My Muslim friend Ali and my Christian commitment to his life of faith

How American hostility toward Muslims has shaped my pastoral vocation

011520faithmattersDuring Sunday worship 13 years ago, my district minister invited me to the front to bless me in my first pastoral calling. I stood with her, looking at all the faces of church members and community friends, side by side, snug in the pews. She asked, “Will you seek to be faithful in prayer, in setting forth the scriptures, and in seeking the good of this congregation?” As I said yes I glanced around the room, my eyes meeting those of my friends—people who weren’t members of the church but had come together to support me, to affirm my calling.

With my yes I made a commitment to this whole gathering, church members and others. They embodied, for an hour, a mestizaje of lives from different traditions, to borrow a concept from mujerista theologians. That congregation was an amalgamated body, a hybrid of people rooted in various communities. For my identity as a minister, the line between the church and the world has been permeable from the beginning, a calling to a congregation of mixed constitution.

Among the gathered body that day was my friend Ali. Over the years he had visited our Mennonite community for Sunday worship and I had joined his Muslim community for Friday prayers. Our communal singing captivated him; their embodied reverence mesmerized me. Once I went with him to Eid al-Fitr, the service at the end of Ramadan where Muslims come together for their salat, their worshipful devotion. That year they gathered in the main arena at the state fairgrounds. We took off our shoes and added them to the endless lines along the walls. With his prayer rug tucked under his arm, Ali walked me to the chairs for non-Muslim guests before he weaved his way through men sitting cross-legged on their mats. I watched him roll out his rug, lift his hands to his ears, drop his arms to his side, then reach his arms to hold each other across his chest. He and the others stood in silence, waiting for the imam to lead the first takbir, the invitation to call upon God.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN CENTURY 

Former imam wants stronger relationships between Edinburgh’s Muslims and Christians

EA5ZrdFWsAAWGdoA FORMER imam said his recent trip to Ghana has inspired him to build stronger relationships between Muslims and Christians in the Capital.

Yahya Barry, originally from The Gambia but now based in Edinburgh, spent ten days with religious leaders in the West African country.

The aim of the trip was to explore Christian and Muslim relationships as, according to Dr Barry, Ghana is rennowned for fostering peaceful and close bonds between both faiths. Since returning, he said he has felt “more inspired than ever” to bring lessons from Ghana to Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland.

“It was a really motivational trip,” he said.

“The relationships between both faiths in Ghana are established and organic. In Scotland the latest statistics show the Muslim population is about 1.45 per cent, which is a very small minority. We need to factor in that this could be because of the relationships between Muslim and Christianity. Since my time in Ghana I feel strongly about the lessons I learnt and bringing them back to this city which is investing in becoming more multicultural.”

About 77 per cent of the population in Ghana is Christian, with Muslims making up a further 16 per cent, and the two groups have better relations than in many countries in West Africa, according to the PhD graduate. He said the Brexit uncertainty and the rising nationalism in the UK could divide these two faiths.

“I am not saying that the relationships aren’t already okay,” he continued, “I just think in these times of uncertainty, there is the potential that the gap could widen.”

Having recently completed a PhD at the University of Edinburgh looking at right-wing extremism in different cities, Dr Barry found the peace and amicable relationship in Ghana refreshing.

FULL ARTICLE FROM EDINBURGH NEWS (SCOTLAND)

Christians and Muslims against the isolation of Indian Kashmir

By Kamran Chaudhry

Tension remain high following India’s security measures in the disputed territory. Jammu and Kashmir is the only Indian state with a Muslim majority. The former executive secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission calls for a referendum to decide the issue of sovereignty.

PAKISTAN_-_0807_-_KashmirLahore (AsiaNews) – Some Christian groups are taking part in gatherings across the country in solidarity with the people of Kashmir, and against human rights violations in the Indian-administered territory.

Two days ago, Indian authorities isolated the disputed region and cancelled its autonomy, in violation of constitutional guarantees, sending thousands of additional troops to the only state with a Muslim majority.

The Presbyterian Church of Pakistan plans a “peaceful rally against Indian atrocities” on Friday at the Liberty roundabout in Lahore.

“We condemn the move by Indian government to revoke Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and also Article 35-A prohibiting property rights for non-Kashmiris,” said Rev Amjad Niamat, president of the Presbyterian Ecumenism and Interfaith Harmony Commission, speaking to AsiaNews. “This is the most serious attack against Kashmiris since it was made part of India in 1948.”

The “Indian government has taken many regressive steps,” he added, “from a secular state to fundamentalism. We demand a political and democratic solution as per UN resolutions in the past. Violence will not solve anything.”

Farooq Tariq, the Muslim spokesman for the Awami Workers Party, calls for the demilitarisation of Kashmir.

“All army troops either from India or Pakistan should be out of this zone. Similarly, we reject US President’s offer to mediate in Kashmir. We also reject religious extremists in Pakistan who have been demanding that Kashmir become part of Pakistan,” he said. “Kashmir has its own culture and traditions.” Others “should deal with them as Kashmiris and as an independent nation.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM ASIA NEWS (ITALY)

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

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Questions of Faith

The question of whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God has been a point of contention among different religious denominations and various scholars. It has been suggested that the sheer disparities theologically and philosophically between both religions indicate that its adherents must be praying to separate deities. It seems, however, that arguments which support differentiating the two aren’t sound.

islam-christianity

Both Islam and Christianity, just like Judaism, are monotheistic religions tracing their roots back to Abraham. While Muslims believe that the Bible has been corrupted or altered in some shape or form, they still hold that God revealed his message to the prophets like Moses and Abraham.

The Vatican II document Lumen Gentium makes this clear when it reads: “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.” (16)

Distinction

But while the Church teaches that both religions worship the same God, an important distinction must be made, namely that our conception of God is different. Muslims, for example, don’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God or hold to the doctrine of the Trinity. This doesn’t mean that Muslims aren’t referring to the same God, only that they have a different sense of who God is.

It’s a difficult concept to get your head around, so an analogy would best serve to elucidate the point. Suppose there’s a man called Fred who has two siblings.

One sibling sees him as charming and kind; the other views him as a cold and self-centred. Both siblings conceive of Fred in different ways, but there’s no doubt that they’re definitely referring to the same person.

Likewise, even though Muslims don’t understand God in the same way as Christians, it doesn’t mean they aren’t genuinely directing their prayers to him.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE IRISH CATHOLIC 

Ramadan unites Christians and Muslims in Egypt

A group of Muslims and Christians have come together in Egypt to give their time to help the needy of society.

In the Cairo district of Masr El-Qadima, they are putting together Ramadan boxes, filled with basic food items and provisions, which have been donated by volunteers.

Volunteers preparing Ramadan boxes

For the past three years, landlord Atef William has been hosting the activities of an organization called “Helm Establ Antar”, meaning the dream of Establ Antar, the area where it takes place.

“We are all equals, we are Egyptians,” he says. “I was brought up not to differentiate between people on the basis of religion.”

Atef William

Much like Masr El-Qadima, the middle-class district of Shobra is considered to have a high level of social coexistence with friendly residents.

Gamil Banayouty is a Christian. He organises an iftar tent that has been set every Ramadan for the last 40 years. He works alongside elderly men who were teenagers when the activity first started.

Gamil Banayouty

“Our Ramadan table is called the National Unity Media, and it’s open to everyone – Muslims, Christians, we don’t differentiate,” he explains. “As for me, I’ve been attached to the month of Ramadan since the October War [1973 Arab–Israeli War]. I was an officer, and we were fighting during Ramadan, and I could not not fast with my soldiers. ”

Banayouty and his neighbours are very proud to have kept the iftar activity going for such a long time and they continue to reap the reward of the unity it brings between their community.

FULL ARTICLE FROM EURONEWS

The countries with the 10 largest Christian populations and the 10 largest Muslim populations

NIGERIA-RELIGION-ISLAM-EID“Top 10” lists can often be helpful in displaying and illuminating data. For example, the two tables of countries with the largest Christian and Muslim populations featured here reveal differences in the concentration, diversity and projected changes in the world’s two largest religions.

The two lists show that the global Muslim population is more heavily concentrated in Islam’s main population centers than the global Christian population is for Christianity, which is more widely dispersed around the world. Indeed, about two-thirds (65%) of the world’s Muslims live in the countries with the 10 largest Muslim populations, while only 48% of the world’s Christians live in the countries with the 10 largest Christian populations.

10 countries with the largest Muslim populations, 2015 and 2060To put it another way, more than half (52%) of the world’s Christians live in countries other than those with the 10 largest Christian populations, while this is true for just over a third (35%) of the world’s Muslims. In absolute terms, there are twice as many Christians (1.2 billion) as there are Muslims (609 million) living in countries that are not on their religion’s top 10 list.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PEW RESEARCH

Dalit Christians, Muslims seek rights in poll-bound India

5c88bdd05cdfd_600Hundreds of protesting Dalit Christians and Muslims marched through India’s capital in what they said was a last-ditch effort to gain welfare benefits denied to them.Some 500 Christians and Muslims who belong to former untouchable communities came together in New Delhi on March 12, two days after the schedule for the April-May general elections were announced.

“The country is in election mood. We want to put across our demands to the government that they consider the rights of our Dalit Christian and Muslim brethren,” said Father Devasagaya Raj, secretary of the Indian bishops’ office for Dalit and socially disadvantaged people at the gathering.

Christians and Muslims of Dalit origin demand that they be given social welfare benefits meant for the uplift of Dalit people. Both communities have been denied these benefits since 1950 because the government says their religions do not follow the caste system.“Six decades is not a small period [that] we have been suffering this injustice,” said Father Raj. “There is a limit for everything. We have decided that we will support a political party who will put our demands in their election manifesto.”

The 1950 presidential order said only Dalit people of the Hindu religion can enjoy constitutional benefits such as reservations in government jobs, education institutions and financial help with studies. The order was amended twice to include Sikhs in 1956 and Buddhists in 1990.Both Buddhism and Sikhism also do not approve of the caste system, but they were included after the government accepted their argument that a mere change of religion does not change a person’s socio-economic situation.

But the same argument put forward by Dalit Christians and Muslims has not been successful in having another amendment applied. Christian leaders say political parties fear doing so because it could antagonize their majority Hindu voters.“Most of the political parties have promised to consider our demand but no one has kept their word when they come to power. We want a firm promise now,” Father Raj said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM UCA NEWS