The day-to-day living relations between Christians and Muslims over the two joint statements of the USCCB and the American Muslim Council (one in Christian-Muslim Relations. in America Today. An Interdisciplinary Symposium. Marquette University. March “Pope Francis calls on us to be in. The Certificate in Christian Muslim Relations is an opportunity to enhance your Apply theological and social scientific approaches to religion in the American.
Despite all this, some people still ask us, exasperated: It makes sense that so many of us dream, initially at least, that we will find true love with a person who shares the same religious label, because we think it means they have walked the same religious path that we have. We naturally look for someone who has made the same leaps of faith, who has gone through the same internal transformation, who nods along knowingly as we describe our indescribable connection to something invisible.
We imagine someone who gets us, who shares the same truth or God or gods that we do, or, perhaps, who has uttered the same denials as us, or who remains as steadfastly unsure about the meaning of it all as we ourselves are. The assumption here is that sharing the same religion is a shortcut to deeper unity.
But praying the same words in the same order, or reading the same sacred book through and through again, or singing the same songs are not necessarily a gateway to a meaningful connection.
Each journey of faith is unique and personal. No two believers are alike. And, as anyone in any relationship will tell you, no two people are alike. Everyone has their own views, opinions and convictions, regardless of their chosen religion or lack of one. Some relationships are interfaith, but all relationships are inter-belief.
Christian-Muslim Relations in the United States
What is that necessary and sufficient factor? We have found that it is far more important to share the same values than the same religion. It is true that some values are associated more closely with certain religion affiliations. But values do not just take root inside a person as a result of their religion, of how they have chosen to describe or name or worship God. We choose our values because of myriad factors: Our values shape us, as our journeys through life — and our journeys through faith — play out.
In faith, as in love, we leap. We whisper holy words, words that hold power, maybe magic. We pilgrimage across whatever distances necessary. With love and in the pursuit of truth, we will offer our criticisms of one another when we believe there is a violation of integrity of faith in God.
When we meet in dialogue and discuss matters of peace, justice, and forgiveness, while being faithful to our traditions, we have experienced a profound and moving connection on the deepest level of our faith, which must take effect in our lives.
Now after more than 35 years, these programs and other activities in Christian-Muslim relations have a history that can be studied, and participants in these programs have developed strategies for adapting to external circumstances. Even by September 11,there were three ongoing, regularly scheduled dialogues in place co-sponsored by the U.
Conference of Catholic Bishops and Muslim organizations and councils.
A number of Christian congregations and Islamic centers have good neighborly relations. In cities, often those that are diocesan sees or similar Christian judicatory locations, Christian and Muslim leaders know one another and are together for various occasions. At church-sponsored universities, ongoing programs and special events bring Muslim and Christian scholars together for conversation and projects regularly.
On an international scale, church leaders and Muslim leaders now meet and participate in dialogues. They occur in a retreat-like setting and involve a certain amount of spiritual sharing and religious experience. They also allow participants to report and reflect on projects in various cities of the region in which they are involved.
These dialogues have met each year to the present, eighteen meetings in all. Each regional dialogue is co-chaired by a Catholic bishop and an official with the Muslim sponsoring organizations.
Staff members from the organizations attend, scholars are invited by each side, and Catholic and Muslim hosts at each site serve important functions. The majority of participants are the Catholic and Muslim partners from the various cities within an easy commute of the meeting site. Participants attend from Indianapolis, Detroit, Chicago, St.
The Mid-Atlantic and West Coast dialogues convene at Catholic retreat and meeting facilities but one evening is usually spent at an Islamic center for prayer, a program, and a shared meal. A routine of prayer is maintained by each side, and evening prayer is usually the time for being present with one another.
What happens when you fall in love across the religious divide? | Life and style | The Guardian
The Catholics attend maghrib prayers, and the Muslims attend vespers. There are layers of structure and relationships involved in the somewhat complicated model of a regional dialogue, but the model works because it allows each side to involve members already engaged in Christian-Muslim relations and to contribute to the cost of the dialogue.
Decisions are made jointly. The good will and successes in local relationships feed into the regional dialogue and return home to the local scene expanded by contact at the regional dialogue. As a result, trust and good will are deepening and broadening, a few bishops are learning more about Islam, a network of Catholics and Muslims is expanding, and diocesan and regional Islamic programs promoting dialogue are increasing.
The Midwest dialogue over the course of most of its meetings has held discussions around the topic of revelation. The Mid-Atlantic dialogue has been discussing aspects of marriage and family life. The West Coast dialogue has addressed various topics under the general heading of spirituality.
The five points of consensus on peace, justice, and forgiveness resulted from the meeting of the West Coast Dialogue. All three dialogues spent considerable time, a complete meeting or more, on the topic of religion and violence in the two meetings following September 11, They felt is was important to do that; and most felt that these were their best meetings in terms of candor and growth in mutual understanding.
Many participants observed that their relationships with one another through the dialogues gave them a useful and valuable perspective in the days and weeks after September 11th. I organized these institutes. Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, a specialist on Islam, and now president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in Rome, joined me and others in facilitating them.
For the advanced institute devoted entirely to Islam, 25 diocesan personnel attended. The first of these was given for 12 bishops in March ; the second will take place in March The USCCB program in interreligious relations has also included participation in numerous other consultations of Christians and Muslims. What have I learned from my Muslim friends and the experiences over the past two decades in dialogue with Muslims?
I had an occasion recently to distill these lessons into ten points: Muslims feel compelled to lecture Christians about the basics of Islam to correction our mistaken views.
I am grateful for this in that I have learned much from the variety of perspectives on Islam which I have heard over the years. Muslims are particularly eager to tell Christians that Islam is not a new religion and that they venerate all the prophets, including Jesus and his mother Mary.
For too many centuries, from the beginning of the encounters between Arab Muslims and the Christians outside of the Arabian Peninsula, Christians have made outlandish statements about Islam, Muhammad, and Muslims. Both tendencies persist today—Christians making incorrect statements and Muslims wanting to educate Christians about Islam.
Muslims might speak in generalities about other religious groups, just as Christians might do, and Muslims might offer compliments or criticisms of these other groups. What they are truly looking for in religious individuals is God-consciousness or fear of the Lord, as Christians might call this virtue.
That is what is important for Muslims. Although Christians and Muslims may use many of the same expressions and terms, they need to be clear with each other how they are using these terms. They often talk past one another because we presume we each understand the same words and expressions like revelation, the word of God, Son of God, begotten, and Gospel.
Muslims look upon Christians pretty much as one group although those who have taken the time to learn about the differences have some insight into how much variety there is among Christians regarding belief and practice, how we interpret Scripture, and how we regard one another as Christians.
So, if one Christian says something or does something very negative with regard to Islam, Muslims expect other Christians to correct that person or by our silence we are expressing agreement with what has been said or. Muslims are particularly eager to tell Christians about their respect for Jesus.
They have difficulty understanding why Christians might not like them, or distrust them, or feel that they are out to get them, or why Christians say what they do about Muslim beliefs when Muslims know they themselves have such a wonderful respect for Jesus. Both are beautiful words but in their use or perceptions there are implications of violence which are difficult to avoid.
Christianity is a highly structured religion. Even small, independent, and loosely structured churches are conscientiously unstructured as a contrast to the rest of Christianity. In other words, whether we are Catholics, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Orthodox, Baptists, Lutherans or whatever, we have identifiable instruments of authority and communion.
From the outside, others might not understand how the structures of authority in the churches work or how Christians regard these structures, but outsiders have observed that any Christian guilty of error, whether in teaching or in action, is corrected by the church authorities.
This kind of structure is not so prominent in Islam. Differences among Muslims function in ways to which Christians are not so attuned because Christians may be looking for authority figures and bodies to correct those in error in some effective way. Yet, Islam has had no supreme council or supreme leader who coordinates authority in such a way that some are clearly judged as in error and given a choice whether to remain outside or to become reconciled with the rest.
