Articles on Christians and Muslims

An article from The Daily Pennsylvanian reports on Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups uniting behind a faith-based approach to the BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) Movement.

For many, faith was both a source of solidarity and a cause for action at this weekend’s national Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions conference — whether they attended the event or not.

On Saturday, the panel discussion “A Faith-Based Approach to BDS” brought together leaders from national Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups to examine the ways that “interfaith coalitions can be used to promote the [BDS] movement,” according to discussion moderator Susan Landau, who works with Philadelphia Jews for a Just Peace.

During the panel’s question-and-answer session, many audience members asked how they could get more involved in the BDS movement through their churches, synagogues and mosques.

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb from Jewish Voice for Peace — a grassroots movement that works to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians — said young Jewish people, who might feel “alienated” by their synagogues’ compliance with Israeli actions, “come back into Judaism through their Palestinian human rights work. They find community there.”

Gottlieb, who spoke at the panel, added, “There is a generational shift in the Jewish community. People see what’s going on in the Middle East, and they are not so easily fooled about Israel’s human rights abuses.”

Panelist Natalia Cuadra-Saez from the United Methodist Kairos Response — a pro-Palestine group — also believes that through her work with BDS, “church is relevant again.”

“It’s not just about hollow words and hypocrisy,” she said. “When we see our churches taking action for something, we come back to them.”

Faith has also informed the political views of pro-Israeli individuals at Penn and in the greater community.

“I hope my faith inspires my politics, and that my politics are consistent with my faith,” said Bill Borror, senior pastor of Media Presbyterian Church in Media, Pa.

However, Borror, who was one of 14 signers of a recent statement denouncing the BDS movement’s rhetoric, believes that American Christians should think strategically about what will bring a just peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

“To think pragmatically is an extremely Christian idea,” he said.

College sophomore and Hillel’s Israel Sector Intern Josh Cooper said that personally, his faith contributes only partly to his support for Israel.

While he believes the question surrounding BDS is largely geopolitical, his relationship to Israel “is not just political and academic, but also rooted in my Jewish faith,” he said.

“Israel is still a very religious factor in my life, but not to say it biases me in my position towards BDS. Social justice is also a major religious factor in my life.”

Saturday’s panel also featured Rev. Graylan Hagler, national president of Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice and Cyrus McGoldrick from the Council on Islamic-American Relations.

Panel members explained what each of their affiliated religious groups have done — and can still do — to advance the BDS movement and refute pro-Israel arguments.

Hagler censured pro-Israel Christians for their unilateral support of Israel, urging them to “unhitch [their] theology from Christian Zionism.”

“From a traditional Christian perspective, the response is always if you harm Israel, you will be harmed,” he said. “But there is a difference between the Israel of the Testaments and the Israel of today.”

This sentiment was echoed in Gottlieb’s qualification of Israelis’ right to land in the Middle East, the belief in which she said has culminated in a “terrible sin committed towards Palestinians.”

She added, “The concept of [Jewish] ‘chosen-ness’ is dependent on ethics, but we have really lost our right to claim that land because of our chosen-ness.”

While some of the speakers drew on scriptural and ethical arguments, other speakers used the floor to encourage specific actions that would directly support the BDS movement.

Cuadra-Saez cited a mandate in the United Methodist Book of Discipline, which discourages investment in companies “that directly or indirectly support the violation of human rights.”

The UMKR, she said, has drafted a resolution advising United Methodist Church leaders to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett Packard for their “involvement in the Israeli occupation,” according to the resolution.

“[Founder of the Methodist Church] John Wesley said, ‘Do no harm,’” Cuadra-Saez said. “Well, we do do harm when we profit from those who profit from occupation.”

McGoldrick captured the common theme of the discussion — escaping the “common culpability” of less active supporters and “turning principle into action.”

“In Islam, if you believe in something you must act on it,” he added. “This isn’t something just to discuss academically — it’s about life and death.”

