Thursday, October 25, 2007

Church Meets Mosque

At the US' biggest mosque in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, three days of Catholic-Muslim dialogue just wrapped:
They worshipped together and contemplated their ongoing collaboration, emerging Tuesday with a "mission statement" that will help guide the dialogue and relations between Muslims and Catholics well into the future.

Participants in the Midwest Dialogue of Catholics and Muslims, part of an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Islamic Society of North America, said the 114-word declaration is aimed at encouraging members of both faiths to pursue greater understanding and offers hope the dialogue will benefit the country.

"Our common belief in the one God of mercy and love calls us into relationship with one another," the statement reads. "Therefore we see our dialogue as a spiritual journey. Common ethical concerns compel us to take responsibility for our relationship within U.S. society."

Some events around the globe suggest two religions in conflict. But the leaders say they are guiding collaboration that will affect Christianity and Islam, and the wider world, for decades to come.

"One of the themes that emerged is the fact that we see what we are doing as a spiritual journey," said Bishop Francis Reiss of the Archdiocese of Detroit. "We enter into what we are doing in a spirit of faith, in a spirit of respect for one another, in a spirit of wanting to learn more from each other."

The leaders make clear that they do not duck difficult issues. On Monday, they explored guidelines to govern attempts to convert Muslims to Catholicism and Catholics to Islam.

The work, which will eventually be considered by Muslims and Catholics nationally, is consistent with a long tradition of ecumenical outreach by Catholics to other faiths and denominations. Muslims also have pursued some interfaith experiences, and they hope the intensive, ongoing dialogue with Catholic leaders will spur similar relationships.

"The Catholic church is much older than our presence as Muslims in America," said Sayyid Syeed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America. "So they have had interfaith dialogue with others. We are latecomers.

"Catholics are 60 million in the U.S. We are hardly eight to 10 million, and we are still exploring ways of establishing our community and gaining the recognition and respect that we deserve as American Muslims," Syeed said. "And so, we truly appreciate this big brother relationship."