This Film Screening Wants to Repair Muslim-Christian Relationships in Egypt

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In a first-of-its-kind event last Thursday, Al-Ahram Weekly screened Alexander Kronemer’s award-winning The Sultan and the Saint at Al-Ahram’s Naguib Mahfouz Hall. One of several docudramas intended to promote interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims, the film tells the story of the encounter between Saint Francis of Assisi and the Ayyubid Sultan Al-Kamel Mohamed, which took place near Damietta in 1219 during the Fifth Crusade. Narrated by Jeremy Irons and featuring Alexander McPherson and Zack Beyer as the saint and the sultan, respectively, it is produced and promoted by the California-based non-profit Unity Productions Foundation.

The Al-Ahram screening, its Egypt premiere, was made possible thanks to the Baltimore-Luxor-Alexandria Sister City initiative headed by Egyptian-American businessman Tharwat Abu Raya, who coordinated with the Weekly’s Editor-in-Chief Ezzat Ibrahim. The event drew in a large crowd of cultural and media figures. Spotted in the nearly full house were, among many others, the Provincial Minister of the Franciscan Brothers in Egypt Father Kamal Labib, the Armenian Catholic Bishop Krikor Okostinos Coussan, the wife of the Weekly’s late founding editor Hosny Guindy Moushira Abdel-Malik, the celebrated actress and Weekly columnist Lubna Abdel-Aziz, the veteran writer Yacoub Al-Sharouni, the filmmaker Sandra Nashaat, the well-known security expert Brigadier-General Khaled Okasha and the Sawt Al-Azhar magazine Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Al-Sawi.

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I’m a Christian and an Interfaith Educator. America Needs Islam.

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Elizabeth is a Presbyterian-Quaker serving as Interfaith Engagement Fellow at Davidson College in North Carolina. 

 

I am a Christian who was raised, and now choose, to profess Christ as Lord and Savior. I was born into a white middle-class family in suburban Maryland. I was part of the majority of Americans who received little education on Islam. I didn’t know that, in addition to sharing a common humanity, we also shared core teachings of our faith. It was not until I left home, at age 17 that I even met anyone who identified as Muslim.

Now I work at Davidson College in the Chaplain’s Office, as an interfaith educator. My job includes supporting students who live faithfully according to the practice and teachings of Islam. Every day, I find that students who identify as Muslim teach me to be a better Christian and a better citizen.

Islam deeply values humility. The Arabic word Muslim means “one who submits [to God].” Submission takes many forms, including daily time for prayer and bowing oneself before God, offering hospitality to one’s family and neighbors, and cherishing peace. I learn from practitioners of Islam the teaching of Jesus that “those who humble themselves will be exalted,” for they place God before all else (Matthew 23:12). Without humility, we destroy our own social fabric.

FULL ARTICLE FROM SOJOURNER’S MAGAZINE 

 

 

Al-Azhar hosts meeting on co-existence between Muslims and Christians

e0a173f2-073c-49d2-bf68-aa095d9273b7_16x9_788x442Top Muslim and Christian clerics from the Middle East gathered in Cairo on Tuesday for a two-day conference on promoting co-existence, as sectarian conflict continues to ravage the region.

The “Freedom and Citizenship” conference is hosted by Al-Azhar, one of the leading Sunni Muslim authorities based in Cairo.

It comes as Coptic Christians in Egypt’s Sinai flee attacks by Islamic State group jihadists who are waging an insurgency in the peninsula.

“Exonerating religions from terrorism no longer suffices in the face of these barbaric challenges,” Al-Azhar’s head Sheikh Ahmed Tayeb said in a speech on the opening day, referring to regional conflicts.

Tayeb called for dispelling “the lingering mistrust and tensions between religious leaders that are no longer justified, for if there is no peace between the proponents of religions first, the proponents cannot give it to the people.”

Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II called for “fighting extremist thought with enlightened thought.”

He said: “Egypt and the region have suffered from extremist thought resulting from a mistaken understanding of religion that has led to terrorism.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL-ARABIYA 

Shedding light on Christian-Muslim Relations

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When I was a young boy growing up in Pakistan, I was surrounded by every comfort for which anyone could ask. That is one of the benefits of belonging to a prominent Shia Muslim family. What I understand now that I didn’t back then is that what is accepted by the masses isn’t necessarily all that there is. At least it wasn’t for me.

I had no doubt that my family loved me, and I knew that there were great things in store for me as a leader in our community, especially if I could strive to just be a good Muslim. I loved Islam and everything it taught me. But there was always something else tugging at me on which I couldn’t put a finger.

