Delegation of spiritual leaders from Europe visits US to learn about ‘twinning synagogues’ initiative aimed at advancing interfaith dialogue, battle anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. A delegation of over two dozen European imams and rabbis in a meeting late last week at the White House pledged participation in American-led efforts to combat Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. The declaration, signed by leading clerics from nine European nations came at the conclusion of a four-day interreligious mission to the United States that brought the group to the White House, State Department, Congress, United Nations, Ground Zero, US Memorial Holocaust Museum and even Yankee Stadium. The mission was hosted by The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) in conjunction with the World Jewish Congress United States and the Islamic Society of North America.
Comments by Pope Benedict XVI about the difficult of interfaith prompted both questions and praise. The pope cast doubt on the possibility of interfaith dialogue but called for increased discussion concerning the practical consequences of religious differences. He was quoted as saying in a letter to Marcello Pera, a center-right Italian politician: “intercultural dialogue which deepens the cultural consequences of basic religious ideas.”
Jewish and Muslim leaders cautiously praised the remarks. A spokesperson for the Italian Muslim group, UCOII, called for further clarification, saying: “dialogue among believers exists: We don’t hold a dialogue on our faiths… but we do on how we can coexist, each in our diversity.”
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Saudi Arabia and Spain have agreed to hold an interfaith dialogue of Muslims, Jews, and Christians to be held next month in Madrid. King Abdullah had called for the dialogue. The event will take place by the Saudi-based World Muslim League on July 16th-18th. The dialogue will include Prominent figures among followers of the divine messages will take part in dialogue concerning life in human societies, international cooperation, human rights, and issues of security, peace and living together in the world.
The Wall Street Journal explores the changing ways in which Muslims university students in the US are seeking to express their religiosity on campus. This past spring, Harvard University decided to provide women-only hours at athletic facilities at the request of a few Muslim women, which subsequently sparked some controversy at the school. The University of Michigan announced recently that it would spend $25,000 to build footbaths for Muslim students for prayer ablutions. At these and other American colleges, features like gender-segregated seating are drawing both Muslim and non-Muslim students to explore further complexities of university life and religion. The Muslim Students Association (MSA) was launched in the 1960’s as a Saudi-funded establishment to support Da’wah on campuses across the country. Critics of MSA groups – both Muslim and non-Muslim – have challenged the organization as associating with Wahhabism, conservatism, and even radicalism. These concerns inspired a group of Washington-area students to establish a new campus initiative last fall. Project Nur, created by young Muslim women and men, grew out of a desire to provide an ambiance of promoting civic liberty, interfaith dialogue, and addressing identity issues. Project Nur now spans at least 7 chapters, and has even launched a first-ever Muslim Film Festival in Boston and Washington, and is a developing initiative hoping to serve as a positive organization for contemporary Muslim young people.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, convened the seventh Building Bridges Seminar in Rome this week. The interfaith dialogue event has brought together Muslim and Christian scholars since 2002, when hosted at Lambeth Palace by Dr George Carey, the then Archbishop of Canterbury. The seminar studied Biblical and Qur’anic texts, with a view to exchanging not just theological ideas, but scholarly techniques. A spokesperson for the Archbishop of Canterbury said: “What we see with the Muslims is they actually get quite excited about how we do our theology. You see them playing with an idea and it really is fascinating.” The seminar, which is organised in partnership with Georgetown University, ran from Tuesday to Thursday.
CAIR, a prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group announced that it will partner with the 20,000 Dialogues campaign to bring together Americans from different faiths in communities across the country. 20,000 Dialogues is a project of the Unity Productions Foundation (UFF), and will use films about Muslims to stimulate discussion and promote understanding. The initiative is envisioned as a way to empower everyday people to take part in a dialogue to understand Muslims and Islam through interfaith dialogue. UFF launched 20,000 Dialogues in August 2007 with a program on PBS. At present, hundreds of dialogues have been conduced across the United States.
Catholic and Muslim representatives will meet in Rome, in either February or March to begin a historic interfaith dialogue. Pope Benedict XVI proposed the encounter as part of his official response to Christian leaders in October, by 138 Muslim scholars. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran did not give an exact date for meeting, but said that it would take place in the spring.
An initiative for an international conference on interfaith dialogue towards global peace approved at Peace Embassy, in Brussels, Belgium. Announcing the formation of a permanent committee for inter-faith cooperation involving NGO’s, religious scholar’s, members of various religious communities, and the media to discuss such topics as extremis, intolerance, conflict resolution, terrorism, justice, and human rights. Two organizations — the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) and the Belgian and European think tank Institute of Peace and Development (INSPAD) jointly affirmed their commitment to cooperatively in launching the conference.
The Muslim world has been undergoing radical social, economic, political and intellectual change since its encounter with the West. How Muslims cope with the challenges they face necessarily impacts on the wider, non- Muslim world. The underlying aim of this conference is to examine the impact of the Gülen movement on the contemporary Muslim world in transition and the relations between the West and Islam in general. As a leading transnational faith-based movement originating from Turkey with a universal educational and interfaith agenda, the Gülen movement aims to promote creative and positive relations between the West and the Muslim world and articulate a constructive position on issues such as democracy, multiculturalism, globalisation, and interfaith dialogue in the context of secular modernity. Fethullah Gülen’s re-reading of religious texts in the context of a renewal and re-interpretation in Islam that can take part in the building of a fully human society in Europe will also feature in the deliberations of the conference.
The conference will also examine the theological and intellectual contributions of Gülen, situate him in the context of the modern intellectual history of Islam and discuss his own interpretations of the above central issues.
As a religious intellectual and peace activist from Turkey, Gülen has influenced a whole generation of Muslims worldwide and inspired them to play an important role in charitable and educational projects and foundations. His aim has always been to bring out the universal mission of Islam, which is to serve people regardless of faith, colour, or national origin.
The President of the Spanish Islamic Council, Mansur Escudero, praised the position of General Secretary of the Arabic League Amr Moussa that the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba should accept the Muslim praying in its facilities. Such action, according to Escudero, would promote interfaith dialogue and should be understood as a positive action of proximity and not as a confrontation.