It is encouraging to see that respectful dialogue between our two faiths is a goal which is being pursued worldwide. Here we see that a joint Islamic-Christian movement in the Philipines seeks to educate the youth to engage in peaceful inter-faith dialogue.

Source: Asia News

Zamboanga – “Spreading a culture of dialogue between Christians and Muslims means educating young people to get to the bottom of their faith and encourage them to work together for the good of their communities”, says Fr Sebastiano D’Ambra, a missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions in Zamboanga (Mindanao) and founder of Silsilah, a movement for interreligious dialogue speaking to AsiaNews. Active since 1984, over the years Silsilah has become a beacon for Muslims and Christians in Mindanao, for forty years, victims of the war between Islamic rebels and the Philippine military.

Fr. D’Ambra says: “After years of meetings with Muslim and Christian leaders, we realized that our task was not simply to speak of dialogue, but  way to respond in a concrete to the reality around us.”

In 1986 Silsilah kicked started the Summer Course of Muslim Christian Dialogue to form young leaders of both faiths. For 25 years, the summer courses are organized every year between April and May and the classes continued even in during the most difficult for Christians in Mindanao, such as the murder in Zamboanga of Fr Salvatore Carzedda (PIME) in 1992.

“Over the years we have trained more than 2 thousand young people – says Fr D’Ambra – who now work as a leaders in various areas of the island, in turn creating groups and initiatives between the two religions. ” On 20 September, the movement opened a center for dialogue in Manila, in the district of Quiapo home to the Nazarene sanctuary and the Golden Mosque, symbols of the presence of the two religions in the archipelago.

In Mindanao the initiatives of the Summer Course has also affected areas with Muslim majority hostile to Christians and characterized by ongoing violence. In Basilan, a stronghold of Abu Sayyaf Muslim extremists, a few months ago a relationship between the bishop and high Islamic authorities began. They are working to address concrete problems of the city, led by some Silsilah graduates.

“We teach our youth the dialogue and respect for nature – said the missionary – explaining the passages of the Bible and the Qur’an that speak of these matters.” In Balun, a protected area in the center of the island, Christians and Muslims, have joined forces to block mining in the area. With the help of Silsilah volunteers they have collected signatures throughout Mindanao. In January 2010, more than 10 thousand people demonstrated in front of the headquarters of the Manila government against pollution and destruction of protected areas.

The concrete proposal of Silsilah and its work with the new generations has drawn even the most reluctant and conservative Muslim leaders to the movement. Recently the movement translated the letter sent to 138 Muslim scholars to Benedict XVI in 2006 to seek common ground for collaboration between Christians and Muslims into the local language.

Fr. D’Ambra noted that the publication of the document, together with the concrete testimony of Silsilah among the Muslims of Mindanao, many Islamic leaders began to question whether their communities are open dialogue with Christians.

“The letter is signed by many Islamic leaders of the world – he stresses – and this has also pushed even the most entrenched characters to consider the possibility of interreligious dialogue, love of God, love of neighbor, All content common to both faiths. ” In a meeting with more than 500 ulema that took place recently in Zamboanga, a prominent Islamic leader, who has never had direct relations with Silsilah, praised the movement citing passages on the relationship between Christians and Muslims in the Koran.

The priest said the opening of Islamic leaders is possible if dialogue is transformed from a simple strategy in the form of spirituality on which to base one’s life. For nearly 20 years the movement has proposed chastity and community life to young people as an opportunity to give one’s life to interfaith dialogue. The proposal is spreading even among Muslim women, who take a vow of chastity, and without leaving their families, begin the same spiritual journey of serious dialogue with God and neighbour.

An encouraging report from tells of a planned peace conference in London, to be attended by 12,000 Muslims and people of various faiths.

LONDON – More than 12,000 young people from all over the UK and Europe are expected to attend a ‘Peace for Humanity’ conference in London.

The event is being organised by Minhaj-ul-Quran International (MQI), an Islamic organisation working for peace and integration and will take place at Wembley Arena.

The conference will be opened by MQI’s founder, Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, a leading Islamic scholar and thinker.

