Christians, Muslims strive to better understand one another’s beliefs and practices

Earlier this year, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago met with Sheikh Abdur Rahman Khan, leader of the Shariah Council of the Islamic Circle of North America. The two are co-chairs of the National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue, which is sponsored by the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

They had convened a meeting in Chicago to discuss a document on “human fraternity” and improving Christian-Muslim relations, that was signed Feb. 4 by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar and a leading religious authority for many Sunni Muslims around the world. They signed the declaration during the pope’s visit to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The document pledges that al-Azhar and the Vatican will work together to fight extremism.

At the Chicago meeting, Cupich said, “The publication of this statement … 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.”

“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,” Cupich said.

He identified 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.

‘an interreligious bridge’

Later, writing in America magazine, Cupich suggested that one aspect of Islam and Catholicism that deserves more understanding is the two faith tradition’s long and deep devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

“Like Catholics, Muslims believe Mary to be pure, courageous and faithful. They also believe that she was free from sin. The Quran calls her an example for believers, a woman of truth, a sign for all peoples and chosen above all women,” Cupich wrote.

It is because of this shared devotion to Mary that Cardinal Blasé Cupich of Chicago has called Mary “an interreligious bridge” for Christians and Muslims.

To celebrate our shared devotion to Mary, Precious Blood Renewal Center and The Dialogue Institute of Kansas City are hosting the program “Mother Mary in Catholicism and Islam” Oct. 9, 6-8:30 p.m. The evening will include presentations by Muslim and Catholic scholars and dinner.

Speakers will cover three topics:

  • “Divine Mother, Divine Mover” Michael J. Sanem will present the Catholic view of Mary through the lens of a spirituality of pilgrimage.
  • “Mary and the Calling to Motherhood” Dr. Sofia Khan will discuss the high level of dignity and respect given to a mother in Islam in the light of Quran and Sunnah, which is the traditional customs and practices of the Islamic community.
  • “Lessons from Mary for Today” Uma Geyik will draw an analogy between the persecution of mothers and the children in Turkey today to the hardships and social ostracization endured by Mary and her Son.

Learn more about the program or register to attend here.

Image above shows Pope Francis shaking hands with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, Feb. 4, 2019. (Vatican Media)

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