May 29, 2019
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.
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?”
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.
INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) — The openness to people of other faiths that Pope Francis modeled during his Feb. 3-5 visit to the United Arab Emirates has been embraced for more than 20 years at a weekly lunch shared by Muslims, Catholics and other Christians at Shapiro’s Delicatessen in Indianapolis.
John Welch, a longtime member of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Indianapolis, helped start the lunch meetings in 1997.
“It’s the presence of Jesus in our midst,” Welch told The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
Over the years, Welch and those sharing lunch and their lives together at Shapiro’s have included members of the Italy-based Catholic lay movement Focolare, members of the Nur-Allah Islamic Center in Indianapolis, as well as Protestant clergy in the city.
Welch, 84, was honored at a recent lunch by those in attendance as he prepared to move with his wife, Mary, to Chicago to live closer to family.
He was inspired to reach out to Muslims in the Indianapolis community through his involvement in Focolare, which emphasizes building unity among people based on sharing the love of God with them.
Welch said that the members of Focolare, who are known as “Focolarini,” are called to embody in their daily lives Jesus’ teaching to love others as he loved them.
“Our vocation is that, when Jesus said, ‘Whenever two or more are united in my name’ — which means his commandment to love one another — ‘there am I present in their midst,'” Welch said. “So whether we’re a father (of a family), or a Protestant pastor, an imam, the vocation is to live such mutual love … that Jesus dwells in our midst.
“If people are touched by their exposure to us, it’s not us. It’s the presence of God in our midst that attracts them,” he added.
By Kevin Singer and Chris Stackaruk
A 2016 op-ed from the Huff Post recently re-emerged after it was retweeted by a renowned sociologist at Rice University, Dr. Craig Considine, who has a robust 53,000+ Twitter followers. The piece — written by Ian Mevorach, who identifies himself as a theologian, spiritual leader, and activist — argues that “peacemaking Christians” should accept Muhammad as the “Spirit of Truth” whom Jesus speaks of in John 14-16, effectively transforming Muhammad from historical figure to ultimate prophet in Christian theology. He argues this to be a solution to Christian Islamophobia: “Changing our view of Muhammad—so that we recognize him as a true prophet rather than discredit him as a false prophet—would effectively inoculate Christians against Islamophobia and would help to establish a new paradigm of cooperative Christian-Muslim relations.”
Mevorach rightly notes that some of the most revered Christian theologians in the history of the Church, including John of Damascus, Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Nicholas of Cusa, and Martin Luther, would find Mevorach’s conclusions deeply troubling. Yet, he feels that his argument will “transform the way Christians and Muslims see and relate to each other.”
We co-direct an organization, Neighborly Faith, that equips evangelical Christians to be good neighbors to people of other faiths—especially Muslims. Over the last four years, we have built an expansive network of everyday evangelicals and their leaders across many churches, colleges and vocations with which we promote Christian friendship with Muslims. Putting the theological cogency of Mevorach’s argument aside, we can say with assurance that his argument would not “make peace between our communities” as he proposes. In fact, we believe it does the very opposite.
Mevorach injects urgency into his argument by noting that “the majority of Christians still maintain a fundamentally Islamophobic position on Muhammad,” and that “our planet simply cannot afford another century of misunderstanding and violence between these two communities.” Yet, the issue with his argument is that he correlates Christian opinions about Muhammed with their feelings about Muslims.
If we have learned anything during years of promoting real, on-the-ground engagement between Christians and Muslims it is that, (1) theological disagreement is not what causes conflict, and (2) theological agreement is not a viable means for reconciliation.
His arguments demand that Christians overturn centuries of belief, which will not be remotely compelling to the Christians he describes. Rather, an argument like this only makes Christian-Muslim friendship more out of reach for most Christians, who are not willing to sacrifice core tenets of their faith.
We have unfortunately seen this habit among many progressive thinkers in North America and Europe who, from the best of intentions, wish to be bridgebuilders and peacemakers. Mevorach and others like him contrive expedient solutions to “the problem of belief,” but never take into consideration whether the people who presumably need to change would find their arguments compelling. Unfortunately this is the case for Mevorach’s essay: His solution is laughably idealistic.
At the back of a banquet hall in New Hope Presbyterian Church beneath an illuminated stained-glass window, Dr. Bashar A. Shala brought his hands together in prayer, looked to the ceiling, spoke quietly and then knelt, bringing his head fully to the floor.
Shala recited in Arabic a verse from the Quran and then translated to a room of bowed heads. Pastor Steven Stone followed him with a Christian prayer, asking God to bless those gathered.
Shala, president of the Memphis Islamic Center in Tennesseee, and Stone, senior pastor of the Christian Heartstrong Church, also of Memphis, led the Castle Rock churchgoers in prayer during a lunchtime gathering following New Hope’s usual Oct. 14 service, then took questions from congregation members.
Both men have been awarded the Freedom of Worship Award from the Roosevelt Institute, the nonprofit partner of America’s first presidential library, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum, and have been featured in national media outlets. Their mission, they said, is to encourage people throughout the U.S. to see past cultural and religious differences, to foster more curiosity between groups and diminish fear within people hesitant to build such relationships.
It’s a lesson they’ve preached for years through their own story of friendship.
Becoming, and loving, thy neighbor
Stone, Shala and their respective organizations built a national platform starting roughly nine years ago, as their relationship was first forming.
It began when Stone read a local media report about a group of Muslims who had purchased land to build an Islamic center across the street from his church, which he founded and has pastored for nearly 20 years.
Stone’s first reaction was rooted in fear and ignorance, he said. He didn’t know a single Muslim. He didn’t know if he should be concerned about another religious group so close by. So, he prayed.
Shala was among a committee and board searching for land to build a home for the Muslim community in Memphis — a place where they could worship and socialize.
“It was a post-9/11 world,” Shala said. “There were some struggles.”