Religious leaders unite for peace at open dialogue event in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is home to 18 religious’ denominations, making it one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world.

In September, it opened its doors for a global interfaith dialogue. Its capital Astana hosted the 7th edition of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. Delegates from more than 50 countries came together, urging peace and consolidation around the world.

“The efforts of world leaders, the efforts of international organizations are not enough to overcome the challenges that humanity is facing. And the voice of spiritual leaders who have great authority among the world’s population, calls for the joint overcoming of all the challenges. This is very important,” says Askar Shakirov, the deputy chairman of the senate of Kazakhstan.

“We have a common goal but we are no longer looking at our differences but we are recognising our common concern, for those who struggle or suffer.”

Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism as well as other world religions were represented at the Congress. This year Pope Francis as well as the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb were among the renowned guests.

“The main result is that we are sitting together, we are speaking together and we are understanding that to find solutions for the problems in the world is not by fighting, is not during by war, but sitting together and speaking,” David Baruch Lau, the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel said to Euronews.

One of the goals of the congress is to reintroduce the language of reconciliation and peace to a world shattered by conflict and tragedy. It also strives to put religion in the spotlight as a tool to help defuse confrontations.

The final declaration of the Congress calls upon world leaders to abandon all aggressive and destructive rhetoric, which leads to destabilisation in the world. It demands a cease from conflict and bloodshed in all corners. It says that extremism, radicalism, terrorism and all other forms of violence have nothing to do with authentic religion and must be rejected.

Participants of the Congress planted trees in the new Peace and Harmony park in the capital of Kazakhstan. This ceremony is a symbol of hope for the interfaith dialogue to grow and bring about change, to unite different communities across the globe and to inspire people to join their efforts in the name of peace.

FULL ARTICLE FROM EURONEWS.NEXT

‘Reasons for Our Hope’: Video Series Presents Christian Belief to the Muslim World

“In our time, when day by day mankind is being drawn closer together, and the ties between different peoples are becoming stronger, the Church examines more closely her relationship to non-Christian religions,” begins the Vatican II declaration Nostra Aetate, written in 1965. 

In our own time, a group of scholars are putting these principles into practice in a format that the Council Fathers would never have anticipated: YouTube. 

Reasons for Our Hope, a joint project between the Oasis International Foundation and the McGrath Institute for Church Life at Notre Dame, is a YouTube series intended to advance mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims. In so doing, the series seeks to be respectful to Muslim believers (quoting Muslim philosophers and writers, closely studying the words of the Quran and Muslim traditions, and consulting Muslim scholars) while also being honest about the different worldviews that Christianity and Islam present. 

The collaborative project traces its roots to a 2017 symposium between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and its Muslim counterpart, the Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue, held in Cairo. At the symposium, Gabriel Said Reynolds, Notre Dame professor of Islamic studies, met Martino Diez, the scientific director of the Oasis International Foundation. Founded with the initiative of Cardinal Angelo Scola in 2004, Oasis aims to foster dialogue and understanding between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East, facilitating research, conferences and public conversation on the topic. 

Both Diez and Reynolds realized while attending the symposium that, among Christians, there was both a lack of knowledge about Islam and a lack of resources for attaining that knowledge. Similarly, many Muslims regularly encountered misinformation about Christianity and Catholicism. 

John Cavadini, director of the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame, similarly noted the problems facing Muslim-Christian dialogue. A project that would aim to educate Catholics on theological differences between themselves and Muslims was a good fit for the McGrath Institute’s goal to “empower faithful Catholic leaders at all levels.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER

PEACE FEASTS: A NEW CONNECTION FOR MUSLIM AND CHRISTIAN COLLEGE STUDENTS

Marquette University senior Anna Buckstaff said she appreciates opportunities to meet Muslims and Christians who are interested in connecting around common core values.

The Catholic from Palatine, Illinois, who attended the Lenten Peace Feast in February with Muslims and Christians, said the experience helped her reflect and deepen her understanding of her own faith.

“I really appreciated how the faiths share an emphasis for tradition and value the time spent with family and loved ones,” she said. “I have really enjoyed being exposed to different approaches to care and value God’s creation.”

She is looking forward to the Ramadan Peace Feast, online from 2 – 3:30 p.m. CDT, Sunday, April 18. College students and young professionals are encouraged to participate. Registration is now open.

Peace Feasts, new interfaith meeting experiences, offer Muslim and Christian college students in Wisconsin a chance to learn about each other’s sacred seasons, as well as to connect and build trust. The idea is for young adults of each faith to invite each other to their holiday feasts—this year during the Christian Lent and Muslim Ramadan.

The program is free to participants through financial support from Interfaith Youth Core, described on its website as “a national non-profit working towards an America where people of different faiths, worldviews and traditions can bridge differences and find common values to build a shared life together.”

IFYC was founded by Eboo Patel, a Chicago-based author, speaker and educator who said he was “inspired to build this bridge by his identity as an American Muslim navigating a religiously diverse social landscape.”

