Jews, Christians and Muslims make holy ground in America’s heartland

170616134549-03-tri-faith-initiative-exlarge-169Omaha, Nebraska (CNN) When most people think of Omaha, they imagine sizzling steaks, billionaire Warren Buffet or even former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning calling out before the snap. (Remember “Omaha-Omaha”?).

But if a group of clergymen have their way, Nebraska’s largest city will soon also be known as the home of interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding.

A rabbi, a reverend and an imam (no, it’s not a setup joke) are partners in a decadelong quest to bring together the three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — to share and worship on the same property.

It’s called Tri-Faith Initiative.

The $65 million project, launched in 2006 and funded through donations, may be the first time in US history that the three faiths intentionally build their houses of worship side by side.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CNN

Advertisements

Historic Bridgeport Church to Become Mosque

BRIDGEPORT, Conn.—One of the oldest Christian congregations in this community said it would sell its historic church to a regional Islamic center.

The United Congregational Church said Monday it plans to sell its brick Georgian-Revival style church, built in the 1920s, to the Bridgeport Islamic Community Center for $1 million.

The two groups will also form a partnership to provide community programs including a soup kitchen and a homeless shelter from the site of the current church.

bn-rb957_nybrid_m_20161205165020In recent years, more Muslim communities across the U.S. have begun to engage in the types of fundraisers and social-service projects that Christian congregations and Jewish synagogues often host or organize, said David Grafton, professor of Islamic studies and Christian-Muslim relations at Hartford Seminary in Hartford.

“As the national landscape has become much more suspicious of Muslims, and as Islamophobia has become more common, Muslim communities have consciously engaged in the process to normalize—or become part of the religious landscape of organizing into voluntary associations that form the bedrock of American civil and religious life,” he said.

The lineage of the United Congregational Church dates back to colonial days. It was first established in 1695 and called the Ecclesiastical Society of Stratfield. It later merged in 1916 with another congregation to form the United Congregational Church. Rev. Sara Smith said the Bridgeport church had 3,000 members when the main structure was built, but the numbers have now dwindled to 300. She said it made financial sense for the congregation to look for a new home.

The United Congregational Church will be renting space in another part of Bridgeport until it finds a new space to buy, Rev. Smith said. “We are not dying, we are just moving,” she said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL 

Pakistani Muslims build church for Christian neighbors

church

World Bulletin / News Desk

In Pakistan’s northeastern Punjab province, Muslim villagers are raising funds to help their poor Christian neighbors build a church.

The initiative was begun shortly before Easter by a group of Muslims from a village in Faisalabad, Pakistan’s textile-manufacturing hub.

“There is a tiny Christian population in the village — only 20 families — who have no place to worship,” Fr. Aftab James, the local priest, said.

“Only days before Easter, the initiative was taken up by our Muslim brothers,” he said.

According to Fr. James, Christians of the village had to use someone’s home — or some other site — to perform prayers on holy days.

“Muslim residents of the town, however, offered to build us a chapel as a gift,” he said.

“We are thankful to our Muslim brothers for this wonderful gesture. It makes us feel proud,” the priest said.

The local Christian community is now very excited that they will soon have a church in the village.

“Before we had to rent or borrow a house in which to hold Christmas, Easter and other festivities,” Faryad Masih, a Christian laborer, said.

“But now we will soon have our own chapel,” he said.

“At first I didn’t believe it when Muslim community leaders said they would build us a chapel,” he recalled.

“But to my surprise, construction work began within one month of the initial announcement,” a visibly excited Faryad said.

“Our community’s longtime dream is now coming true,” he said.

Christians, Pakistan’s largest religious minority, account for roughly 3 percent of the country’s total population of some 180 million.

Most of them reside in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, where they are mainly involved in the sanitation, nursing and teaching sectors.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WORLD BULLETIN

Muslims in Bulgaria pull together to rebuild Christian church

church-of-st-michael-the-archangelMuslims in a small village in Bulgaria have raised the funds and contributed the labour to restore a century-old Eastern Orthodox church.

The Muslims managed to put together £800 for the restoration, to save the Church of the Archangel Michael for the village’s Christian community who make up about one tenth of the 600 residents.

Kozlets is in the southern Bulgarian province of Haskovo, near the borders of Greece and Turkey.

The restoration of the bell tower cost about £800.

“It was possible that it would fall and bring down the roof with it. This very much worried the Christians in the village. So we decided to raise money,” village mayor Kadir Beynur told Haskovo.

Advertisement

The Muslims along with local Christians found the money to repair the belfry, repair the fence around the church and refurbish the interior.

The bell will now peal out again as the church re-opens for Orthodox Easter, which this year is on 1 May.

The church sexton, Petar, said: “The tables, the floor mats, everything was collected from the people, everything was donated.”

Previously, the bell was in a precarious state and it was feared it could have fallen at any time on to the heads of worshippers below.

Beynur explained that in these troubled times, this was a chance to strengthen the bonds between the two faiths.

