US Muslims and Catholics discuss role of faith in the public square

 — Nov. 13, 200913 nov. 2009

[Washington • USCCB Media 09-236] Muslims and Catholics discussed religion in the public square at an interreligious dialogue, October 25-27, in Milwaukee.

The annual meeting of the Midwest Catholic Muslim Interreligious Dialogue was hosted by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Initiatives and the Islamic Society of Milwaukee. The meeting was co-chaired by Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America and Bishop Francis Reiss, Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit, on behalf the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Deliberations began with a well-attended public lecture entitled, “Faithful Citizenship – Catholic and Muslim Engagement in Civic Life” at the Islamic Center School. The Catholic perspective was presented by Michael Hovey, coordinator of the Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs of the Archdiocese of Detroit. The Islamic perspective was given by Dr. Irfan Omar, Professor of Islamic Studies at Marquette University.

The dialogue continued October 26, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist with two presentations on “The Nature and Dignity of the Human Person: Implications for the Public Square.” The Catholic perspective was presented by Father Leo Walsh, Associate Director of the Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at the USCCB. The Muslim perspective was presented by Dr. Zeki Saritoprak of John Carroll University, Cleveland. The participants noted several points of convergence arising from a common experience of both communities, especially regarding the experience of immigrant communities in the United States.

Bishop Reiss at a luncheon emphasized that practical cooperation of Catholics and Muslims in the public square is increasingly important in an era when contemporary society does not value the contribution of theology and religious conviction in public discourse.

Other sessions explored the theme “The Dignity of the Family: Catholic and Muslim Family Life and the Public Square – Blessings, Challenges and Opportunities.” Presenters included Joan Crist, PhD., Coordinator, Ecumenism & Interreligious Affairs of the Diocese of Gary, Indiana, and professor at Calumet College of St. Joseph and from Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah, Imam for the Islamic Society of Milwaukee.

Members of the dialogue noted many common concerns including efforts to maintain a faith-filled family life and passing on their religious heritage to the next generation despite the fact that society seems increasingly irreligious. They also cited cultural and socio-economic factors such as suburban sprawl as challenges to all people of faith.

Members of the dialogue discussed plans for publishing the results of their conversations and formed a subcommittee to determine a future course of action. They also expressed a desire to collaborate with the members of the West Coast and Mid-Atlantic regional Muslim-Catholic Dialogues.

The next meeting of the Midwest Muslim-Catholic Dialogue is slated for October, 2010, at a yet to be determined location.

In addition to the co-chairs, the Muslim representatives who attended this recent meeting include Dr. Ghulam-Haider Aasi, Professor, American Islamic College; Inshirah Farhoud, Outreach Coordinator, Islamic Society of Milwaukee; and Mohammad O. Farooq Associate Professor of Economics & Finance, Upper Iowa University. Muslim observers in attendance included presenters Dr. Irfan Omar, Dr. Saritoprak, and Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah.

Additional Catholic representatives included Scott Alexander, PhD., Associate Professor of Islam and Director Catholic-Muslim Studies, Catholic Theological Union, Chicago; Benedictine Sister Barbara Austin, Board Member, Monastic Interreligious Dialogue; Father Thomas Baima, Ph.D., Provost, University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein; Dr. Crist; Msgr. Patrick Halfpenny, Ecumenical/Interfaith Officer, Archdiocese of Detroit; Ms. Judith Longdin, Director, Office of Ecumenical & Interfaith Concerns, Archdiocese of Milwaukee; Dominican Sister Joan McGuire, Director, Office for Ecumenical & Interreligious Affairs, Archdiocese of Chicago; Father Raymond J. Webb, Professor, University of Saint Mary of the Lake, Mundelein; and Father Walsh, S.T.D, who serves as staff. Catholic observers included Hovey, Father Bob Flannery, President of the Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers (CADEIO), and Steven Cottam, Intern, Catholic Theological Union.

The Midwest Muslim-Catholic Dialogue has been sponsored jointly by the Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Islamic Society of North America since 1996. Its latest statement, Revelation: Catholic and Muslim Perspectives was published in 2006. This and other texts are available on the USCCB Website.

Posted: Nov. 13, 2009 • Permanent link:
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