What to expect

The Ramadan Peace Feast is the second of a series. Young adults who would like to join in are welcomed, whether they attended Part I or not, said Rev. Nicole Wriedt, San Diego program director of Peace Catalyst International, who with Milwaukee-based PCI program director Steve Lied, is the Christian co-organizer for these events. They collaborate with the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition’s president Janan Najeeb.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WISCONSIN MUSLIM JOURNAL

Evangelicals and Muslims: Not Brothers, But Best Friends

Last November, when the General Assembly of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) took Sunday off for worship and relaxation near Jakarta, Indonesia, a group of top leaders did something different. We got in a van and traveled to the offices of an Indonesian Muslim youth organization.

There we spent several hours in stimulating conversation with a group of Muslim intellectuals. Afterwards, at dinner, we were joined by Indonesia’s ambassador to the United States.

Why would WEA leaders pay so much attention to a group of Indonesian Muslims? And why would our hosts and even a high government official be so interested in welcoming us? Two reasons.

First, both we and our Muslim counterparts are idealists. We share a vision of a world in which people are free to choose their religious belief without risking their lives.

And second, we think a high-level alliance between one of the world’s largest evangelical organizations and one of the world’s largest Muslim organizations can uniquely move humanity in that direction.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY

St. Francis and Egypt’s Ruler (Part 1)

The painting of St. Francis embracing Egypt’s Sultan Malik al-Kamil is on the first page of my website. It graces my Twitter handle. After nine years, I finally get to explain it, and this with the help of acclaimed 2009 book by journalist and professor of journalism Paul Moses, The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace.

I’ll do this in two installments. Here, I lay out the story according to the best historical sources, mostly uncovered and critically evaluated in the 20th century. Next, I’ll take us on a short historical journey to illustrate how religious narratives are driven by people with power, and in this case, by popes who were determined to continue the Crusades against the Muslim Other and crush dissenting voices.

Francis of Assisi’s conversion

Francis’s father, Pietro di Bernardone, a wealthy silk merchant from Assisi, Italy, was in France where he conducted much of his business (his mother was a French noble woman from Provence) when his son Giovanni was born. But Pietro called him Francesco (“Frenchy”) from the start. French troubadours’ songs and chivalry were popular in his family.

FULL ARTICLE FROM HUMANTRUSTEES.ORG

Joint Christian-Muslim study of sacred texts offers new insights to interfaith dialogue

lwi-dok-62-cover(LWI) – Joint theological study resources on the sacred texts of both Christians and Muslims open up possibilities to gain “new perspectives” and “fresh insights into the meaning and transformative dynamics” of each other’s Holy Scriptures.

Lutheran theologians Rev. Dr Simone Sinn and Rev. Dr Sivin Kit made these remarks while reflecting on The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) publication Heilige Schriften heute verstehen: Christen und Muslime im Dialog. The German edition of the publication Transformative Readings of Sacred Scriptures: Christians and Muslims in Dialogue is now available online and in hard copy.

Sinn, the publication co-editor is currently professor of Ecumenical Theology at the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland. While the new edition targets all German-speaking regions, she noted a particular interest in Germany due to its historical “contributions to the dialogue between philosophical and theological hermeneutics.” In recent years, universities there “have provided opportunities for new interreligious collaboration on scriptural interpretation and hermeneutics,” she said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM LUTHERNWORLD.ORG 

The Use Of Anthropological Mediation In Interfaith Dialogue – Analysis

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The West believed in the 1970s that, with modern societies becoming more rational, belief was going to fade. The idea that modernity and religion cannot mix, was very widespread.

The rise of fundamentalisms, the fall of the Berlin Wall, terrorist violence, have created a new climate, heightened new fears, and spread confusion in people’s minds. As a result, religion now occupies a central place in debates previously dominated by revolutionary themes and Marxist ideology. The new challenges require intellectual clarification in favor of a dialogue of religions still to be created.

What can be the place of philosophy and anthropology in interfaith dialogue? What mediating, critical and propositional roles can it play within this context, particularly through its anthropological reflexions?

Religion is not only an ecclesiastical concern, but also and above all scientific

The religious question is not only an ecclesiastical concern, but also and above all scientific. This is why the construction of the object of this argument must have recourse to socio-historical facts and analyzes. In fact, religion, during Antiquity, foreshadowed socio-political organization. This is reflected in the election of the people of Israel to the promised land. From there, the Israelis, followers of a divine conviction, settled on this land promised to their father, Abraham, and confronted a Palestinian people who once enjoyed a presence there. And since then, permanent vicissitudes will make the Middle East a powder keg. 

Among these changes, the birth of Christianity following the message of Jesus, seals the salvation no longer of an elected and chosen people of God, but of all humanity irrespective of social status, color or origin. In contrast, emerges Islam, through the Prophet Muhammad who challenges Judaism, but also Christianity, not as a religion, but because its followers have turned away from the word of God by falling into “the mistake”.

