International interfaith gathering: ‘We must work together or we will all fail’

Ring for PeaceINDAU, Germany (RNS) — The 10th Religions for Peace World Assembly launched Tuesday (Aug. 20) with calls for religious groups to take decisive action on the main geopolitical issues of the day, and ending with an unusual “statement of commitment” aimed at fostering multireligious cooperation.

Almost every religious leader who spoke at the opening ceremony called  communities of faith to look beyond their own local or church-related issues.

“Nothing can be accomplished if we work separately,” said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

Kosho Niwano, president-designate of the Japanese Buddhist movement Rissho Kosei-kai, praised interfaith cooperation of the past and said it should continue in the future.

“We have seen half a century of progress so far and for that to continue the only way is for us to work together.”

Cardinal John Onaiyekan, archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, agreed.

“The future depends entirely on how we address our shared welfare,” he told the more 1,000 attendees at the gathering.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE 

General Synod (Canadian Anglican) passes motion to sign, endorse Christian-Muslim dialogue

DSC_1579-696x463General Synod voted July 15 to sign on to “A Common Word Between Us and You” and endorse it as a model for Christian-Muslim dialogue.

“A Common Word” is a letter written in 2007 at the initiative of 138 Muslim scholars, clerics and political figures, according to the Rev. Scott Sharman, animator for ecumenical and interfaith relations, who gave a presentation to General Synod before the motion.

More than 400 Muslim leaders from around the world have since signed on to the letter, which is addressed to Christian leaders and is “an invitation to Christians to dialogue.” The title comes from a line from the Qur’an, Sharman said: “O People of the Book, come to a common word between us and you.”

The letter extends “an invitation to look at two foundational principles present within both of our respective scriptures: the call to love God above all things, and the call that follows from that, to love our neighbours. Love of God and love of neighbour is the starting ground.”

The resolution presented to General Synod involved two steps: becoming, as a church, signatory to the letter, and endorsing it to “use as a model…a kind of Christian-Muslim dialogue starter kit,” Sharman said.

The letter presents “a new kind of relationship between Muslims and Christians than has been possible for so much of our history,” according to Sharman. “It does not look for agreement, but it seeks to find common ground that could make for peace.” Since 2008, the letter has received 70 responses and nearly 200 sign-on endorsements by churches and Christian leaders.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ANGLICAN JOURNAL (CANADA)

Philippine Muslims, Christians build bridges over dinner

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Muslim and Christian groups in Manila held a charity dinner on June 8 to promote peace and fight what they described as anti-Islamic sentiments.

The event included a discussion on the security situation in the southern Philippines and “prejudices against Islam” especially in the Mindanao region.

Amirah Lidasan, secretary-general of the Moro-Christian People’s Alliance, said the activity was designed to foster unity and encourage inter-faith dialogue.

“We want to show that despite our differences, Muslims and Christians have a lot of things to share because we are all people of faith,” said Lidasan.

She said the rise of “religious extremism among misguided Muslims” and the “projection in media that Muslims are terrorists” fuels mistrust and fear of them.

Catholic Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, chairman of the Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum said what fuels this fear and mistrust is public ignorance about Islam.

“As followers of Christ, we have to open our hearts and minds to understand other cultures and religions,” the prelate said.

“Dialogue leads to understanding and understanding leads to acceptance that would eventually result in peace,” he added.

Father Christopher Ablon of the Philippine Independent Church said intolerance of other faiths could be avoided “if we are capable of listening to our neighbors.”

“What is lacking is our sense of hearing. We do not listen to them and we perceive their grievances as superfluous,” he said.

FULL ARTICLE UCA NEWS

Muslim doctor encourages Christians to ‘love thy neighbor’ in new book

5d07e045e11d0.imageAyaz Virji had a well-paying position at a Pennsylvania hospital when he decided to uproot his family in 2013 and move to Dawson, Minn., a town with about 1,500 residents.

Virji’s Muslim faith and values inspired him to look for a job that was more than lucrative. In Dawson, he said, he felt he could spend time getting to know his patients in an underserved rural community.

Then came the 2016 election.

Most Dawson residents voted for President Trump. And many of Virji’s patients — stirred by Trump’s insistence that “Islam hates us,” his suggestion of a Muslim registry and his promise of a Muslim ban — began to question his family’s presence. As far as anybody knew, they were the first Muslim family to live in Dawson.

