Mid-Atlantic Dialogue of Catholics And Muslims Discusses Aggressive Use Of Force, Violence, Injustice, And Suffering at Fifth Annual Meeting

April 19, 2002 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON (April 19, 2002) -- The Mid-Atlantic Dialogue of Catholics and Muslims held its fifth annual meeting on April 9-11, 2002, at the Immaculate Conception Center, a conference and office facility for the Diocese of Brooklyn. Co-sponsors of the dialogue are the Islamic Circle of North America, headquartered in Jamaica, Queens, New York, and the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops with offices in Washington, DC. Bishop Ignatius A. Catanello, Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Brooklyn, and Dr. Khurshid Khan, ICNA, serve as co-chairs of the dialogue. There were 22 participants in this year(s meeting, coming from New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Washington, DC.

One month in advance of this year(s meeting, the planners for the dialogue recommended certain changes for the agenda in response to several unanticipated developments since last year(s meeting. They strongly urged the dialogue to meet as scheduled so that the regular participants could gather for friendly, sustained and focused conversation. Over the past meetings, the dialogue group had been preparing portions of a resource on marriage and family life with appendices to support dialogue groups on these topics as well as church and mosque staff involved in marriage preparation for Catholic-Muslim couples. Dr. John Borelli, USCCB staff for this dialogue, was named interim director of his office last July 5th and was unable to devote the necessary staff time to coordinate the preparation of the materials with ICNA staff for this meeting. In addition, the events of September 11th and subsequent developments, especially the increased violence in the Palestinian territories and Israel, have challenged all participants in this dialogue to address in numerous settings how Christian-Muslim relations are entangled in these developments. Thus Dr. Borelli and Mr. Naeem Baig, ICNA Secretary-General, agreed to propose an agenda for a sustained discussion of timely topics.

Participants shared with one another how their lives and work in service to Catholic and Islamic institutions have been affected since September 11th and then held formal sessions on how the Bible and the Qur(an guide Christians and Muslims in their thinking about aggressive use of force, violence, injustice, and innocent suffering. Participants on both sides agreed that the promotion of justice and care for the poor and innocent are central themes in their Scriptures. For most members, the last several months have involved numerous talks, dialogues, and meetings about these themes and how they have been manifest in Christian-Muslim relations. They discussed how their different understandings of Divine Revelation and Scripture and also their different perspectives on contemporary situations and developments often interfere with attempts by Christians and Muslims to understand one another. Even framing a mutually agreed upon question about violence and God(s Revelation requires considerable attention to these differences.

Regular prayer schedules were maintained by both sides during the three-day dialogue. On the first evening, the Catholic members held an evening prayer service with the Muslim members in attendance. On the second evening, ICNA hosted the group for prayers, dinner, and a tour and discussion at their headquarters on 89th Avenue in Queens. On the final morning, the dialogue decided to continue next year this discussion of violence and God(s Revelation and to identify clearly those teachings which Christians and Muslims share. The members of the dialogue hope they can also return to their project to prepare a resource on marriage and family, but they agreed that this year(s meeting was the most informative and encouraging discussion they have had in this group. The Muslim delegates expressed appreciation for the good work of the Catholic Church and emphasized that the sins of some priests should not wash away the great services, which the Catholic Church has been and still is providing to the community.

Besides those named above, the following Catholics and Muslims attended this year(s dialogue: Bishop Joseph F. Martino (Philadelphia), Mr. Salman Yusuff (Philadelphia), Sr. Josephine Kase (Philadelphia), Fr. Michael Lynch (Brooklyn), Mr. Muhammad Tariq Rahman (ICNA), Fr. Gregory C. Wielunski (Brooklyn), Fr. Philip Latronico (Newark), Mr. Mohamed el Filali (Newark), Fr. Francis X. Mazur (Buffalo), Fr. Jeffrey Lee (Trenton), Imam Hamad Ahmad Chebli (Monmouth Junction), Bro. David Carroll (New York), Mr. Tariq Shahid (New York), Fr. Wil Tyrrell (New York), Dr. Viqar Hamdani (New York), Mr. John Abdul-Malek Ellis (New York), Deacon Charles Clark (Harrisburg), Fr. Leo Lefebure (Fordham University).