He will use the conference to issue a “Declaration for Global Peace and Resistance against Extremism” which will call for end to terrorism and extremist violence. He will launch a drive to secure one million signatures to support the declaration.

The “Peace and Humanity” conference will host a full day of speeches, entertainment, multi-faith sessions and collective public action to spread messages of peace, harmony and cohesion throughout communities and across religions following the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

It will also include a collective peace prayer involving all main faiths 10 years after that called by the late Pope John Paul in Assisi.

Video messages of support will be shown from the Deputy Prime Minister, Rt Hon. Nick Clegg, the Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, Rt Hon. Eric Pickles and the Leader of the Opposition, Rt Hon. Ed Miliband.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has also supported the conference.

Ban Ki-moon has also sent a message of support.

The conference will also hear from Deputy Mayor of London Richard Barnes, Dean of Royal Air Force College Dr Joel Hayward, Sajjad Karim MEP, UK Muslim scholars Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad (also known as Timothy Winter) and Vice-Chancellor of Al-Azhar University, Cairo,prominent young scholar Shaykh Hassan Mohi-ud-Din Qadri, Mrs Ghazala Hassan, Dr Musharaf Hussain.

A special session of collective peace prayer will be held in which religious leaders of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jews, Christians and Muslims will perform prayer for global peace according to their respective religion.

Building on previous internationally recognised Minhaj-ul-Quran events, including the Fatwa on Terrorism and the Anti-Terrorism Camp, this event will bring together eminent faith leaders and communities, dispelling myths and enhancing unity in the name of peace.

In his Global Declaration for Peace, Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri will say: “We send a message of peace and fraternity to all of humanity’s innumerable states, nations, communities and individuals along with a call for respect, dignity, compassion, equality, solidarity and justice for, and between, all people”.

“We address our call for peace, tolerance and respect to all people everywhere, but especially to political and religious leaders and decision-makers as well as to scholars, teachers and journalists”.

“We reject unequivocally all terrorism because at the heart of all religions is a belief in the sanctity of the lives of the innocent.

The indiscriminate nature of terrorism, which has in recent years killed far more civilians and other non-combatants than it has combatants.”

With all of the publicity given to a tiny number of American preachers burning the sacred texts of other faiths, the Associated Baptist Press reports on an initiative of the Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First to come together and read each others’ sacred texts, to foster mutual understanding and respect.

WASHINGTON – Christian clergy across the country will organize readings from the Koran and other sacred texts Sunday, June 26, as part of an initiative to counter anti-Muslim bigotry and negative stereotypes of Islam.

Announced in a telephonic press conference May 17, Faith Shared : Uniting in Prayer and Understanding is a project of the Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First.

“The anti-Muslim rhetoric that has pervaded our national conversation recently has shocked and saddened me,” said Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, a religious freedom organization that seeks to unite diverse faith voices against extremism.

Gaddy, an ordained Baptist minister, is also pastor of preaching and worship at Northminster Church in Monroe, La., one of 50 congregations in 26 states recruited so far to invite Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders to read each others’ sacred texts in order to send a message both in the United States and Arab world.

Contrary to highly publicized anti-Islam statements from some U.S. Christian leaders, Gaddy said churches involved in the Faith Shared project “want to read each others’ scriptures instead of burn them.”

Tad Stanke of Human Rights First, a human-rights advocacy organization with offices in New York and Washington, said tactics that show disrespect for Muslims hurt the reputation of all Americans and make it harder for the U.S. to speak with authority on human-rights issues in the Arab world.

Washington National Cathedral will serve as anchor congregation for the June 26 scripture readings.

“Few things are more important for the future of our world than to respect, to honor and to commit ourselves to the well-being of every person,” said National Cathedral Dean Sam Lloyd. “As Americans and people of faith, we must use our great traditions to come together for mutual enrichment and understanding.”

By coming together to read from and hear each others’ sacred texts, organizers believe Jewish, Christian and Muslim clergy will model respect and cooperation in ways that create concrete opportunities to build and strengthen working ties between their faiths.

“This initiative is good for religion and good for our nation,” Gaddy said.

Information about how to organize a service and a list of participating churches can be seen at

Manti Christian and Muslim women taking part in the seemingly trivial activity of cooking classes together reached understandings that changed their world view in the process.

Krista Ramsey writes in her column at about their experiences.

Fatma Serim’s hands fly as she shapes and reshapes a glossy sheet of dough using an oklava, a small drumstick-shaped Turkish rolling pin.

Around her, Zeynepnur Kuran and Fatos Budiyar pull open kitchen drawers looking for spatulas and spoons to make tiny stuffed dumplings called manti.

The women, all Muslim émigrés, are as comfortable in the kitchen as if they were whipping up a family meal in their native Turkey. In fact they are 5,500 miles away, chopping and stirring in the basement of the Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church. Around them a circle of Christian women make notes on their recipes and take turns trying the oklava.

The Turkish women are followers of a version of traditional Islam that emphasizes hizmet, service for the common good, and uses small, personal interactions to further interfaith understanding.

In a world torn apart by religious conflict, pounding walnuts into crumbs or shredding cabbage may seem like humble ways to promote unity. But the Christian and Muslim women alike say the cooking classes are building personal relationships and dispelling religious stereotypes.

“We could go a long way toward world peace if you could get a bunch of women together stuffing grape leaves,” says downtown resident Sandy Lingo. “We’re all working together and talking. We’re all alike – except that they’re better cooks.”

The classes grew out of a shared meal and conversation between the Muslim women and Mount Auburn pastor, the Rev. Susan Quinn Bryan. The women are members of the Niagara Foundation, a non-profit started by Midwestern Turkish-Americans to promote global fellowship. Now up to 25 women meet Saturday afternoons to cook and eat together.

For Deer Park resident Wanda Chandler, the chance to meet Muslims and ask frank questions about Islam has countered her earlier religious teachings that Muslims were evil.

“Last week we talked about why they wear their headwear. We talked during the meal that separation breeds fear,” she says. “I think this is what everybody needs. So many Christians are really fearful.

This dispels the fear.”

Jean Snyder of Florence has used her relationships with the Muslim women to counter biased comments by relatives.

“I can say, ‘That’s not my experience with Muslims,'” she says. “I can’t imagine someone not feeling welcome and warmed by these ladies. It seems impossible to think that anyone could think they don’t belong in the United States or shouldn’t practice their beliefs.”

Sema Duygu Deger of Mason says the more she meets with her Christian friends – whom the Muslim women have begun calling ablalar, or sisters – “sometimes it is hard to see any difference.”

While they are careful to respect each other’s beliefs, both the Muslim and Christian women openly follow their own practices. As they sit down to eat together, Snyder blesses the meal “in Jesus’ name.” And when it’s time for their daily prayers, the Muslims retreat to an upstairs room beside the sanctuary.

“There is no special place to pray to God,” says Mehriban Ulas of West Chester who, on her name tag, has written beside her Turkish name an English name that sounds somewhat similar – Mary.

Each cooking class is followed by a shared meal (“Sit Christian, Muslim, Christian, Muslim – like boy, girl, boy, girl,” says the Rev. Quinn Bryan) and discussion around a religious topic.

The women say they’re constantly astonished at the intersections of their faiths.

When the Mount Auburn women showed their guests a stained-glass window of the biblical parable of sowing seeds on different types of soil, the Muslim women quoted their own version in Turkish.

When a Muslim woman read from the Quran the story of the angel Gabriel visiting Mary, “It could have been from Luke – I almost wept,” said the Rev. Kathy Barlow Westmoreland, pastor of St. John’s Westminster Union Church in Delhi Township.

Westmoreland says the classes are helping all the women practice their faith without being threatened by other faiths.

“One of the most common things said in scripture,” she says, “is ‘Don’t be afraid.’

Father Dave and Sheikh Mansour

I receive emails just about every day telling me how all Muslims are out to kill us!

