13th-century encounter points way to greater Christian-Muslim understanding

st fracisWASHINGTON, D.C. – Eight centuries ago, St. Francis of Assisi took a risk when he crossed the battlefield between Crusader and Muslim forces near Damietta, Egypt, desiring to meet Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil and preach his faith in Jesus Christ.

At the time – 1219 – Christian forces were in the midst of the Fifth Crusade, which was eventually repelled by the sultan’s superior army near the town that was a center of trade and commerce on the Nile River where it flows into the Mediterranean Sea.

The future saint readily put his life on the line so he could witness his faith to the famed Muslim sultan, and in doing so both men came away with a new respect for the faith of the other, Franciscan Father Michael Calabria told a conference on that encounter with “the other” Nov. 7 at The Catholic University of America in Washington.

With interfaith exhibit, Boston’s Abrahamic faith groups revisit their shared roots

Sinan-Hussein-Welcoming-the-StrangerBOSTON (RNS) — Just over a year ago, the day after the deadly mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, more than a thousand locals gathered together on the Boston Common to mourn and pray.

As the Rev. Amy McCreath, dean of the historic St. Paul Cathedral that overlooks America’s oldest park, watched people of various faiths unite once again to mourn another national tragedy, she was hit with an emotional realization.

“I looked out over the crowds of people, and it was so clear that all of them really want a peaceful future,” she remembered. “We want to work together against violence, but we don’t even know each other. Unfortunately, the odds are good that something like that will happen again, and we need to be prepared to support one another and defend one another.”

That’s part of the reason the Episcopal cathedral agreed to host a new interfaith art exhibit that explores the faith and life of Abraham, the shared spiritual forefather of the world’s three largest monotheistic religions — and launched an accompanying interfaith book study to spotlight Abraham’s wives, Sarah and Hagar.

The two-year touring exhibition “Abraham: Out of One, Many,” is curated by the Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler of Caravan, an international art non-profit affiliated with the Episcopal Church. After premiering in Rome in May, the show began a 20-month U.S. tour at Nebraska’s Tri-Faith Initiative this fall.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE 

Women’s interfaith network builds bridges amid Nigeria’s violence, Muslim and Christian mistrust

Peacebuilding1 770LAGOS, NIGERIA — When Fatima Isiaka, a religious Muslim teacher, asked the cab driver to drop her off at St. Kizito Catholic Church in Abuja, the driver thought she was lost. “The cab man that took me to the church, a Muslim, was surprised to see me enter a church,” Isiaka recalled of the summer 2014 meeting. “He told me, ‘This is a church!’ I said, ‘Yes, I know.’ ”

Isiaka was part of innovative effort to bring Christian and Muslim women together in hopes of fostering religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence. The Women of Faith Peacebuilding Network was first started in 2011by Sr. Agatha Ogochukwu Chikelue, of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy congregation, and local Muslim businesswoman Maryam Dada Ibrahim.

Isiaka, an observant Muslim who wears a grey jilbab, a long head covering and robe, the traditional dress of some Nigerian Muslim women, is a respected Muslim leader in Abuja. Today, she serves as deputy director in the network’s Abuja branch.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER 

Muslim professor devotes his life to bringing Jews, Muslims together to find common ground

 

In the anti-Semitic and secular town in southeastern Turkey where Abdullah Antepli grew up, no one expected him to work in interfaith Jewish-Muslim relations one day. They were proven wrong.

In August, the now 46-year-old was ranked among the NonProfit Times Power and Influence Top 50, in honor of his work co-founding the Muslim Leadership Initiative, also known as MLI.

The MLI recruits engaged, pro-Palestine American Muslims, ranging from scholars to journalists. These participants are connected with a credible Zionist institution, the Shalom Hartman Institute (SHI), whose stated mission is to help “strengthen Jewish peoplehood.” During the program, members learn to critically understand the complex religious, political and socioeconomic issues of people in Israel and Palestine, Antepli said.

“I am extremely proud of this cutting edge social and educational experiment that we were able to initiate,” Antepli said.

In his brand-new office in Rubenstein Hall, the Sanford School of Public Policy’s new associate professor of the practice and long-standing associate professor of interfaith relations at the Divinity School apologizes for “the mess” in his perfectly tidy bureau. His office does, however, overflow with books, most of which are religion-themed.

“I never go anywhere without a book,” Antepli said. His gem at the moment is “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo.

Dressed in a grey shirt tucked in black pants with sleeves rolled up, Antepli first gives off the impression of a restless businessman. But the father of two’s hearty “salaam—meaning “peace,” a common greeting in Arabic—immediately lets those who walk through his door know that he will gladly share his time.

A resentful child

Antepli, the University’s first Muslim chaplain and inaugural director of Muslim life at Duke from 2008-2014, grew up during a critical time in southeastern Turkey when religion was despised.

Although his parents were not religious, they were anti-Semitic, he said. His upbringing quickly led him on a path of resentment toward the Israelis. He recalled as a child scapegoating the Jewish community for the grievances of Muslim everyday life.

“The seductive thing about hate is that it gives simple black and white answers to complicated questions,” Antepli said.

Muslim friends and teachers introduced Antepli into the world of Islam and he promptly came to devour the religion. His religiosity just happened to emerge simultaneously with the Israeli-Palestine conflicts.

FULL ARTICLE FROM DUKE CHRONICLE

Muslim leader meets Pope Francis, calls for Islam that sees no ‘infidels’

StaqufThe leader of the largest independent Muslim organization in the world met Pope Francis this week to present his vision for a more peaceful future and greater human fraternity.

Sheikh Yahya Cholil Staquf leads the 50 million member Nahdlatul Ulama movement, which calls for a reformed “humanitarian Islam” and has developed a theological framework for Islam that rejects the concepts of caliphate, Sharia law, and “kafir” (infidels).

The Indonesian Sunni leader told CNA that he was “thrilled and excited” when Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Ahmed el-Tayeb signed in February the Abu Dhabi declaration on “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” because it expresses the vision of  “compassionate Islam” his organization has advocated for for decades.

The sheikh has specific recommendations for concrete steps to achieve the pope’s aspirations of peace and human fraternity. He came to Rome to share them with the pope.

Staquf said that Abu Dhabi declaration requires “decisive follow-up” with actions, not just words.

Just weeks after the Abu Dhabi declaration, Nahdlatul Ulama hosted a conference in Indonesia with over 20,000 Muslim scholars in attendance. At this conference, Muslim clerics and scholars issued an “ijtihad” stating their theological reasoning for prohibting the term “kafir” meaning “infidel” to describe one’s fellow citizens.

“We cannot just pretend that there are no problems in Islamic views. There are problems there. You need to acknowledge that so that we can work for the solution. If you do not acknowledge the problem, you cannot resolve it,” Staquf told CNA.

“In Muslim-majority societies, you can see more attitudes of discrimination and persecution toward minorities … so the Islamic world needs to develop the whole religious system that will integrate the Islamic world harmoniously with the rest of the world,” he said.

Central to these proposed changes to Islamic theology is how Muslims are called to interact with non-Muslims, Staquf explained.

“We need for Muslims to view others as a fellow human being, fellow brothers in humanity. We should not attack on the basis of different identities,” he said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ANGELUS 

A Muslim and a Christian take a Muslim Roadshow to rural Washington

Story by Lilly A. Fowler | Photos by Matt M. McKnight

McKnight_MuslimRoadShow_31They’re not the sort of couple one is likely to encounter in many parts of the country: a hijab-wearing Muslim woman with a Harvard law degree and a white Lutheran pastor. Yet dozens of Washington state residents — in urban centers and in small rural towns — have witnessed Aneelah Afzali and Rev. Terry Kyllo preach together in churches. Turns out, Afzali and Kyllo have one profound thing in common: a passion to fight against Islamophobia.

Although the duo has held an event in Seattle, Afzali and Kyllo have generally reserved their sermons for smaller, more conservative towns filled with voters who support President Donald Trump and who may have never personally met a Muslim. Towns like Mt. Vernon, with a population of 35,000. Situated just 60 miles north of Seattle, Mt. Vernon is the largest city in Skagit County. In last year’s presidential election, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by fewer than 2,000 votes in the county.

On a recent Monday evening in Mt. Vernon, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Afzali addressed a small crowd. She was dressed in a purple suit and hijab, and she was flanked by American flags and a Christian cross. As wind and rain pounded the chapel’s windows, she shared what had inspired her and Kyllo to organize the talks, which they’ve dubbed the “Faith Over Fear Roadshow.”

“I am so extremely bothered by what I see happening around us today, the growing divisiveness, polarization, hate and even violence,” Afzali said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FEATURES CROSS CUT 

Former imam wants stronger relationships between Edinburgh’s Muslims and Christians

EA5ZrdFWsAAWGdoA FORMER imam said his recent trip to Ghana has inspired him to build stronger relationships between Muslims and Christians in the Capital.

Yahya Barry, originally from The Gambia but now based in Edinburgh, spent ten days with religious leaders in the West African country.

The aim of the trip was to explore Christian and Muslim relationships as, according to Dr Barry, Ghana is rennowned for fostering peaceful and close bonds between both faiths. Since returning, he said he has felt “more inspired than ever” to bring lessons from Ghana to Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland.

“It was a really motivational trip,” he said.

“The relationships between both faiths in Ghana are established and organic. In Scotland the latest statistics show the Muslim population is about 1.45 per cent, which is a very small minority. We need to factor in that this could be because of the relationships between Muslim and Christianity. Since my time in Ghana I feel strongly about the lessons I learnt and bringing them back to this city which is investing in becoming more multicultural.”

About 77 per cent of the population in Ghana is Christian, with Muslims making up a further 16 per cent, and the two groups have better relations than in many countries in West Africa, according to the PhD graduate. He said the Brexit uncertainty and the rising nationalism in the UK could divide these two faiths.

“I am not saying that the relationships aren’t already okay,” he continued, “I just think in these times of uncertainty, there is the potential that the gap could widen.”

Having recently completed a PhD at the University of Edinburgh looking at right-wing extremism in different cities, Dr Barry found the peace and amicable relationship in Ghana refreshing.

FULL ARTICLE FROM EDINBURGH NEWS (SCOTLAND)