“From what I can remember my parents, our Muslim community and Christians who once were a majority in the village, we lived together,” he said. The communities were united by faith and jointly celebrated each others’ holidays. “This is an absolute sign that not only people becoming more strong in faith, but in a village where there are Muslims and Christians, all have played their part, rolled up their sleeves and taken care of their houses of prayer. Kozlets is a true example of tolerance, especially in these times when it is so important and necessary.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN TODAY 

Sign of the times? Canadian Church becomes a mosque

WINDSOR, ON. AUGUST 19, 2015. -- The former Lincoln Road United Church is seen in Windsor on Wednesday, August 19, 2015. The church is now the Masjid Noor Ul Islam.                           (TYLER BROWNBRIDGE/The Windsor Star)

WINDSOR, ON. AUGUST 19, 2015. — The former Lincoln Road United Church is seen in Windsor on Wednesday, August 19, 2015. The church is now the Masjid Noor Ul Islam. (TYLER BROWNBRIDGE/The Windsor Star)

The long-standing Lincoln Road United Church has been sold and the historic building that was erected 100 years ago for Protestant Christians will now serve Windsor’s Muslim community.

The Masjid Noor-Ul-Islam Madressa and Cultural Centre of Windsor is not yet in full operation, but crosses came down and new signs recently went up for the mosque.

The building, constructed in 1915 as a Methodist Church, had been for sale for almost three years. It sold in February for under $500,000, significantly less than the United Church’s original asking price of $895,000.

“It was very sad when we closed but our resources were dwindling and the congregation was getting older and reducing in size,” said Ross Mitton, chair of the finance and property committee of the United Church Essex Presbytery. “Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough of the next generation — and I’m talking about 60 years old — taking the (church director) positions. So it had to close.”

Mitton, who attended the neo-gothic church for 25 years, expects to see the impressive stained-glass windows, which depict Biblical scenes and which were custom made for the space, eventually covered.

“Their religion is different than ours, but it’s still going to be used as a house of God,” Mitton said. “So we were OK with that.”

The Masjid Noor-Ul-Islam Madressa and Cultural Centre of Windsor, established in 1983, was a longtime neighbour of the church, operating in a cramped house in the 700 block of Lincoln Road for years.

The building is listed under the heritage act but not designated, which means the new owners can renovate the property but cannot demolish it.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WINDSOR STAR 

Joint Christian-Jewish-Muslim worship center planned in Berlin

worldreligionBerlin – The three main monotheistic religions of Europe are building a joint house of worship in central Berlin. The House of One, hopes to help unite the three religions by promoting dialogue and fostering understanding.

Each faith will maintain a separate structure in the complex, but the presence of all three religions at one site is giving many hope of opening dialogue between faiths that have sometimes been at odds in the past. Pastor Gregor Hohberg, a Protestant Christian, said

Under one roof: one synagogue, one mosque, one church. We want to use these rooms for our own traditions and prayers. And together we want to use the room in the middle for dialogue and discussion and also for people without faith.

The planned construction site is the former location of St. Petri’s Church, which dated back to the 1100s. It was heavily damaged during World War II, and then demolished by the East German government after the war.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DIGITAL JOURNAL 

Muslims help rebuild Catholic church in the Philippines

christ-the-king-chapel-in-zamboanga-philippines-2ZAMBOANGA CITY – Christian residents of this city’s Santa Catalina district found nothing unusual about Muslims bearing carpenters’ tools — until they realized the Muslims had volunteered to help rebuild a Catholic chapel.

“We thought they were just looking for damaged mosques to rebuild,” said Jimmy Villaflores, Santa Catalina barangay (village) head.

But to the surprise of the mostly Christian residents, the Muslims, a number of them residents Zamboanga City who returned home from abroad recently, announced they had come to Santa Catalina to rebuild the Christ the King chapel.

Built in the early 1980′s, the chapel on Martha Drive was razed by one of many fires t6hat broke out during a three-week battle between government forces and a band of Moro National Liberation Front guerrillas loyal to MNLF founder Nur Misuari last September.

When the fighting ended, only the chapel’s back wall and altar were left. The 100-year-old wooden image of the Christ the King, which was regularly used in major religious processions here, did not survive the flames.

“We have not heard of any Muslim helping build a chapel before,” Villaflores said.

But before the Christians could say anything to the Muslims, they went to work, sawing lumber, driving in nails and doing other things to rebuild the chapel.

“We are very happy about it. Santa Catalina residents are deeply touched by their efforts. We really appreciate how our Muslim brothers and sisters are helping us,” Villaflores said.

He said that the help extended by Zamboanga’s Muslim residents, who suffered equally during the three-week siege, hastgened the rebuilding of the chapel.

“Barely a month since the work began our chapel is about 90 percent completed already,” he said.

Father Michael Ufana of the Saint Joseph parish said he was overwhelmed by what the Muslims had shown.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INQUIRER 

Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook