Get Jews, Muslims and Christians talking and maybe they won’t want to stop

One hundred and forty Jews, Christians and Muslims will sit down together next month to discuss human dignity and how it is exemplified in the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Quran for “Peoples of the Book,” the third in a series of interfaith events. This will be the first time Jews are taking part.

The first two events created by the Crosier Fathers and Brothers, a Roman Catholic religious order, and the Sema Foundation, a community service non-profit founded by Turkish Americans, were “Friends of Mary” and “Jesus: Word and Spirit of God,” and focused on theological considerations between Christians and Muslims.

Jewish partners were not included, but organizers said welcoming Jews at some point was a long-held desire.

Rabbi Debbie Stiel of Temple Solel was the first Jewish clergy member to join the group and she felt a warmth from the others right away. Each event had a different configuration of planners, so it was easy for her to enter the group on equal footing without the sense of being late to the game.

“I felt immediately there was a curiosity and an interest from them in learning more about Judaism,” she said. “It felt great to join and do some teaching — as well as some learning.”

Interfaith dialogue is often held up as a good way to engender understanding, tolerance and even friendships. Leonard Swidler, Khalid Duran and Reuven Firestone in their 2007 book, “Trialogue: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Dialogue,” stated its importance even more starkly:

“We human beings today face a stark choice: dialogue or death!”

However, pulling off a meaningful interfaith dialogue event is challenging and can take long periods of detailed planning. Indeed, for this particular series, every event required several months of meetings.

But it was sparked by a simple inchoate desire to make a connection.

In the summer of 2019, Crosier Rev. Bob Rossi shared the iftar, the meal Muslims eat after sunset during Ramadan, at Sema’s community center in Chandler. During dinner, Rossi recognized a need for some kind of formal interfaith dialogue between Catholics and Muslims.

FULL ARTICLE FROM JEWISH ARIZONA COMMUNITY

Dialogue is ‘the oxygen of peace’

The Holy Father recalls his visit to Bahrain

At the General Audience in Saint Peter’s Square on Wednesday morning, 9 November, Pope Francis reflected on his recent Apostolic Journey to Bahrain, pointing to three keywords that sum up his experience: dialogue, encounter and journey. The Holy Father also expressed his closeness to the people of Cyprus after the passing of His Beatitude Chrysostomos II and renewed his invitation to pray for martyred Ukraine. The following is a translation of the Holy Father’s words which he shared in Italian.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Good morning!

Before I begin to speak about what I have prepared, I would like to draw attention to these two children who came up here. They did not ask permission. They did not say, “I am afraid”. They came up directly. This is how we have to be with God: direct. They have given us an example of how we should behave with God, with the Lord: go ahead! He is always waiting for us. It was good for me to see the trust of these two children. It was an example for all of us. This is how we should always draw near the Lord — freely. Thank you.

Three days ago, I returned from my trip to the Kingdom of Bahrain which I truly did not know. I did not really know what that kingdom was like. I would like to thank everyone who accompanied this visit through the support of their prayers, and to renew my gratitude to His Majesty the King, the other Authorities, the local Church and the people, for their warm welcome. And I would also like to thank those who organize these journeys. To make this trip happen, it takes a bustle of people. The Secretariat of State works a lot to prepare the discourses, to prepare the logistics, everything, there is a lot of activity… then the translators… and then, the Gendarmerie Corps, the Swiss Guards Corps, who are wonderful. It is a tremendous amount of work! To everyone, to all of you, I would like to thank you publicly for all that you do to ensure that the Pope’s journeys go well. Thank you.

It is natural to wonder why the Pope wanted to visit this small country with such a large Islamic majority. There are so many Christian countries — why not go to one of them first? I would like to respond through three words: dialogue, encounter and journey.

Dialogue: the opportunity for the long-desired Journey was afforded by the invitation of the King to a Forum on dialogue between the East and the West, a dialogue that seeks to discover the richness that other peoples, traditions and beliefs possess. Bahrain, an archipelago formed by many islands, helped us understand that one must not live in isolation, but by drawing closer. In Bahrain, which is made up of islands, they drew close, they brush up against each other. The cause of peace requires this, and dialogue is “the oxygen of peace”. Do not forget this. Dialogue is the oxygen of peace. Even for peace in our homes. If there is war there between husband and wife, they can move ahead in peace, with dialogue. In the family, too, dialogue; dialogue, for peace is preserved through dialogue. Almost 60 years ago, the Second Vatican Council, speaking about building an edifice of peace, stated that “it certainly demands that [men and women] extend their thoughts and their spirit beyond the confines of their own nation, that they put aside national selfishness and ambition to dominate other nations, and that they nourish a profound reverence for the whole of humanity, which is already making its way so laboriously toward greater unity” (Gaudium et Spes, 82). I sensed this need in Bahrain and I hoped that religious and civil leaders throughout the world might be able to look beyond their own borders, their own communities, to care for the whole. This is the only way to confront certain universal issues, for example, that God is being forgotten, the tragedy of hunger, the care of creation, peace. These things can be thought of all together. In this sense, the Forum for dialogue, entitled “East and West for Human Coexistence”, encouraged choosing the path of encounter and rejecting that of confrontation. How much we need this! There is such a need to encounter each other. I am thinking of the insanity of war — insane! — of which martyred Ukraine is a victim, and of many other conflicts, that will never be resolved with the infantile logic of weapons, but only with the gentle power of dialogue. But in addition to Ukraine, which is being tormented, let us think of the wars that have been going on for years, and let us think of Syria — more than 10 years! — let us think, for example, of Syria, let us think of the children in Yemen, let us think of Myanmar: everywhere! Right now, Ukraine is closer. What do wars do? They destroy, they destroy humanity, they destroy everything. Conflicts should not be resolved through war.

FULL ARTICLE FROM OSSERVATOREROMANO.VA

‘A need for Islamic ecumenism’: An interview with Cardinal Fitzgerald

A cardinal, with decades working and praying with Muslims, talks about interreligious conversation.

When Cardinal Arthur Roche received the red hat on Aug. 27, he became the third living English cardinal.

Many Catholics could name a second one: Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the current Archbishop of Westminster and president of the English and Welsh bishops’ conference.

But they might struggle to name the third. That’s probably because he is living in retirement in a parish in the city of Liverpool. But he is an eminent churchman who is one of the Church’s leading experts on Islam, and he once led a Vatican dicastery.

Days before Pope Francis’ trip to the Muslim-majority country of Bahrain, Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald spoke with The Pillar about the most pressing challenges in Catholic-Muslim relations, the need for “Islamic ecumenism,” and the impact of Benedict XVI’s Regensburg lecture.

In a pithy email interview, the cardinal also discussed why he joined the White Fathers in his youth, his missionary work in Africa, and what it was like to serve at the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the Vatican body overseeing interfaith relations.

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England’s three living cardinals (left to right): Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald, Cardinal Arthur Roche, and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, pictured on Aug. 28, 2022. © Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

Cardinal Fitzgerald, what is Christianity?

At Antioch, the followers of the Way were called Christians for the first time. So Christianity is the following of Jesus Christ according to his teaching and the way of life that he indicated. Of course, we know the teaching of Jesus through Tradition (which includes the Gospels). According to Matthew 25, we shall be judged more on our lives than our beliefs.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PILLAR

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