In this way, Islam presents itself as a social and political-religious force in the face of Christianity. This is why thinkers according to their intellectual schemes, rightly or wrongly, speak of the war of religions or the war of civilizations which often leads to socio-political and theological confrontations. To this must be added the creation of the State of Israel by Jewish de-diasporization, following “combatant Zionism”, in response to “pogroms” in Russia and anti-Semitism in Germany, which will relaunch the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in suspension with direct consequence, the implication of the world.

FULL ARTICLE FROM EUROASIAREVIEW

Lutheran pastor, Muslim doctor discuss common ground in ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ conversation in Willmar, Minnesota

122419.N.WCT.LoveThyNeighbor.0062WILLMAR — While there are unarguably many differences between Christianity and Islam, the overarching message of the interfaith dialogue last week Willmar was there is more common ground than one might expect and the differences should not keep people apart.

“It is OK to be friends and neighbors with people that are different than you,” said the Rev. Mandy France, pastor of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Bird Island. “It is OK to be in a relationship with people who don’t believe what you believe.”

France and Dr. Ayaz Virji, of Dawson, conducted their 26th “Love Thy Neighbor” event Dec. 20 in front of a crowd of about 100 people at the Barn Theatre in Willmar. Virji and France have for a couple of years now been giving these talks, based on Virji’s book “Love Thy Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor’s Struggle for Home in Rural America.”

The duo started them following the 2016 election, when Virji and his family started to experience a significant rise in Islamophobia in their home of Dawson, where Virji is a family practice physician.

“After the election, things did change, for whatever reason,” Virji said.

At the start of the Willmar presentation, they made sure to let people know they had no other agenda beyond starting a conversation.

“We are not here to argue or debate anyone. We are not hear to convert anyone,” France said. “The religion or whatever you walked in with, you are going to walk out with.”

During the two-hour presentation, France and Virji shared their stories about how they came together to give these presentations across the country. Virji shared information about Islam, and the two questioned each other about their respective religions. There was also a short question-and-answer segment with the audience toward the end.

Virji and his family had moved to Dawson in 2013, when Virji felt a calling to practice medicine in rural America, where there is a shortage of physicians. The treatment his family was receiving following the election made him start to rethink that mission. His family, including his young children, were called suicide bombers and terrorists to their faces, and Virji regularly receives hate mail.

“This is nonsense,” Virji said and he was thinking of leaving it all behind. While he accepted a position with New York University in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Virji continues to live and work in Dawson for part of the year.

France, who in 2016 was an intern pastor, talked Virji into giving a presentation about Islam in Dawson, to teach people and show them there is nothing to fear.

“The message of the Bible is love. It was really conflicting to me,” France said of the treatment she witnessed Virji and his family receiving and the comments she heard from people who identify as Christian.

For Virji, Islam is a religion of peace and love and it’s just as much about good deeds as belief.

“Faith is a verb, you have to do it,” Virji said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WEST CENTRAL TRIBUNE (MINNESOTA, USA)

Pope seeks more freedom in theology, dialogue with Islam

190417_aptn_pope_thunberg_hpMain_16x9_1600Pope Francis called Friday for a reform of the way theology is taught in Catholic schools, saying students must learn about dialogue with Judaism and Islam, and that overall there must be greater freedom in theological research and academic pursuits.

The Jesuit pope made the call during a speech at the Jesuit-run theology university in Naples. It follows his outreach this year to the Muslim world with the signing of a joint statement with the imam of Cairo’s Al Azhar, the seat of Sunni learning, establishing the relationship between Catholics and Muslims as brothers, with a common mission to promote peace.

In his speech, Francis said dialogue and partnership with the Muslim world is necessary “to build a peaceful existence, even when there are the troublesome episodes by fanatic enemies of dialogue.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM ABC NEWS

Nigerian archbishop: Church works as bridge between Muslims, Christians

20190305T1116-1350-CNS-NIGERIA-KAIGAMA-BRIDGE_800-690x450NEW YORK – The Catholic Church is working to bridge the divide between Muslims and Christians in a country where the divide between the groups is fraught with large and small issues, said a Nigerian archbishop.

Archbishop Ignatius A. Kaigama of Jos, a former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, gave examples from his archdiocese in the central part of the country.

In Jos, the bustling administrative capital of Plateau state, the archbishop established the Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace Centre in 2011 to “attempt to narrow the gap between different groups that are hostile to each other,” he said.

It is a place where “Muslims and Christians walk together,” the archbishop told Catholic News Service in early March. The archbishop was in New York to speak at a March 1 panel at the United Nations, “International Religious Freedom,” organized by the Holy See Observer Mission to the U.N.

“I have lived through all different types of crisis. I didn’t want to wait for big solutions, but wanted to do something small,” Archbishop Kaigama told CNS. “It’s a safe space to talk to one another and a proactive center to forestall crisis and possible violence.”

“We bring in Muslim and Christian primary and secondary school students and train them together in peace education. We also bring in traditional grassroots leaders to encourage people to cultivate dialogue,” he said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUXNOW