A milestone in the complex dialogue between Islam and Christianity

000_1d12n2When the head of the Roman church representing 1.2 billion Catholics signs a joint declaration with the head of the highest seat in Sunni Islam, it ought to be big news.

Yet the significance of the declaration signed in Abu Dhabi this month by Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar, has slipped under the radar amid criticism over the Pope’s decision to visit the UAE while it is involved in the war in Yemen and the blockade against Qatar.

But for those who have focused their attention on the contents of the document and the two leaders’ speeches, it is clear that the Grand Imam and the Pope have set a milestone in the complex dialogue between the two faiths.

The “Document on Human Fraternity” is the first ever signed by representatives of the two religions in which they pledge to work together for the benefit of the “human fraternity”. It implies the two faiths have found a common understanding and a united front against attempts to abuse God’s message and manipulate religion.

Rejecting violence

“We resolutely declare that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood,” the document states.

“These tragic realities are the consequence of a deviation from religious teachings. They result from a political manipulation of religions and from interpretations made by religious groups who, in the course of history, have taken advantage of the power of religious sentiment …. This is done for the purpose of achieving objectives that are political, economic, worldly and short-sighted.”

Both Sheikh al-Tayeb and Pope Francis have launched a joint appeal to political and religious leaders, intellectuals, artists and media worldwide to reject violence in all its forms, promote positive values and strive for establishing a more righteous and peaceful world – not only for the benefit of believers of the three monotheistic faiths, but also for non-believers.

Questioning the East-West dichotomy, the two leaders warned that religious hatred is causing ‘signs of a third world war being fought piecemeal’

“The fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept,” the declaration notes.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MIDDLE EAST EYE 

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Papal visit: Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi to mark a historic day for inter-faith relations – live updates

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History was made on Sunday when the wheels of Pope Francis’s flight from Rome touched down in Abu Dhabi. The Pope’s first day in the UAE will be a moment for all faiths to meet and build strong relationships based on religious tolerance.

Here you will find live coverage of the Pope’s visit from The National’s reporters across the UAE, as it happens. All times UTC+4

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5:12 Private meeting with Muslim Council of Elders begins

In a landmark moment for interfaith relations, Pope Francis will attend a private meeting of the members of the Muslim Council of Elders.

The meeting is expected to take between 30 to 45 minutes.

The National’s reporter, Sofia Barbarani, is at the Grand Mosque, at a uniquely quiet time.

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Sofia Barbarani@SofiaBarbarani

Pope Francis is at the Grand mosque in Abu Dhabi meeting with members of the Muslim council of elders. His busy schedule will see him end the day at an interfaith meeting this evening where he is due to give a speech. @TheNationalUAE

See Sofia Barbarani’s other Tweets

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17:08 Pope Francis arrives at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

A convoy of cars, carrying Pope Francis in the Kia Soul has arrived at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Pope Francis was met by the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Sharif University, Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, who welcomed him to the mosque.

John Dennehy@john_denn

Pope Francis. Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

See John Dennehy’s other Tweets

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16:55 Pope Francis’ arrival is imminent

The live stream of Pope Francis’ visit to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has now begun and his arrival appears to be imminent.

The pontiff will attend a private meeting with the Muslim Concil of Elders.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL 

Interfaith Dialogue: Another Perspective

downloadWhile perusing the online December 31, 2018, issue of the Fillmore County Journal, I read the commentary by Aaron Schwartzentruber in which he contends that interfaith dialogue compromises the Gospels of the New Testament, especially if dialogue is between Christians and Muslims.

My personal experience with interfaith dialogue began very early in life when, growing up in Fillmore County, I was a Catholic in a predominantly Protestant community. Our interfaith community was one of neighborliness and of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11). These formative experiences have been helpful in my interfaith dialogues with Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Zorastrians, and Baha’i. I’ve learned that meaningful interfaith dialogue is based on mutual respect, healthy curiosity, and sincere desire to learn and understand. It is not proselytizing. It does not condone, in any way, denigration of any faith tradition or followers. It is not a contest in righteousness, nor right vs wrong. In these days of Islamophobia, too little effort is made to become informed about Islam with sources other than mainstream media.

For anyone who chooses to move beyond ignorance and the fear that ensues, I suggest starting with What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam, an easily readable book by John Esposito, a Christian professor at Georgetown University. A source that specifically addresses the commonalities between Islam and Christianity is A Common Word, Muslims and Christians on Loving God and Neighbor, which is available as a book and online: http://www.acommonword.com. It has become part of religious studies curricula and has served as the basis for multiple international interfaith conferences to study and expand its content. It is enthusiastically endorsed by hundreds of religious and governmental leaders from every part of the globe. The foundational principle of “A Common Word” is that Muslims and Christians (and Jews) believe in the commandments: 1) Love of God and 2) Love of Neighbor (Mark 12:28-31; Matthew 22:35-39; Luke 10:25-27). Muslims and Christians (and Jews) share not only these two great commandments but also the same God. Yes, they worship the same God. These three monotheistic Abrahamic religions refer to God as Yahweh (Jews), Arabic name of Allah (Islam), and Trinitarian God (Christian). Jesus (Isa in Arabic) is among the greatest of prophets in Islam. Muslims, like Christians, believe in His virgin birth.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE FILLMORE COUNTY JOURNAL 

Towards A More Comprehensive Interfaith Dialogue

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In an age where religious persecution is spreading at speed, it is crucial to consider steps which need to be taken to prevent further acts of religiously motivated violence. If it is not possible to prevent this altogether, then we must, at least, consider how we slow it down. Engaging in political dialogue and stressing the need to adhere to international legal standards and states’ international law obligations is not nearly enough.

