How Christians and Muslims Flourish Together in These Times

 

Fr. Carl Chudy, SX

On October 27th and 28th, I had the distinct opportunity to join Christians and Muslims in the Farmington Valley area of Connecticut in a special program entitled, “How Christians and Muslims Flourish Together in these Times.” It was a conference featuring keynote speakers, workshops of various types, and a presentation that invoked discussion and sharing among all of us who attended.

The first part of the program began Friday evening at the Farmington Valley Islamic Center where our first keynote speaker, Dr. Mahan Mirza shared with us his take on, Inspiring Stories from our Shared Values.  Mahan Mirza is a professor of the Practice in the Contending Modernities Program at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and lead faculty in a project to advance scientific and theological literacy in madrasa discourses in India and Pakistan.

The second part of our gathering continued the next morning at First Church, 1652, the First Church of Christ, Congregational.  There we began the day with the second keynote speaker, Miroslave Volf, one of the most celebrated Christian theologians in the world today. He is the founder and director of Yale Center for Faith and Culture and Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology, Yale University Divinity School, New Haven, CT.  His talk, Do Christians and Muslims Share the Same God? was a extraordinary opportunity to engender conversation and dialogue among us all.

The day continued with a series of workshops led by a number of experts around Christian Muslim relations.  They included the following titles:

  • Addressing Misconceptions About Islam and Muslims. Facilitated by Dr. Saud Anwar
    Exploring the way misinformation spreads fear and hate through media amplification and focused attacks.
  • A Spiritual Compass for Youth in a Chaotic World. Facilitated by Miranda Moeller and Omar Tawil
    How youth and youth leadership can support, honor, and learn from each other’s practices.
  • Refugee Resettlement Stories. Facilitated by Dr. Reza Mansoor
    How faith-based communities have embraced local refugee families and the related rewards and challenges.
  • Women in Religious Leadership. Facilitated by Fatma Antar, Carole Fay, and Rev. Linda Spiers
    Evolving leadership roles for women in Islam and Christianity.

I sat in on Dr. Saud Anwar’s explorations on misconceptions about Islam and Muslims. I was particularly struck by the extensive and structural ways misconceptions are perpetuated quite purposely through well funded foundations and among certain political leaders, both local and national.

The final component of the program ended with a stimulating panel discussion on Next Steps: Moving Forward Together.  Rev. Susan Murtha and Khamis Abu-Hasaballah facilitated the panelists which included: Jane Smith, Professor Emeritus, Hartford Seminary, and Mahan Mirza, Professor at the  Kroc Institute.

Moving forward is indeed a fitting way to envision our Catholic commitment to the world around us through the connective love and compassionate heart of Jesus Christ. As we build vibrant Catholic communities through our life in community, sharing the Word of God and the Eucharist, we extend the sharing of our lives with all of those around us, of all faiths, and no faith at all. We extend the power of Christ’s healing in a diverse, and often divided world. We are the body of Christ, a seed of the Kingdom of God, in order to realize the testament of Jesus in his prayer, “Father, may they be one, as you and I are one.”

 

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