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The Center for the Study of Islam Democracy

Catholics, Muslims begin to value how much they share across faiths

Despite major theological differences — especially related to the divinity of Christ — such efforts have led Catholics and Muslims to see that there are enough similarities related to daily prayer, fasting, concern for others and respect for human life that can bring together members of both religious traditions. The initiatives also have explored connections between stories in the Bible and the Quran, the sacred book of Islam.

Dialogue efforts got a boost when “many bishops were taking note of the many Muslims around town,” Borelli said. Eventually, Borelli began working in the Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, coordinating various programs to promote Christian-Muslim dialogue built around shared beliefs and values.
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Borelli said Muslims felt called to dialogue with Catholics not only because of their shared beliefs but because “they see our story as their story.” An immigrant people, Catholics gradually staked their role in American history by establishing faith communities, opening schools and building social institutions. Eventually they entered the middle class and became a political force in society.

Efforts to promote understanding also have spawned cross-cultural dialogue in settings that were not exclusively religious. During the last 10 years, professionals from both faith traditions have been involved in the Rumi Forum in Washington and the Rumi Foundation, a similar undertaking in Cleveland. Both organizations have introduced programs to promote understanding.

The two organizations take their name from 13th-century Persian poet, Islamic jurist and theologian Jalal ad-Din Muhammed Rumi. He believed poetry, music and dance were paths for reaching God. Rumi, whom many consider a mystic, believed that all people can live in peace regardless of their faith and cultural backgrounds.

“We want to show that if these religious traditions come together there will be a great, bright future for humanity,” said Zeki Saritoprak, a native of Turkey who is an associate professor of Islamic studies at Jesuit-run John Carroll University in Cleveland and a founder of both organizations.

He makes the point that the combined populations of Christians and Muslims make up 55 percent of the world’s population.

“In each tradition there are tremendous similarities, common themes,” Saritoprak explained. “In the modern world we have really big problems: problems of poverty, problems of health, problems of anarchy, youth who are living dangerously. Here is where religions can come together to find solutions for problems.”

From the Catholic News Service

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