On the level of everyday experiences, Muslims and Christians can and do relate very well. In a retreat environment, Christians and Muslims relate together well when they maintain their prayers and reflect together on issues of mutual importance. These moments of sharing can be quite profound. Christians and Muslims often judge one another by the extremists. This can happen between any two groups, but because of the particular history they have had and the way strife has been promoted as a way of dealing with one another, they each make the mistake of judging the other s worst by their own best.
Christians and Muslims have let the extremists too often do all the talking in public discourse.
Like so many developments, I would expect that the regional dialogues which have figured so prominently in my life over the last 8 years will have a shelf life. For now, the model is working and people are not tired of it.
These convene once a year; twice a year might be a burden to the group. Right now, the regional dialogues are seen as annual retreats. The Midwest dialogue is reviewing a sixty-five page draft of a resource on revelation with a chapter on Christian perspectives and a chapter on Muslim perspectives.
There is a third chapter on our shared themes and differences, and an introduction about this dialogue and dialogue itself.
This has not been an easy task. Something was produced in the late s and published in English as The Challenge of the Scriptures. Christian and Muslim Perspectives, is different in that it is co-produced by an episcopal conference and an Islamic organization.
Part of the our was learning how to write a text together. A small but equally conclusive report will be produced by our regional dialogue on the west coast.
What happens when you fall in love across the religious divide?
That report will touch on various areas of spirituality. Again, the group had to learn how to work together. I hope that the Mid-Atlantic dialogue, our regional dialogue on the east coast, will someday have a useful resource which they have jointly produced on marriage and family.
Trust is so very important for us to work together. With patience, trust can build. A huge amount of the learning from dialogue has been how to dialogue. We can now dialogue on a number of key doctrinal questions in an environment of trust. When we stopped after September 11,to talk about religion and violence, we had some excellent sessions together. Some said they were our best ever. Yet, given our history cannot write something together on religion and violence.
We can do comparative theology and comparative exegesis, and maybe we need to do more of that; we also might begin to write pieces of our history together.
All this takes trust.
Suggestions for the Future In spite of all the difficulties with the media which keep Muslims and Christians reacting to false information, generalizations, stereotypes, and half-truths, we have in the United States an opportunity for Christians and Muslims to take dialogue to a more advanced level. This has been a long and difficult road and the situation is far from easy for Muslim leaders and those who risk a public profile, but as a group they are in a better place than they have ever been.
Long term partnerships and cooperative ventures between Christians and Muslims have borne fruit, especially trust and lasting friendship. I am hopeful that for an increasing number of Christian and Muslim religious leaders and scholars the opportunities for joint scholarship will open. One area for theological dialogue between Christians and Muslim could involve discussion of our relationship to the contemporary world—a world of consumerism, multi-national corporations, globalization, a secularized media, religious reform movements, growing democratization, and religious pluralism.
Christians look to various moments in the twentieth century, perhaps a few decades before that, when they began taking a fresh look at the modern world. Muslims too have their reformers who have offered Islamic analyses of the post-colonial, modern world. Here in the United States, protected as we are by the public religious pluralism guaranteed by the Constitution, we have an ideal situation for engaging in this discussion.
The literature produced by both Christians and Muslims fills shelves already. From a Christian perspective, relations with Muslims are understood within the context of a Catholic understanding of the church and the ministry of service to all in the building the reign of God, establishing justice for all, ministering to all, and fulfilling every true desire for union with God.
Christians and Muslims can view one another as monotheists, and many of us believe firmly that we share a faith in the one God of Abraham. John Paul II has reiterated this point time and again. I think the best example was in in Morocco when he addressed tens of thousands of Muslim youths: Christians and Muslims have many things in common, as believers and as human beings.
We live in the same world, marked by many signs of hope, but also by multiple signs of anguish.