A milestone in the complex dialogue between Islam and Christianity

000_1d12n2When the head of the Roman church representing 1.2 billion Catholics signs a joint declaration with the head of the highest seat in Sunni Islam, it ought to be big news.

Yet the significance of the declaration signed in Abu Dhabi this month by Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar, has slipped under the radar amid criticism over the Pope’s decision to visit the UAE while it is involved in the war in Yemen and the blockade against Qatar.

But for those who have focused their attention on the contents of the document and the two leaders’ speeches, it is clear that the Grand Imam and the Pope have set a milestone in the complex dialogue between the two faiths.

The “Document on Human Fraternity” is the first ever signed by representatives of the two religions in which they pledge to work together for the benefit of the “human fraternity”. It implies the two faiths have found a common understanding and a united front against attempts to abuse God’s message and manipulate religion.

Rejecting violence

“We resolutely declare that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood,” the document states.

“These tragic realities are the consequence of a deviation from religious teachings. They result from a political manipulation of religions and from interpretations made by religious groups who, in the course of history, have taken advantage of the power of religious sentiment …. This is done for the purpose of achieving objectives that are political, economic, worldly and short-sighted.”

Both Sheikh al-Tayeb and Pope Francis have launched a joint appeal to political and religious leaders, intellectuals, artists and media worldwide to reject violence in all its forms, promote positive values and strive for establishing a more righteous and peaceful world – not only for the benefit of believers of the three monotheistic faiths, but also for non-believers.

Questioning the East-West dichotomy, the two leaders warned that religious hatred is causing ‘signs of a third world war being fought piecemeal’

“The fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept,” the declaration notes.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MIDDLE EAST EYE 

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Pope: Respect, dialogue key for peace between Christians, Muslims

10776016-3x2-700x467VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis said his recent visit to the United Arab Emirates, while brief, was a new page in relations between Christians and Muslims at a time when conflict and violence threaten the goal of lasting peace.

Recalling his Feb. 3-5 visit to Abu Dhabi, the pope said during his weekly general audience Feb. 6 that the joint document signed by him and Egyptian Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar and chair of the Muslim Council of Elders, was a step forward in promoting dialogue and brotherhood.

“In an age like ours, in which there is a strong temptation to see a clash between Christian and Islamic civilizations taking place, and also to consider religions as sources of conflict, we wanted to give another clear and decisive sign that, on the contrary, it is possible to meet, respect and dialogue with each other, and that, despite the diversity of cultures and traditions, the Christian and Islamic worlds appreciate and protect common values: life, the family, religious belief, honor for the elderly, the education of young people and much more,” the pope said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CATHOLIC NEWS 

 

Popes in the Middle East: Highlights of papal outreach in the region

.- Pope Francis is set to celebrate the first papal Mass on the Arabian peninsula next week during his Feb. 3-5 visit to Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.

The pope’s Mass at the Zayed sports stadium on Feb. 5 is expected to draw at least 135,000 people. Many in attendance will be migrant workers from Asia residing in the UAE, a country in which 89 percent of the population are not citizens. It will not only be the first papal Mass on the peninsula, but the first public Mass in the country.

Since the Second Vatican Council there have been significant milestones in Muslim-Catholic relations in the region. Here is a look at some of the highlights:

First pope on a plane

The first time a pope ever traveled on a plane was on a trip to the Middle East. Saint Paul VI flew from Italy to Jordan in January 1964, making history as the first pope to leave Europe. Paul VI met with King Hussein in Amman before continuing his journey to Jerusalem.

First pope in a mosque

Saint John Paul II made history as the first pope to enter a mosque during his visit to Syria in May 2001. John Paul II went to Damascus’ Umayyad Mosque, which had been built in 715 on top of a fourth-century Christian cathedral said to contain the head of John the Baptist.

In March 2003, days before US President George W. Bush announced the official start of the Iraq war, St. John Paul II called for a worldwide fast for peace in the Middle East.

The Polish pontiff, known for his extensive papal travels during his 27-year pontificate, was also the first pope to visit several Middle Eastern nations, including Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY 

Islam and Christianity: a long, complex and crucial relationship

wk25-jan-muslim-christian-zayed-vaticanPope Francis will arrive in the UAE at a time when relations between Muslims and Christians are both complex and contradictory. Yet ambiguity has characterised the relationship between the world’s two biggest faiths ever since the time that the Prophet Mohammed entered into discussions with a group of Christians who visited him in Makkah almost 1500 years ago. Muslim-Christian relations have, over the centuries, oscillated between conflict, coexistence and conversation.

Ours is a time in which tensions between the two faiths – whose members constitute almost half the world’s population – have reached a low point that has seen some reaching for comparisons with the Crusades, the Inquisition, the expansion of the Ottoman Empire or the excesses of European colonialism. And yet – thanks to the goodwill of men such as Pope Francis, ­together with a host of leaders of Muslim and Christian communities at the local level – it is also the time of a new global friendship between members of the two religions.

Christianity and the Prophet Mohammed

Muslims and Christians have never been quite able to make up their minds about one another. In his early years the Prophet Mohammed saw his teaching as very much in continuity with the traditions of Judaism and Christianity. He expected that Jews and Christians, having Abraham and Moses as common ancestors, would accept his prophetic message as a continuation of their own. All were “People of the Book” who had received revelations of God in written texts.

Christian writers disagreed, often vehemently, but the disagreements were largely theological. In practice, relations between Muslims and Christians were good. While pagans in conquered territories were expected to convert to Islam, Christians and Jews were given the status of “dhimmi”, which allowed them to practise their religion in private and govern their own communities. In return they paid a poll tax. Though Byzantine polemicists insisted that Islam was a plot to destroy the Christian faith, other Christians saw Islam as “the rod of God’s anger” to deliver them from the oppressive rule of the Orthodox in Byzantium.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL 

The Lebanese saint who unites Christians and Muslims

.- St. Charbel Makhlouf is known in Lebanon for the miraculous healings of those who visit his tomb to seek his intercession – both Christians and Muslims.

“St. Charbel has no geographic or confessional limits. Nothing is impossible for [his intercession] and when people ask [for something], he answers,” Fr. Louis Matar, coordinator of the Shrine of St. Charbel in Annaya, Lebanon, told CNA.

Speaking in Arabic with the help of an interpreter, Mater said the shrine, which encompasses the monastery where the Maronite Catholic priest, monk, and hermit lived for nearly 20 years, receives around 4 million visitors a year, including both Christians and Muslims.

Matar, who is responsible for archiving the thousands of medically-verified healings attributed to the intercession of the Maronite priest-monk, said that many miraculous cures have been obtained by Muslims.

Interfaith dialogue really is relational, accessible

There is a particular urgency for Catholics to become participants in dialogue with Muslims

FINDING JESUS AMONG MUSLIMS: HOW LOVING ISLAM MAKES ME A BETTER CATHOLIC
By Jordan Denari Duffner
162 pages; Published by Liturgical Press
$19.95

Earlier this year while on a train in Europe, I sat down across from an Arabic-looking man who began reading the Quran. My immediate first reaction was apprehension and fear. My immediate second reaction was to check my implicit yet real bias for what it was, Islamophobia.

Most striking to me was this incident happened just a few days after I had finished a book on Muslim-Christian relations that addressed these implicit biases to which Catholics like myself are prone. It is precisely because these biases are so ingrained and because Islamophobia is on the rise that Finding Jesus Among Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic by Jordan Denari Duffner is such an important and timely resource.

Written primarily for a Catholic audience, the book explores present relations between Christianity and Islam. It does so, however, through the lens of Duffner’s lived experiences with Muslims and the ways in which encountering Islam has helped her find Jesus anew. She never intends the book to be a comprehensive analysis or work of systematic theology. Rather, in her words, Finding Jesus Among Muslims should act as a “facilitator of dialogue.” The book raises more questions than it answers, encouraging readers to go forth and learn more. The author’s rich commitment to Muslims and demonstrated courage in entering vulnerable, liminal spaces inspire readers to become active participants in dialogue.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NCRONLINE.COM

Free app reveals the wonders of Lebanon’s variety of religions

20180926T1144-1046-CNS-HOLY-LEBANON-APP-690x450BEIRUT, Lebanon – From its high majestic mountains, picturesque villages and coastal towns to its bustling cities, Lebanon is rich in breathtaking scenery, cultural diversity and religious sites.

Now the land of the cedars mentioned in the Bible 96 times is accessible virtually, via a free app in English – called Holy Lebanon – aimed at promoting religious tourism.

“Even if you can’t come to Lebanon to visit, you can download the app and have an idea about different religious sites around the country,” Nour Farra Haddad, developer of the Holy Lebanon app, told Catholic News Service.

“Holy Lebanon,” introduced in June, was followed in July with an announcement from the Vatican that it will authorize official pilgrimage visits to Lebanon in 2019.

The multifaith app features 300 religious sites, representative of all of Lebanon’s 18 religious traditions, including Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim. The sites include churches, monasteries, convents, shrines and sanctuaries as well as mosques, many dating back centuries ago.

“It is just a beginning,” Farra Haddad said, noting that more sites will be added to the Holy Lebanon app in the future.

While the app took two years to develop, it is based on Farra Haddad’s 10 years of research as a religious anthropologist.

Lebanon, about two-thirds the size of Connecticut, is visibly steeped in religion.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUXNOW