Searching our souls for national unity

pic_8“Bareer kachhe arshee nagar

shetha porshee boshot kore

Ek ghar porshee boshot kore

Ami ekdino na dekhilam tare.”

This epic refrain of Fakir Lalon rings around our collective South Asian conscience every time people of one religious identity inflicts mindless violence on the people of other faiths, like Hindus murdering innocent Muslims in Maharashtra, Buddhists pillaging Rohingya villages in Myanmar or Muslims blowing up Christians in Sri Lanka. The simple fact of life is that ethnically we are all the same or of similar ethnic mix but we hardly know our own people belonging to other faiths, living in our midst. The ethnic similarity between a Christian, a Hindu or a Muslim family in any part of the sub-continent is hidden in plain sight by insurmountable walls of religious intolerance and bigotry. Similar complexion, language, customs and culture of Muslims, Hindus, Christians and agnostics in our region somehow have given way to siloed identities belying the stark homogeneity of the people irrespective of faith. This has frustrated great thinkers and humanists for generations like Lalon, Rabindranath and Nazrul.

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

Peacebuilding1 cWhen 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.

She looks back fondly on her time at the St. Kizito Catholic Church. “It was an amazing experience and I loved every bit of my stay there,” said Isiaka. “In fact, I found a place in the church where I performed ablution [ritual washing before Muslims prayer], to set up my mat and pray.”

Since the group started in 2011, the Women of Faith Peacebuilding Network’s activities have reached more than 10,000 Muslim and Christian women across the country through seminars, meditations, presentations by religious leaders, and dialogue.

The peacebuilding network also offers vocational training in catering, bead making, fashion design, and soap production to a smaller group of women who participate in the annual 21-day seminar. “The empowerment [training] serves as bait to lure more women to the network so that they’ll learn peaceful coexistence,” said Isiaka. The Swiss Embassy provided seed money to get the vocational training started in 2014. Cardinal John Onaiyekan’s Foundation For Peace (COFP), an organization working for peace in northern Nigeria, has sponsored the vocational training in subsequent years.

FULL ARTICLE FROM GLOBAL SISTERS REPORT 

An open letter to Christians and Muslims – Bishop Mario Grech (Malta)

Mary is ‘common heritage’ of Christians and Muslims

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As time goes by we are progressively seeing an ever increasing number of foreigners living and working among us. It would be silly of us to think of them as a threat or as a purely economic resource.

It is a real pity that there are those among us who are tempted to regard them as some kind of inferior class of people and so they despise them even with violent acts or they take advantage of their vulnerability.

This is the case when they are exploited by being made to work for a pittance without the benefit of social security as required by law, or when they are offered shelter at rental rates far higher than is normally the case.

Their presence among us does not constitute simply a social and cultural challenge, but it has also a religious dimension. Indeed among these foreigners there is a sizeable presence of Muslims, both those coming from African countries and those from Eastern Europe.

Given the context of interreligious dialogue, I feel that at this moment of our history, characterised by the phenomenon of migration, it cannot be that God’s Spirit is not telling our Church anything. This dialogue helps to achieve a certain social harmony. When one considers the lack of accurate knowledge about Islam and the prejudice against it, one sees the need to dialogue with the Muslim world without denying anything of our Christian identity.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE TIMES OF MALTA

Pakistan honors priest for promoting Christian-Muslim dialogue

ucanews.com reporter, Lahore 
Pakistan 
May 29, 2019
5ceceeb91d395_600A Catholic priest has been honored by the Pakistan government for his “exemplary services” to promote interfaith harmony and peace in his own country and worldwide.
Father James Channan, a Dominican who has spent 50 years following the spirituality of St. Dominic, received an award at the Interfaith Conference 2019 in Lahore on May 17 that was attended by more than 300 people including Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs.Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, Pakistan’s federal minister for religious affairs and interfaith harmony, presented the award.
“Many people helped me to reach this place. I praise God, the Church, my community of Ibn-e-Mariam Vice Province of Pakistan, and all my friends,” said Father Channan.“I especially thank my Muslim friends who always supported me and my work and keep on appreciating me to continue my mission to promote peace and harmony among the people of Pakistan.“I am actively serving in this mission to build bridges between Christians and the people of other religions, especially with our Muslim brethren, but still I see there is an urgent need for interfaith dialogue.”
Father Channan said his work to promote peace and interfaith harmony brings him peace and mental satisfaction.“I keep on thinking about ways to bring people of various faiths together, to help them to nurture and strengthen peace among them,” he said.“Everybody is my neighbor, and being a follower of Jesus Christ I have to love everybody — it keeps me motivated and zealous. We always have to share this message that we are one human family, following different religions and faiths but living our faiths we have to promote love, unity and peace.”Father James Channan (right) with Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, Pakistan’s federal minister for religious affairs and interfaith harmony, at the Interfaith Conference. (Photo courtesy of Father Channan) 

Pope Francis: God Desires Solidarity Among Catholics and Muslims

GA0403.jpgSpeaking during his General Audience, the Holy Father reflected upon his recent trip to Morocco, calling for greater fraternity.

