World Trade tower and another plane is going to hit the second tower!” She sounded horrified, and she asked again, “Are you watching?!” Moved by the urgency of her voice, I turned to CNN to see the most horrifying event I witnessed ever. A plane hit the second tower as I watched the screen. Suddenly it dawned on me this is not an accident, but a disaster of colossal dimension was taking place in front of my eyes. Additional disastrous events took place that day to make it one of the darkest days ever for the U.S. and for American Muslims.

My wife and I spoke several times that day. We were confused, angry, and scared. That evening my wife called to tell me that she was afraid and worried about the boys’ safety. A friend suggested that she join other friends for a prayer meeting and to bring the boys with her. This was a first for my wife, but she and my boys were welcomed and felt among friends. The group started praying for the President and other government officials, and then my wife was in for the surprise of her life when the group started praying for Osama bin Laden’s forgiveness.

This was the first time this Muslim woman was exposed to the concept of loving your enemies. I remember the long conversation I had with my wife about that concept and about Jesus. Jesus was well known to us through the Qur’an, where his miracles are stated in details. Culture teaches us to hate our enemies while, Jesus teaches us to love them. Talking about Jesus and his teachings seemed to take our minds away from the tragedy that surrounded us to another dimension of love. While 9/11 was a disaster for many, it was my first exposure to love, Jesus-style. I was challenged to start reading the Qur’an with fresh eyes looking for the concept of loving your enemy. It says, “Good and evil are never equal. Repel evil with good, until your enemy becomes like an intimate friend” (41: 34). Muslims often read this verse, but the principle of loving one’s enemies is not a part of our consciousness and it should be.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

Interfaith forum explores commonalities between Catholic and Muslim views of Mary and Jesus

5c9ed13dad297.imageFrom Adam to Abraham, Islam and Christian commonality both includes a reverence for Mary and Jesus, attendees learned March 24 at an interfaith forum at Sacred Heart Church in Dearborn.

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The three-part interfaith forum, with speakers, small group discussion, and a question and answer period, was designed to explore the common beliefs between Islam and Christianity, which, with Judaism, all spring from Abrahamic religions.

Sacred Heart parishioner Chris DuBois (left) joins another attendee in discussion after listening to speakers at an interfaith gathering March 24 in the parish hall at Sacred Heart Catholic Church exploring the commonalities between the Catholic and Islamic beliefs about Mary and Jesus.

Held in the Sacred Heart parish hall, the featured speakers were Robert Fastiggi, a professor of systemic theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, and Imam Mohammed Ali Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights.

Fastiggi said one of the central beliefs of Christianity is that Jesus Christ performed miracles through the power within him, and that he is the son of God. He noted that the triune God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is considered one God in Christian belief, not three.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PRESS AND GUIDE 

What Would Jesus Do? 7 Things From A Muslim’s Perspective

post-121-wwjd-braceletWhen faced with certain situations, Christians often use the phrase ‘What Would Jesus Do’ as a reminder to them to behave in a manner that reflects their love for Jesus Christ. The phrase’ What Would Jesus Do’, or WWJD, can be traced as far back as the 19thcentury, when the evangelical Charles Spurgeon used it in his sermon, and in turn borrowed the concept from the early church’s Imitatio Christi (imitation of Christ). In its simplest form, it simply means following in the footsteps of Jesus, loving God and the neighbor, helping the poor and the needy. So it is not that hard to imagine what would Jesus do if he returned today.

There is a beautiful lecture by Robert Jeffrey at the Methodist Sacramental Fellowship Public Meeting during the Methodist Conference of 2006 in Edinburgh titled “Imitating Christ”, which goes in great depth as to what imitating Christ really means.

Muslims believe Jesus will return in the end of times to bring peace and justice to the world.

Only God knows what would Jesus do if he returned today. This list is purely my imagination. I am pulling a David Letterman and going in reverse order (except this is a list of 7, not 10).

#7: Tell TV Evangelicals and the mega churches to stop commercializing his name-just the same way he did to the money-making machines of his times.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS

Muslims love Jesus. So why does everyone think we hate Christmas?

MuslimConfusionAboutLoveOfJesus-640x640While most British Muslims might be indifferent to the celebrations underway this season, perhaps we can play a small part in reviving the generosity, kindness and true Christmas spirit associated with the holiday.

It’s Christmas time and so it hasn’t taken long for a national newspaper to run a feature implying British Muslims are poorly integrated for “refusing to celebrate a Christian holiday”. The irony of this pernicious Islamophobia, feebly hiding behind the banner of defending the Judeo-Christian values of our country, is that it is bereft of any meaningful understanding of Islam.

You see, the thing is, Muslims love Jesus.

In fact, the Prophet Muhammad said: “The dearest person to me in friendship and in love, in this world and the next is Jesus, the son of Mary.”

It may come as a surprise to many to learn that Jesus is mentioned in the Quran over 100 times, while the Prophet Muhammad, by contrast, is mentioned just five times. Described as the best woman ever to have set foot on earth, there is a whole chapter in the Quran named “Mary” and she is the only woman mentioned by name in the holy book.

It’s not just that Muslims love Jesus – we believe him to be one of the greatest messengers of god. We believe in his miraculous birth. We believe that god gifted him with the ability to bring the dead back to life, heal the leper and bring sight back to the blind and, like Christians, we believe in his second coming back to this world.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDEPENDENT (UK)

 

What a Muslim Could Teach Trump Supporters About Jesus

merlin_148323441_f8d6e8cd-6cc0-4408-bf02-86e6eac5fd60-superJumbo.jpgAt Bellarmine, an all-boys Catholic school in San Jose, Calif., I was often the token Muslim and probably the only person who began freshman year thinking the Eucharist sounded like the name of a comic book villain. I eventually learned it’s a ritual commemorating the Last Supper. At the monthly Masses that were part of the curriculum, that meant grape juice and stale wafers were offered to pimpled, dorky teenagers as the blood and body of Christ.

During my time there, I also read the King James Bible and stories about Jesus, learned about Christian morality, debated the Trinity with Jesuit priests and received an A every semester in religious studies class. Twenty years later, I can still recite the “Our Father” prayer from memory.

Growing up, I’d been taught that Jesus was a major prophet in Islam, known as “Isa” and also referred to as “ruh Allah,” the spirit of God born to the Virgin Mary and sent as a mercy to all people. Like Christians, we Muslims believe he will return to fight Dajjal, or the Antichrist, and establish peace and justice on earth. But it was everything I learned in high school that came together to make me love Jesus in a way that made me a better Muslim.

Even though I don’t personally celebrate Christmas, the season always makes me think of his legacy of radical love. This year, it’s especially hard to understand how Trump-supporting Christians have turned their back on that unconditional love and exchanged it for nativism, fear and fealty to a reality TV show host turned president.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

A new play, ‘Christmas Mubarak,’ mixes Christian and Muslim stories of Jesus’ birth

47119780_1969438653148464_6465564224604078080_o-1024x745CHICAGO (RNS) — The scene is familiar from many Nativity scenes arranged at this time of year: the Virgin Mary, cradling the newborn Jesus.

Then, the baby speaks, defending his mother’s innocence and declaring he has been appointed as a prophet.

That might come as a surprise to Christians in the audience of the new play “Christmas Mubarak.”

“Christmas Mubarak” premiered last weekend in Silk Road Rising’s basement theater at the Chicago Temple, home to First United Methodist Church. The theater company was formed after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to shape conversation about Asian and Middle Eastern Americans and became the church’s company in residence several years later.

With an ensemble cast of four playing all the characters and adding scholarly asides where Muslim traditions interpret stories differently, the show is — in its own words — the story of “a love affair” between Islam and Jesus, who is viewed as a prophet by Muslims.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE 

What Christmas Means to This American Muslim

5a3dbcd821000018005f59d8Every Christmas, my wife, kids, and I make a road trip from Southern California to Texas to spend Christmas with my in-laws and my wife’s extended family. My wife’s parents and family members are Christians. One of my favorite things about visiting them during the Christmas holiday is the chance to be a part of such a warm, large, and loving gathering, typical of most Latino families. The food is amazing and our Christian family always makes sure to accommodate our Islamic dietary restrictions by ensuring there isn’t pork in any of the dishes.

My family’s story is the story of thousands of American Muslim families across our diverse nation who bond with their Christian family members every Christmas season and throughout the year.

For me, Christmas is always a reminder of the commonalities Christians and Muslims share. Honoring and revering Jesus is a part of our core Islamic teachings and it is a beautiful tradition I have enjoyed being a part of even before I began traveling to Texas with my wife and kids every Christmas.

I spent my childhood in Beirut, Lebanon, alongside Christian family members, neighbors, and close friends where we all lived in a close-knit community. My parents, practicing Muslims themselves, sent me to Catholic and Protestant schools to benefit from the high academics and to prepare me for our world’s diversity. Every Christmas, I was inspired by the love my Christian classmates and neighbors demonstrated for Jesus, a love Muslims have always sincerely shared.

After moving to the U.S. in my late teens, and even today, I am pleased to see that same love for Jesus shared amongst Christians in my community in the Greater Los Angeles area and the rest of the country.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST