U.S.

Peace comes through seeing the ‘other,’ Catholic-Muslim dialogue participants say

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
March 27, 2019

National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue gathers to discuss peace

On March 25, 2019, at Catholic Theological Union, 5416 S. Cornell Ave., the National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue held a public session on "Human Fraternity: Implications of a Ground-Breaking Document for Christian-Muslim Relations." They group reflected on the impact of the historic joint statement on human fraternity signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb on Feb. 4, 2019, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Mark Francis, president of Catholic Theological Union, welcomes participants on March 25. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Thomas Baima, vicar for ecumenical and interreligious affairs of the Archdiocese of Chicago, vice rector for Academic Affairs, dean of the Seminary and Graduate School and professor in the Department of Systematic Theology at Mundelein Seminary, introduces members of the panel. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich, co-chair of the National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue, gives his reflections. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Shaykh Abdur Rahman Khan, co-chair National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue and chair of the Sharia Council of the Islamic Circle of North America, gives his reflections. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Zeki Saritiprak listens as Anas Malik, one of four scholars who responded to the talk, said that as a political scientist rather than a theologian, he sees the need for members of all groups to get to know those they see as “other.” (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Rita George-Tvrtkovic, an associate professor of theology at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois, shares a laugh with fellow panelists Zeki Saritiprak and Anas Malik. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Sandra Keating, associate professor in the theology department at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, listens as Rita George-Tvrtkovic talks about how she was struck by the language of kinship that was used in the document. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Thomas Baima chooses people during the Q&A to ask questions. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Servite Father John T. Pawlikowski, professor emeritus of social ethics and former director of the Catholic-Jewish Studies Program at CTU, asks a question of the panel. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Syed Atif Rizwan, assistant professor of Islamic and interreligious studies at CTU, invites participants for fellowship following the event. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Following the event, Daoud Stephen Casewit, president of American Islamic College in Chicago, talks with Shaykh Abdur Rahman Khan, co-chair National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue and chair of the Sharia Council of the Islamic Circle of North America. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

The way to peace runs through seeing one another as brothers and sisters, Catholic and Muslim leaders confirmed March 25 at a session of the National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue held at Catholic Theological Union.

Cardinal Cupich joined Shaykh Abdur Rahman Khan, the two co-chairs of the national dialogue, who were reflecting on “A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” signed by Pope Francis and Sheik el-Tayeb, a leading religious authority for many Sunni Muslims around the world, on Feb. 4 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

“The publication of this statement on human fraternity testifies to the profound respect and friendship that exists between the Vatican and Al-Azhar and it is a sign of the good that is possible between Christians and Muslims and can serve as a corrective to the false narrative that our two faith traditions are completely at odds, are fated to be enemies,” Cardinal Cupich said. “On the contrary, we are brothers and sisters of the one, true God and the document on fraternity serves as a bridge inviting us to cross over the murky water of prejudice and fear that separates us so that we may encounter one another in a spirit of openness, trust and friendship.”

Khan, the who is chair of the Shari’a Council of the Islamic Circle of North America, recalled being a child growing up in a small village and reading about wars and fighting in the olden days.

“I would ask my mother, what about the people who were not fighting? Couldn’t they stop the wars?” he said. “I would say, ‘I wish I was born then. I would surely have put this war to its end.’”

Now, he said, he understands the question of his youth as, “Is this really what God wants us to do?”

Khan recalled the killing of 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, less than six weeks after the pope and the grand imam signed the document calling for Catholic and Muslims to recognize their kinship. It also followed a litany of attacks on believers of many faiths: those at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh; at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina; the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, among others, as well as attacks on minority religious groups in India, Myanmar and China.

“I think it is crisis of the soul,” Khan said. “These acts of terror have no religion, they have no color. … Human beings have lost the purpose of life if they end up with such hate. They have ignored all the teachings of their holy books, and have allowed the devil to take control.”

He said the crisis is, at least in part, the fault of political leaders and dictators who seek to divide people and foment hate. People of faith must build bridges with one another and speak up. “We can only overcome these problems if we call our politicians to accountability and call them out when they preach hate. We cannot allow ourselves to be ruled by divisive politics. We, the people of conscience and faith, must stop them in their tracks,” he said. It is time our leaders show some moral courage and recognize that terrorism and violence is not a Muslim thing, but something that comes from a society that lacks understanding and compassion. It comes from anyone who has lost his soul.”

The response, he said, must be to turn to God, “because it is from him we come and to him that we should return. We should return to God for faith and strength in these trying times.”

“We must always be hopeful and never be despondent,” he said. “I stand with Cardinal Cupich, committed more than ever before to work for peace and love, and peace and love will conquer hate and evil. We must confront this evil with all that we have. May God bless us, and may God help us.”

Cardinal Cupich said there are three steps to building fraternity: establishing and nurturing dialogue, striving for cooperation in daily life and working toward mutual understanding of one another’s beliefs and practices.

God calls all people to dialogue with himself, Cardinal Cupich said, and to dialogue with their neighbors, each of whom is made in God’s image.

“Authentic dialogue requires that we strive to remove the barriers of pretense and subterfuge that so often accompany speech for, as I mentioned, to be in dialogue one must always reckon with the absolute dignity of the person before us as one who bears the image of the Creator,” he said.  “Authentic dialogue betokens the truth of the person and is, in a word, sacred.”

Anas Malik, one of four scholars who responded to the talk, said that as a political scientist rather than a theologian, he sees the need for members of all groups to get to know those they see as “other.”

In a time of isolation and polarization, the document signed by the pope and the grand imam offers another option.

“What this does is breathes life into our social communion,” said Malik, an associate professor of political science at Xavier University in Cincinnati.

Rita George-Tvrtkovic, an associate professor of theology at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois, said she was struck by the language of kinship that was used in the document.

“I think brother and sister are apt terms to describe how we can relate to one another,” George-Tvrtkovic said. “We are genetically closer to our brothers and sisters than anyone else, and we live longer on this planet with them than with our parents or our children. But a good relationship with them is not a given.”

Neither is a relationship between young people and communities of faith, said Sandra Keating, an associate professor in the theology department at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island. Many of her students see religion as the source of problems rather than a solution to them.

Because of that, she was heartened to see Pope Francis and Sheik el-Tayeb call for the two faiths to work together to help root young people in their faith traditions, she said.

Zeki Saritoprak said he finds hope in the work being done in interreligious dialogue.

“If Muslims, Christians and Jews come together, they constitute more than half of humanity,” said Saritoprak, who holds the Nursi Chair in Islamic Studies at John Carroll University in Ohio. “And they have so much common ground, when they work together, they will bring peace.”

Topics:

  • usccb
  • catholic-muslim dialogue

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