ROME – Reflecting upon his recent apostolic journey to Morocco, Pope Francis said Wednesday that God desires a greater sense of fraternity among Catholics and Muslims as “brother children of Abraham.”

“Some may ask, ‘But why does the pope visit the Muslims and not only the Catholics?’” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Square April 3.

“With Muslims, we are descendants of the same father, Abraham,” he said. “What God wants is fraternity between us in a special way,” he added, noting that this was the motive behind his travels.

Pope Francis offered thanks to God that his trip to the Moroccan capital of Rabat March 30-31 was “another step on the path of dialogue and encounter with our Muslim brothers and sisters.”

“My pilgrimage has followed in the footsteps of two saints: Francis of Assisi and John Paul II,” he explained.

“Eight hundred years ago Francis brought the message of peace and fraternity to the Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil, and  in 1985 Pope Wojtyła made his memorable visit to Morocco, having received at the Vatican – first among the Muslim heads of state – King Hassan II,” he said.

On his first day in Morocco, Pope Francis signed an “Appeal for Jerusalem,” with the Moroccan King Mohammed VI. The joint-declaration called for Jerusalem to be preserved as a “peaceful place of meeting for the three monotheistic religions,” the pope explained.

Religions have the essential role of “defending human dignity and promoting peace, justice and care for creation, that is our home common,” Francis said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER 

Pope’s visit to Morocco shows ‘Christians and Muslims are not enemies’

43b6c558c31947dcdf04ef46ce5a3693-690x450Pope Francis, hand in hand with two children, leaves the Basilica of Our Lady of Loreto where, during a one-day visit, he celebrated Mass and prayed in the shrine containing a small house traditionally venerated as the house of Mary, and believed to have been miraculously transplanted from the Holy Land inside the Basilica, in central Italy, Monday, March 25, 2019. The pope chose Loreto to sign the Post-Synodal Exhortation of last October’s Synod of Bishops. (Credit: AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis.)

ROME – Even though Abdellah Redouane has spent the past 20 years of his life as the director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Italy, the Morocco-born man can’t disguise his hope for the upcoming March 30-31 papal visit to his homeland.

“This is not just a regular visit,” Redouane told Crux on Tuesday. “I believe it’s particularly important because 99 percent of the population in Morocco is Muslim. Inviting the pope, who is the leader of the Catholic religion, is something important, and we must thank those who worked to organize this visit.”

He believes that the papal visit can help build bridges between Muslims and Christians in Morocco, a country where, he acknowledged that despite the legal protection for religious freedom, there are instances of religious-based violence.

Francis’s visit, he said, can help “by reminding us Christians and Muslims are not enemies, but people who can work together, showing the followers of the two religions that if the leaders meet, they embrace, why cannot we too do the same?”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUXNOW.COM

 

Ancient agreements guarantee tolerance among Muslims, Christians

Calls for Democrats and Republicans to condemn Omar in the House of Representatives confirmed what many non-Muslim Minnesotans suspect: that somewhere in the Islamic faith is persistent intolerance and prejudice.

Such suspicions of Islam as a wayward Abrahamic faith are, we believe, wrong. It is important to note that the prophet Mohammed professed respect for Christians and promised to protect their churches, bishops and priests, pilgrims, and values.

We have with us today texts of six covenants made by the prophet with Christian communities of his day.

Under the terms of these covenants, the Muslim community may not impose Shari’a obligations on Christians. Christian churches are to be protected and rebuilt if damaged; Christian pilgrims are not to be harmed. Christians will not be drafted to fight in Muslim wars or pay taxes levied on Muslims.

From a recent workshop with Islamic scholars about these covenants, we have come to believe that the covenants provide clear instructions that there be harmony between Muslims and those of other faiths. This social teaching of tolerance was anchored in express words of the prophet Mohammed. And the covenants ground their moral authority on the will of God.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE