‘A Common Word’ 10 years on: Christians and Muslims must work together for peace

CNS-Catholic Islam CPeople today still need to hear document’s message that Christians, Muslims share two great commandments

On Oct. 13, 2007, 138 Muslim leaders signed “A Common Word Between Us and You,” a document stating that Christians and Muslims share two great commandments — love of God and love of neighbor — and should work for peace together.

Now 10 years later, the influence of the document continues through the projects and relationships it inspired, but experts on Muslim-Christian relations say many people still need to hear its message.

 

“When Catholics in the U.S. are hearing about Islam and Muslims, they’re not hearing about the heart and soul of the tradition,” said Scott Alexander, director of the Catholic-Muslim studies program at the Catholic Theological Union. “They’re hearing about different events in which there was conflict or if ISIS sponsored some sort of terrorist attack.”

“A Common Word” “gives people a way to see that Muslims are taking action all the time on the local and global stage for the good of humanity,” Alexander said. “The actions of a relatively small minority get so much more publicity that it leads to people having a distorted image of Islam and Muslims.”

Prior to the publication of “A Common Word,” Pope Benedict XVI exacerbated interfaith tensions during a 2006 address at the University of Regensburg by quoting a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who said that Mohammed only contributed “things evil and inhuman,” such as spreading his faith by violence.

While the pope did not endorse the emperor’s view, the Regensburg address provoked outrage from Muslims around the world. Amir Hussain, professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University, says it was also the “impetus” for “A Common Word.”

The authors of “A Common Word” could have written about how offensive and concerning the pope’s words were, said Hussain, but instead they took a positive approach and wrote about the connections between Muslims and Christians.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER 

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Cardinal joins interfaith leaders in ‘Faith Over Fear’ walk to promote unity

walk-1-webCardinal Donald Wuerl joined Washington-area religious leaders Dec. 18 in leading an interfaith walk that organizers said was designed “to express our solidarity and our commitment to unity, understanding, and inclusion.”

The interfaith pilgrimage walk, dubbed “Faith Over Fear: Choosing Unity Over Extremism,” began at Washington Hebrew Congregation in Northwest Washington, and included stops at the National Cathedral and the Islamic Center. At each site, there was a call to prayer, a scripture reading, and a brief reflection.

“We leaders are united in our concern at the rise in hate speech, the increase in violence against racial, ethnic and religious minorities, and the ugly consequences that ensue when people’s actions are informed by inflammatory rhetoric, misinformation and careless slander,” Cardinal Wuerl said, reading from a statement at the beginning of the walk.

Also participating in the walk were the Right Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington; Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, senior rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congregation; Imam Johari Abdul Malik of Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center; and about 200 others who came to pray and show solidarity with people of other faiths.

“We share the Abrahamic faith,” Bishop Curry said, “and the challenge before us is – out of our great diversity – to make a real tapestry.”

Cardinal Wuerl also lead the participants in reciting the prayer of St. Francis. Prior to leading the prayer, he told the gathering that during Pope Francis’s Sept. 22-24, 2015 visit to Washington, the pope “walked our streets and reminded us we have the power to make a better world – but we have to reach out to one another.”

Bishop Budde, also noting that “we belong to different branches of the Abrahamic family,” urged the participants to “come together to create a climate in which we practice hospitality, protect those who are vulnerable, defend religious freedom, engage in respectful dialogue about our disagreements, and love one another regardless of our differences.”

She added that “all have a welcome place in our land.”

Rabbi Lustig echoed that sentiment and said participants must strive to keep “America a place where people of all faiths are welcome.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CATHOLIC STANDARD 

In Minnesota, Christian-Muslim dialogue turns strangers into neighbors

.- In the aftermath of the mall stabbing of nine people by a Somali-Muslim Sept. 17 in St. Cloud, Minnesota, Muslims called on their friends at the Greater St. Cloud Area Faith Leaders and others for support.

Leaders from various faiths came together to pray and strategize a sensible reaction to the violence. They emerged from their meeting ready to show a united front to a community whose racial-cultural stress points where under heavy pressure.

This wasn’t just a crisis response, but the fruit of almost two years of ongoing Muslim-Christian dialogue.

“It has allowed us to build bridges in the past, and it seemed natural that we would have conversations and stand in solidarity when this happened,” said Kathy Langer, director of social concerns for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud and a member of the Greater St. Cloud Area Faith Leaders group. “We’re friends, so of course we could talk about next steps.”

Since 2014, Catholics in St. Cloud have been sitting down with their Muslim neighbors to talk about their respective religions and get to know each other as human persons. The importance of this dialogue became evident when the rural community, where racial tensions still run high, braced itself for the repercussions of the most recent violence. In addition to the work of the Greater St. Cloud Area Faith Leaders, a local Christian-Muslim dialogue group organizes gatherings with talks by Christians and Muslims and small-group discussions.

The St. Cloud Times has reported harassment of Somali businesses and a city on edge. The once-homogenous college town is still adjusting to the influx of Somali immigrants and refugees that started approximately 10 years ago.

“St. Cloud used to be called ‘white cloud,’ and they were proud of that,” said Sister Helen Rolfson, of the Sisters of St. Francis in Rochester, Minnesota, and chairwoman of the St. Cloud Diocese’s Ecumenical and Interreligious Commission.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY 

The Bridge Initiative: Catholic Islamophobia and Interreligious Dialogue

The Bridge Initiative, a Georgetown University research project on Islamophobia, based in the university’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, this week released a report that sheds light on American Catholics’ views of Islam, and the way Islam is discussed in Catholic publications.

hands-holdingThis report, “Danger & Dialogue: American Catholic Public Opinion and Portrayals of Islam,” finds that nearly half of Catholics can’t name any similarities between Catholicism and Islam, or say explicitly that there are no commonalities.

The report, which includes survey data on Catholics’ views of Muslims and interreligious dialogue, also reveals that only 14% of Catholics say they have a favorable impression of Muslims. The poll also shows that respondents who consume content from Catholic media have more unfavorable views of Muslims than those who don’t.

The report, authored by Jordan Denari Duffner, also analyzed nearly 800 articles about Islam in Catholic media outlets, finding that half of the time the word “Islamic” was used in nine prominent Catholic outlets, it was in reference to the Islamic State terrorist group. The headlines of Catholic articles on Islam had a negative sentiment overall, but the outlet that mentioned Pope Francis the most in its headlines on Islam had positive sentiment.

The report also explores the 100-plus books, audio programs, and DVDs sold by Catholic publishers about Islam. Interfaith dialogue is a prominent topic in these for-sale materials on Islam, but differences between Christians and Muslims are often stressed in introductory materials or those that attempt to compare Christianity and Islam. The most prolific authors on Islam for Catholics take varied approaches, with some focusing on dialogue and others on sharing the Christian faith with Muslims.

FULL ARTICLE FROM IGNATIAN SOLIDARITY NETWORK 

Christians, Muslims unite against terrorism, weapons of mass destruction

pope-francis-with-sheikh-ahmed-el-tayebAt a time when religion seems to be one of the causes of division in the world, it is always good to hear news about how people from different faiths are uniting for a common cause.

American Catholic bishops joined hands with Shia Muslim religious leaders as they recently released a joint statement condemning terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

The joint declaration, entitled “Gathered In The Name of God,” highlighted how both religions value life and aspire for peace. It was signed by Catholic Church officials such as Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington and Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.

“Christianity and Islam share a commitment to love and respect for the life, dignity, and welfare of all members of the human community,” the religious leaders said in the joint declaration, as quoted by The Catholic News Agency.

“Peaceful coexistence is built on equity and justice. We call upon all to work toward developing a culture of encounter, tolerance, dialogue, and peace that respects the religious traditions of others,” they said.

The declaration also rejected “all acts of terrorism” and destructive weapons, encouraging countries around the world to shun these forms of warfare.

“Together we are working for a world without weapons of mass destruction. We call on all nations to reject acquiring such weapons and call on those who possess them to rid themselves of these indiscriminate weapons, including chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons,” the document stated.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN TODAY 

Killing of French priest was attack on ‘all of us’, says British imam

20160801T1351-211-CNS-HAMEL-REACTION-CATHOLIC_800-1-800x500Imam Qari Muhammad Asim, senior imam at the Makkah Mosque in Leeds said the murder of Fr Hamel was an attack on faith

Fr Jacques Hamel’s murder in northern France last week – by men claiming allegiance to ISIS – has prompted sorrow and outrage from Muslim leaders around the world.

“This attack in a place of worship and on innocent worshippers in particular demonstrates that there are no boundaries to the depravity of these murderers,” wrote Imam Qari Muhammad Asim, senior imam at the Makkah Mosque in Leeds, England.

The knife-yielding attackers slit the throat of 85-year-old Fr Hamel and also injured two others in the church, Eglise St-Etienne, before they were fatally shot by police. Fr Hamel’s funeral was held in Rouen cathedral on Tuesday.

“In this extremely difficult time for the Catholic community, we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of all faiths,” the English imam said in a statement. “An attack on any place of worship is an attack on a way of life of faith communities and therefore an attack on all of us.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CATHOLIC HERALD (UK)

Muslim-Christian peacemaking has a history we need to revive

ofgodsandmenTwenty years have passed since seven monks from the Trappist Priory of Our Lady of the Atlas at Tibhirine, Algeria, were kidnapped by members of the Armed Islamic Group, victims in the Algerian civil war. American moviegoers know the story of their vocation from the award-winning 2010 film “Of Gods and Men” (“Des hommes et des dieux”).

There is confusion over the conditions of their death. Two months after the kidnapping the monks were found, apparently executed and beheaded, but knowledgeable sources contend that they were killed not by their captors but in a failed rescue attempt by the Algerian Army.

The monks of Tibhirine and Christian De Chergé, their prior, belong to a tradition of French Catholic engagement with North African Islam. The earliest of these was Blessed Charles Eugène de la Foucauld, the early 20th-century hermit of Tamanrasset in the Algerian Sahara and the inspiration of the Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus.

The others are the distinguished Islamist Louis Massignon and his disciple Mary Kahil, who initiated the badaliya, a movement of Christian-Muslim prayer-support groups.

Foucauld, a one-time soldier, fell under the spell of the Sahara after doing a cartographic exploration of Morocco for the French government. In1901, after ordination to the priesthood, he returned to the desert, first to Bene Abbès and then at Tamanrasset, where he lived as a hermit dedicated to prayer and adoration but also tirelessly served his Tuareg neighbors.

Originally hoping he might find converts among the Tuareg, Foucauld lived out his time with a life of presence and service to his Muslim neighbors. “God continues to come to us and live with us in a close and a familiar way, each day and at every hour, in the Holy Eucharist,” he wrote. “So, too, we must go and live among our brothers and sisters in a close and familiar way.”

To a Protestant visitor he said, “I am not here to convert the Tuareg at one go, but to try to understand them … . I am sure God will accept into heaven those who are good and virtuous … . You are a Prostestant, Tessière is a nonbeliever, the Tuareg are Muslims. I am convinced God will accept us all.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER