Need For Catholic-Muslim Dialogue Stressed at Midwest Meeting

November 5, 2007 By Public Affairs Office
WASHINGTON (November 5, 2007)—The need for Catholics and Muslims to exchange ideas was stressed at the annual Midwest Regional Muslim-Catholic Dialogue at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, October 21-23.

Participants worked to develop a mission statement during the meeting, whose theme was, "The Mission of Muslim-Catholic Dialogue in the USA."

In a welcome address, Imam Hassan al-Qazwini reminded the group of an urgent need for a worldwide, permanent dialogue between Catholics and Muslims.

Sayyid Syeed, Ph.D., national director of the Islamic Society of North America, highlighted the common concerns for religious identity of Muslims and Catholics. He also expressed appreciation for Catholic support for social ethics and religious freedom, themes that are highly valued among American Muslims.

Bishop Francis Reiss, Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit, distinguished interreligious dialogue from political dialogue. He emphasized that spiritual growth rather than theological compromise should be the group's theological goals. He added that a mission statement would help assure their future collaboration.

Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit and a group of archdiocesan pastors joined the group at a luncheon on the opening day.

Scott Alexander, Ph.D. of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago began the formal presentations with an examination of conscience based on the "Dialogue Decalogue" of Temple University's Leonard Swidler. He noted that religious ethics must govern the practice of dialogue.

Dr. Shahid Athar spoke on the ethics of dialogue from his experience as an immigrant Muslim physician, father and in interfaith gatherings over the past 35 years. His presentation prompted further discussion on improving the ways that Americans learn about world religions.

Mohammad Omar Farooq, Ph.D., of Upper Iowa University, addressed historic and legal issues involved in Muslim responses to the sin of apostasy (abandonment of one's faith) and opened up a vigorous discussion of religious freedom, issues of conscience, and the problem of proselytism.

The group also discussed survey results of local Muslim leaders in the Midwest, the Regensburg Lecture of Pope Benedict XVI, and examples of interfaith collaboration and hospitality.

The Islamic Society of North America national convention remains a significant venue for interreligious panels where efforts as a dialogue group can be shared with a wide Muslim public; similarly, Catholic educational conventions may provide ways to make the fruits of formal dialogue available to teachers, clergy, and other Catholic leadership.

The following "Mission Statement" was adopted by the participants:

Catholics and Muslims engage in interreligious dialogue because it is part of our core identities as people of faith. Our common belief in the one God of mercy and love calls us into relationship with one another; therefore we see our dialogue as a spiritual journey. Common ethical concerns compel us to take responsibility for our relationship within U.S. American society. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Islamic Society of North America sponsor our annual gathering of official representatives for formal dialogue on topics of mutual concern. Our Dialogue provides a forum for Muslim-Catholic discussion, critique, and exchange of information that is supportive of the programs of our respective institutions.

The next meeting is planned for Northwest Indiana on October 26-28. The topic will be "In the Public Square: Muslims and Catholics on Religious Freedom."

Participants in the 2007 meeting were: Bishop Francis Reiss, Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit; Sayyid M. Syeed, Ph.D., Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); Imam Hassan al-Qazwini, Islamic Center of America; Father David Bruning, Diocese of Toledo, Ohio; Donald W. Mitchell, Ph.D., Purdue University; Scott Alexander, Ph.D., Catholic Theological Union; Father Raymond Webb, University of St. Mary of the Lake / Mundelein; Dominican Sister Joan McGuire, Archdiocese of Chicago; Benedictine Father William Skudlarek, Monastic Interreligious Dialogue; Michael Hovey, Archdiocese of Detroit; Judith Longdin, Archdiocese of Milwaukee; Inshirah Farhoud, Islamic Society of Milwaukee; Eide Alawan, Islamic Center of America; Victor Ghalib Begg, Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan; Msgr. Patrick Halfpenny, Archdiocese of Detroit; Joan Crist, Diocese of Gary, Indiana; Mohammad Omar Farooq, Ph.D., Upper Iowa University; Dr. Shahid Athar, Interfaith Alliance of Indianapolis; Gulam Haider Aasi, Ph.D., American Islamic College, Chicago, Illinois; Father Thomas Baima, University of St. Mary of the Lake / Mundelein; Father Vincent Heier, Archdiocese of St. Louis; and Father Francis Tiso, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.