It’s hard to know where to start in responding to these emails. Should I really try to respond line by line or should I simply point out that nobody speaks for ‘all Muslims’ any more than anybody speaks for all of ‘us’ (whoever ‘we’ are supposed to be). The simple solution is just to hit ‘delete’ of course, but I find it almost impossible to do that. Such emails are slurs against my sisters and brothers in humanity. How can I just ignore them?

At the same time though I’m realising that it doesn’t do much good to offer a logical argument in response, as these emails generally operate on a logic all of their own. Take the latest email I received:

A friend commends to me the testimoney of an army veteran – Lt. Colonel Allen West – who (according to this chain letter) is one of those rare individuals who has had the courage to stand up and tell the truth. West has served in Iraq and he knows the truth about Islam – that killing all non-Muslims is entirely the aim of the religion, and he’s happy to go on the record saying so.

You can see West’s 2-minute speech here if you’re motivated, and you can even find a campaign blog here if you want to write a letter of support to West, commending him for his courage in speaking out. But what is not addressed in the speech and what is not called into question by any of his supporters is why we should listen to this guy?

What makes this guy an expert on Islam such that we should take his word above the word of any number of highly qualified people – Muslims and non-Muslims alike – who claim that Islam does not tell its adherants to kill anybody?

Is it because he’s a veteran that he should be believed? I’m sure we could find any number of other veterans who would disagree with him. Indeed, his supporters themselves say that when West made his statement none of his veteran colleagues were saying anything of the sort. This is interpreted as cowardice on their part, of course, but it’s far more likely that they simply disagreed with him.

Is it his service in Iraq that makes him such an authority? Of course it doesn’t say how long he served in Iraq but his Yankee accent reminds us that it can only have been a small percentage of his life at best, and clearly he went there to fight the the Muslim enemy and not to do an objective study of Iraqi history. Certainly we would not normally consider such a man a credible authority on a religion he has never been a part of. So why is everyone so keen to listen to him now?

The answer is very simple. The reason Lt. Colonel Allen West is considered an authority on Islam is this: he’s the only guy saying what we want to hear!

Countless numbers of better qualified people will disagree with him. Any number of academics and scholars and theologians who have devoted their whole lives to the study of Islam stand ready to contradict him. All this means nothing! West is the guy we want to listen to. Why? Because he tells us what we wanted to hear – that all Muslims are violent bastards whose sole aim is the destruction of the Western world.

Mind you, the part of the Quran that West quotes to prove his statement – “slay the idolaters wherever you find them” – even if divorced from its historical context, can’t possibly be applied to Christians (or Jews), as such persons are not considered to be ‘idolaters’ in Islam but as mistaken monotheists. Anyone with a minimal knowledge of Islam would know this, but somehow that’s happily overlooked here.

Anyway, I’m sure there must be homicidal Muslim persons doing the same sort of thing somewhere, and fanning the flames from the other side – emailing all the people they know and quoting Psalm 137:9 – “Happy is he who takes their children and dashes them against the rocks” – and claiming that this is a Biblical command to all Christians and Jews to kill all Muslim children. And I’m sure there are any number of Muslim people who are just as glad to hear anti-Chrsitian rhetoric as we are to hear anti-Muslim rubbish. However you figure it, this is not the way to peace!

Hmmm … as I was about to post this I received another email from another friend, this time passing on to me the testimony of a Qantas Airlines pilot, Captain John Maniscalco, who likewise offers his words of wisdom, warning us about the dangers of Islam and the worldwide Muslim agenda.

I seem to remember that last time I heard from Captain Maniscalco he was supposed to be flying for American Airlines. Otherwise the message was the same. A little investigation of course shows that this email has been circulating for the best part of 10 years, that the author has taken on various identities, and that it is doubtful whether anyone by the name of Captain Maniscalco really has anything to do with its authorship.

And yet the email concludes with the all-caps exhortation: LET’S SATURATE THE FREE WORLD WITH THIS ONE!

That statement is depressing on so many levels!

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