That’s when Virji discovered another vocation: speaking to Christian audiences about his faith to dispel myths about Islam. The Rev. Mandy France — then an intern at a local Lutheran church — first invited Virji to give a talk titled “Love Thy Neighbor” in a school auditorium.

“When we did our first talk, people protested,” Virji said. “They said Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to speak publicly. And I’m like, you guys know me. I’m the doctor. I treat you guys.”

Since then, he said, he’s given more than 25 lectures. He and France even addressed the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s national celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017.

Now Virji has turned his talk into a book titled “Love Thy Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor’s Struggle for Home in Rural America.”

“If it starts conversations — that’s all that it needs to do — then we’re going to be in a much better place,” he said.

Virji spoke to Religion News Service about his experience as a Muslim in rural America and what Christians and Muslims have in common.

FULL ARTICLE FROM VOICE NEWS 

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

Extremists Won’t Hinder Interfaith Dialogue

shutterstock_560746489-1In this edition of The Interview, Fair Observer talks to Leonard Swidler, professor of Catholic thought and interreligious dialogue at Temple University, Philadelphia.

Interfaith dialogue is a necessity in our age. In a world suffering from armed conflicts, diplomatic standoffs and trade wars, cooperative and constructive interaction between people of different religious traditions is fundamental to solidifying peace and stability, and stemming racism, xenophobia, radicalization, violent extremism and terrorism.

Interreligious dialogue is about encounters — it drives respect, mutual understanding and appreciation for common values. Interfaith dialogue helps debunk the myths and eradicate the stereotypes about religion that politicians abuse to further their (often populist) agendas.

The 1893 Parliament of World Religions at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, is often referred to as the birth of the modern interfaith movement, even though interfaith dialogue has ancient roots. There have been notable examples of collaboration between the devotees of different religions in the far past. In the 16th century, the emperor Akbar the Great encouraged tolerance in Mughal India where people of various faith backgrounds, including Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Christianity, lived.

It’s also narrated in the Bible that Cyrus the Great, the king of Persia, allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and ordered a temple to be built in Jerusalem upon a decree from God in the first year of his reign. It is for this reason that Cyrus is talked of favorably in the Bible and loved by the Jews.

While such plagues as Islamophobia and anti-Semitism continue to spread intolerance and mar relations between Muslims, Jews and Christians, faith leaders have a crucial responsibility to preach engagement, interaction and peaceful dialogue among their followers to prevent these social gaps from widening further.

Leonard Swidler is professor of Catholic thought and interreligious dialogue at Temple University, Philadelphia. He is the co-founder and director of Global Dialogue Institute and is a major figure in the scholarly study of interfaith dialogue. In this edition of The Interview, Fair Observer talks to Swidler about interreligious dialogue and the major obstacles blocking successful cooperation between the leaders and adherents of the world’s many faiths.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FAIR OBSERVER

How Mary can be a bridge between Christians and Muslims

lewis-westwood-flood-1436858-unsplash.jpgHe said, ‘I am but a messenger from your Lord, [come] to announce to you the gift of a pure son.’ She said, ‘How can I have a son when no man has touched me? I have not been unchaste.’

—Qur’an, Sura 19:19-20

It might surprise some Christians to learn that the excerpt from the Annunciation narrative above comes not from the Gospel of Luke but the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam. In fact, the Qur’an contains not one but two Annunciation stories. (The other is in Sura 3.) Mary, the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an, has an entire chapter named after her (Sura 19, “Maryam”) and is honored by Muslims as the Virgin Mother of Jesus.

In an era when Islamophobia is on the rise, it seems especially important for Catholic Christians to know that in addition to sharing our belief in the one God, Muslims also share a reverence for Mary. While contrasting ideas about Jesus have long been a dividing line between Christianity and Islam (Christians call him the Son of God, while Muslims call him a prophet), his mother Mary can more easily be seen as an interreligious bridge.

This is exactly how she is viewed in the Second Vatican Council’s document on the relationship between the Catholic Church and non-Christians, “Nostra Aetate,” which explicitly mentions Mary as a point of agreement between Catholics and Muslims: “[Muslims] also honor Mary, [Jesus’] Virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM AMERICAN MAGAZINE