 Islam is a religion that calls for respect and devotion. I admire those who passionately put their faith first, making sure to closely follow the pillars of Islam. I also admire the faith of those who claim Christ as their savior, and go about sharing His message of love and forgiveness through grace, in spite of the danger they willingly place themselves in. There is no doubt that there are those on both sides that fiercely protect and defend what they know to be true. And as history has shown, that debate can lead to misunderstandings, which often produces horrific repercussions.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BELIEF NET

Building Bridges: Islam Scholar John Esposito Talks to OnIslam

27-10-15_Building_Bridges_OnIslam_Talks_to_John_L._Esposito_1SALT LAKE – The Wall Street journal called Professor John L. Esposito “American’s foremost authority and interpreter of Islam.” With over 40 years devoted to the field of Islamic studies, Esposito is well known as one of the world’s most influential bridge builders of understanding between the East and the West.

In this interview, Professor Esposito talks to OnIslam.net about his new center, appropriately titled Bridges, the media and public perceptions, as well as the latest controversies surrounding Bill Carson’s recent comments.

You are one of the world’s leading experts on Christian-Muslim Relations, so what do you think is the greatest theological misconception that Christians have about Muslims?

Well, it depends on which Christians. Your really hard liners, Franklin Graham, would wind up saying things like, Islam is evil or they might say the God of Christianity is not the God of Islam. But you also get people who do not go out of their way to bring it up, but who, with an almost matter of fact presumption, believe that Islam is a particularly violent religion relative to other religions. It’s ironic because it’s almost as if they never bothered to read the Old Testament or looked at Christian history post Constantine, when Christianity became imperial.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ONISLAM 

PATHWAYS OF FAITH, CONNECTED HISTORIES: ‘Christianity and Islam’ from Oxford Islamic Studies Online

While not a news item, this article from Oxford online gives the kind of background needed to help sort out the complexities of current events in the Muslim majority world related to Christianity/Muslim relations.

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“At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the perception of Islam by Christians and non-Christians alike has been profoundly influenced by a number of terrorist events that have marked the beginning of the new millennium. There were, within a few years of each other, the attack on the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, and the attacks on public transportation in Madrid and London. It is necessary, however, to place modern Christian-Muslim relations in their historical and cultural context.

The history of Christian-Muslim relations begins with the biography of the prophet Muḥammad in the sixth and seventh centuries C.E. Muḥammad met Christians and Jews on various occasions. Ibn Isḥāq reports that a Christian uncle of Muḥammad’s first wife identified Muḥammad’s experience in the cave of Ḥirāʿ as divine revelation. On the other hand, Muḥammad later disputed with a Christian delegation from Najrān about the doctrine of the Incarnation, though this same delegation had been invited to pray in the Prophet’s mosque. This ambivalence is reflected in the Qurʿān and the ḥadīth (traditions). The Qurʿān tells Muslims that they will find Christians “nearest to them in love” (5:85) but warns them (5:54) not to take Christians or Jews as “close friends” or “protectors” (awlīyāʿ). Sometimes the positive and sometimes the negative aspect has received greater emphasis in the history of Muslim relations with Christians.

The earliest Christian reaction to Islam, dating from the struggle between Muslim and Byzantine armies for control of Egypt and Syria, shows ambivalence of a different kind. Byzantine polemicists saw Islam as a “Satanic plot” to destroy Christian faith (Gaudeul, vol. 1, p. 65), and non-Chalcedonian Christians often saw Islam as “the rod of God’s anger” intended “to deliver us from the Byzantines” (Sahas, p. 23).

Pope Francis Prays in Mosque in Show of Commitment to Christian-Muslim Relations

ISTANBUL— Pope Francis further demonstrated his commitment to improving relations between Christians and Muslims on Saturday, as he prayed in Istanbul’s historic Blue Mosque and visited the Hagia Sophia—two powerful symbols of the Muslim and Christian faiths.

On the second of a three-day trip to Turkey, the pontiff removed his shoes before entering the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles embellishing its walls. After a tour of the cavernous 17th-century mosque, he stood alongside Istanbul Grand Mufti Rahmi Yaran, facing in the direction of Mecca, and bowed his head in long prayer.

The move was an important public demonstration of Pope Francis’ commitment to Christian-Muslim dialogue. Some have raised questions as to whether such dialogue is fruitful given the persecution of Christians by Islamic extremists.

On Friday, the pope demanded that all religions enjoy the same rights, a veiled reference to the problems that Christians still suffer in Turkey, where about 99% of the population is Muslim. Christian communities complain that they struggle to gain permits to rebuild or refurbish buildings and say the government has been slow to follow through on promises to return properties confiscated decades ago.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL