A new play, ‘Christmas Mubarak,’ mixes Christian and Muslim stories of Jesus’ birth

47119780_1969438653148464_6465564224604078080_o-1024x745CHICAGO (RNS) — The scene is familiar from many Nativity scenes arranged at this time of year: the Virgin Mary, cradling the newborn Jesus.

Then, the baby speaks, defending his mother’s innocence and declaring he has been appointed as a prophet.

That might come as a surprise to Christians in the audience of the new play “Christmas Mubarak.”

“Christmas Mubarak” premiered last weekend in Silk Road Rising’s basement theater at the Chicago Temple, home to First United Methodist Church. The theater company was formed after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to shape conversation about Asian and Middle Eastern Americans and became the church’s company in residence several years later.

With an ensemble cast of four playing all the characters and adding scholarly asides where Muslim traditions interpret stories differently, the show is — in its own words — the story of “a love affair” between Islam and Jesus, who is viewed as a prophet by Muslims.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE 

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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.

Sr. Agatha Chikelue started thinking about how to build bridges between Christians and Muslims in 2008, as northern Nigeria disintegrated into violence. Nigeria’s population is evenly divided with 48 percent Muslims and 49 percent Christians. Northern Nigeria is majority Muslim, while southern Nigeria is majority Christian. Ensuring equal Christian and Muslim political representation at local, state, and national levels is an especially sensitive subject.

FULL ARTICLE FROM GLOBAL SISTERS REPORT 

Interfaith encounter at a mosque

bait-ul-futuh_mosque_in_londonIt started with our own curiosity. Every year at my church, St. Martin-in-the-Fields in central London, we have a fall lecture series. A parade of speakers, panels, and dialogues explores what we take to be the most pressing issues of our time. For the last few years, with series themes such as “Who is my neighbor?” and “Reformation,” we’ve felt the need to include a Muslim perspective. The great thing about inviting a speaker from a different social location is that it can draw in people who share that identity, and so we started to find a number of Muslims coming not just to the lectures given by a Muslim but to the other lectures as well.

And so it was that an invitation came for me to return the favor. A mosque in South London asked me to come and speak. We had decided our fall series theme for this year would be “Encounter,” and we had asked the usual pageant of distinguished speakers to come to St. Martin’s. But this year there was also something different: an opportunity to go to a mosque to­gether and not just talk about an encounter but actually have one.

“It’s the mosque,” he replied.

“But it’s huge,” I gasped.

“Oh yes, it’s the largest mosque in Western Europe. They get 14,000 people here for Eid and several thousand every Friday.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN CENTURY 

Mitzvah Day: Jews and Muslims come together to cook chicken soup

Traditional Jewish dish is prepared at East London mosque on day of social action.

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 Jewish and Muslim volunteers prepare the soup for distribution to homeless centres. Photograph: Yakir Zur

It is a beloved Jewish dish, served at Shabbat dinners to family and friends and reputed to have powerful medicinal properties. It is not normally cooked or served in a mosque.

But on Sunday, vast quantities of chicken soup – often known as “Jewish penicillin” – were being made at the East London mosque by Jewish and Muslim volunteers to be distributed to homeless centres.

Mounds of carrots, garlic, onions and celery were peeled and chopped on long benches by Muslim scouts, volunteers from Muslim Aid, members of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organisation and the New Stoke Newington Shul.

Tahir Iqbal, events director of Elite Caterers, was in charge of preparing 90 halal chickens for the pot. His company, which caters for Asian weddings and corporate events, donated the ingredients, equipment and transport for the cookathon.

“This is a new experience for us. I’ve never made Jewish chicken soup before, but I’ve been practising for two weeks, including on my family,” he said. The nearest Asian equivalent was chicken yakhni, a spicy broth, he added.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN (UK)

I am better for having the Jewish friends I have made since moving to Texas from the Middle East

fbd1ad48522fa7e93f1e54649736c224I migrated to America from the Middle East more than 26 years ago. A Muslim woman by birth, I became American by choice. Having been raised in a culture dominated by political conflicts between Arabs and Jews, I never imagined back then that one day I would actually have a comfortable dialog with a Jewish person, and I certainly never expected to become friends with one. The mercy and grace of God had a different plan for me, one that helped me grow as a person, a citizen, as well as a believer.

My first encounter with a Jewish person started through a Texas based interfaith group, Daughters of Abraham, where women from the three Abrahamic faiths (Jewish, Christian and Muslim) come together. We meet monthly while alternating among our three places of worship. We drink coffee and hot tea and eat lots of snacks while having a dialog about our shared spiritual heritages and experiences. This fills our spirits with love and gratitude.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DALLAS NEWS

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

Thanksgiving provides opportunity to celebrate ‘collectively’

Screen-Shot-2018-11-14-at-11.26.28-AMInterfaith partnerships are emerging in nearly every community. The Treasure Coast isn’t behind in celebrating such religious pluralism.

Thanksgiving is one occasion to express this harmony. In the Community Church in Vero Beach, Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus unite annually for a joint service. This year, the Faith Congregational Church in Port St. Lucie will also host a similar gathering.

One year, Sana Shareef, a St. Edwards High senior, joined me. She played “Amazing Grace” on her clarinet. Imagine a young Muslim girl, her head covered, playing a Christian hymn. Senior Minister, Rev. Bob Baggott, to this day recalls that moment.

“That wrapped the gathering in a beauty only music can,” he said. “That shared moment lifted our souls, calming our minds, believing in peace.”

The following year, Sana joined Rabbi Bruce Benson at the Temple Beth El Israel in Port St. Lucie. He fondly remembers: “The joy of adding her musical skills to my song I had written added more than just words could.”

In July 2018, Pew Research reported: “The U.S. remains a robustly religious country and the most devout of all the Western democracies. In fact, Americans pray more often, are more likely to attend weekly religious services and ascribe higher importance to faith in their lives than adults in other wealthy nations. For instance, more than half of American adults (55 percent) say they pray daily, compared with 25 percent in Canada, 18 percent in Australia and 6 percent in Great Britain.”

Our inter-religious cooperation makes America stronger and our nation a beacon to the world. Religion remains a potent force for good — or for political conflict. Community by community, we must decide which path we take. A resilient community, overcoming the divisive and charged politics of the day, manifests itself in many of our synagogues, churches and mosques.

FULL ARTICLE FROM TCPALM.COM