If we take into consideration the fact that in most states, it is predominately religious minorities that are being persecuted, it becomes clear that the only way to prevent religious persecution is to ensure the right to freedom of religion or belief for all, whether one belongs to the majority or minority groups. The majority group plays a critical role in addressing the persecution of minorities. Their influence on the situation for minority groups cannot be downplayed. Hence, today, more than ever, it is crucial to open an interfaith dialogue.

Interfaith dialogue, which refers to an exchange among religious communities on issues of mutual concern, explores the “engagement of the world’s religious traditions around theological questions and in their efforts to collaborate on questions of peace, human rights, and economic and social development.”

Actors which are often neglected in these debates are businesses. Businesses should have, at the forefront of their corporate governance policies, an acute focus on adherence to human rights (including the right to freedom of religion or belief for all) in states where they manufacture, buy or sell their goods. They must maintain an open dialogue with local and national authorities about the need to adhere to human rights standards. Similarly, they must require their local partners to comply with the internationally recognized standards. 

FULL ARTICLE FROM FORBES

Interfaith dialogue really is relational, accessible

There is a particular urgency for Catholics to become participants in dialogue with Muslims

FINDING JESUS AMONG MUSLIMS: HOW LOVING ISLAM MAKES ME A BETTER CATHOLIC
By Jordan Denari Duffner
162 pages; Published by Liturgical Press
$19.95

Earlier this year while on a train in Europe, I sat down across from an Arabic-looking man who began reading the Quran. My immediate first reaction was apprehension and fear. My immediate second reaction was to check my implicit yet real bias for what it was, Islamophobia.

Most striking to me was this incident happened just a few days after I had finished a book on Muslim-Christian relations that addressed these implicit biases to which Catholics like myself are prone. It is precisely because these biases are so ingrained and because Islamophobia is on the rise that Finding Jesus Among Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic by Jordan Denari Duffner is such an important and timely resource.

Written primarily for a Catholic audience, the book explores present relations between Christianity and Islam. It does so, however, through the lens of Duffner’s lived experiences with Muslims and the ways in which encountering Islam has helped her find Jesus anew. She never intends the book to be a comprehensive analysis or work of systematic theology. Rather, in her words, Finding Jesus Among Muslims should act as a “facilitator of dialogue.” The book raises more questions than it answers, encouraging readers to go forth and learn more. The author’s rich commitment to Muslims and demonstrated courage in entering vulnerable, liminal spaces inspire readers to become active participants in dialogue.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NCRONLINE.COM

Dr. Maryam Mostoufi: Interfaith dialogue feeds the soul

interfaith1Over the years I’ve heard a number of jokes that begin — “A Jew, a Christian and a Muslim walk into a… ” It’s an effective stem for a joke because it’s based on a negative stereotype that suggests it highly improbable that the three would voluntarily associate with one another.

Yet, in Springfield we’ve been proving for 40 years that those of diverse theological backgrounds do just that.

Four religious leaders within the Springfield community — the late Rev. Dr. Richard Maye and the Rev. Mark Watkins, Rev. Andy Templeman and Rabbi Barry Marks — had a vision. They saw a possibility for entering into dialogue based on their shared values and jointly tackling community issues.

Originally, Jewish, Protestant, Catholic and Unitarian clergy met over brownbag lunches once a month, as we still do. What they did not anticipate was the deep respect and friendships they and future members of the Greater Springfield Interfaith Association would develop over the years. Nor could they foresee a future that included as many other faiths as it does today.

This year we developed our first logo (About time!). It illustrates our belief that all faiths grow out of a spiritual sense of mystery and thus should be held with reverence and respect. The faith symbols are representative of those in Springfield and our membership — Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Humanist, Islamic, Jewish, Native American, Sikh, Tao, Unitarian Universalist and Zoroastrian — all of which have participated in one way or another over the years.

FULL ARTICLE FROM STATE-JOURNAL REGISTER 

Dr. Maryam Mostoufi: Interfaith dialogue feeds the soul

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Over the years I’ve heard a number of jokes that begin — “A Jew, a Christian and a Muslim walk into a… ” It’s an effective stem for a joke because it’s based on a negative stereotype that suggests it highly improbable that the three would voluntarily associate with one another.

Yet, in Springfield we’ve been proving for 40 years that those of diverse theological backgrounds do just that.

Four religious leaders within the Springfield community — the late Rev. Dr. Richard Maye and the Rev. Mark Watkins, Rev. Andy Templeman and Rabbi Barry Marks — had a vision. They saw a possibility for entering into dialogue based on their shared values and jointly tackling community issues.

Originally, Jewish, Protestant, Catholic and Unitarian clergy met over brownbag lunches once a month, as we still do. What they did not anticipate was the deep respect and friendships they and future members of the Greater Springfield Interfaith Association would develop over the years. Nor could they foresee a future that included as many other faiths as it does today.

This year we developed our first logo (About time!). It illustrates our belief that all faiths grow out of a spiritual sense of mystery and thus should be held with reverence and respect. The faith symbols are representative of those in Springfield and our membership — Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Humanist, Islamic, Jewish, Native American, Sikh, Tao, Unitarian Universalist and Zoroastrian — all of which have participated in one way or another over the years.

Our monthly meetings have not been limited to chatting and chewing. We’ve used them as opportunities to educate ourselves about each other’s religious traditions, beliefs and practices and to learn about community issues and services. But we recognized early on that to be relevant, we needed to get out of our chairs and pulpits and into the larger community. We needed to literally practice what we preach.

FULL ARTICLE FROM STATE JOURNAL REGISTER