A CATHOLIC-MUSLIM DIALOGUE Year of Mercy brings together people of both faiths seeking peace
Shayk Mongy El-Quesny of the Northwest Indiana Islamic Center speaks to those gathered at the Catholic-Muslim dialogue event hosted at St. Mary Church's Hammes Hall in Crown Point on Apri 24. The bridge-building meeting was sponsored by the office of Ecumenism & Interreligious Affairs at Calumet College of St. Joseph and the NWIIC. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)
By Marlene A. Zloza
Northwest Indiana Catholic
“We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God. Man’s relation to God the Father and his relation to men his brothers are so linked together that Scripture says: ‘He who does not love does not know God’ (1 John 4:8).”
- Pope Paul VI in “Nostra Aetate” proclaimed Oct. 28, 1965
CROWN POINT – In the spirit of brotherhood fueled by this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Bishop Donald J. Hying welcomed Shayk Mongy El-Quesny of the Northwest Indiana Islamic Center to a Catholic-Muslim Dialogue hosted by the Ecumenical Office of the Diocese of Gary and the Islamic Center on April 24 at St. Mary Church.
Moderated by Dr. Joan Crist, associate professor of Religious Studies at Calumet College of St. Joseph, the Sunday afternoon gathering drew more than 100 college students, Catholics, and members of the Islamic Center in Merrillville.
“Thank you for coming, you are here to build bridges, get to know each other,” Shayk Mongy said in his opening remarks. “We are in one boat, one ship, the ark of Noah, (and) will be sunk or saved.”
Calling it “a blessing and a joy to just be together today,” Bishop Hying welcomed the opportunity to learn from each other. “People define each other, but never take the time to find out who the other is,” he said. “The spark of the divine is in every person.
“In studying other religions, you come to know your own better. . .Christians will go home appreciating their religion better, and so will Muslims.”
The world’s second-largest religion, the followers of Islam, known as Muslims, believe that God (in Arabic, Allah) revealed his direct word for mankind to Muhammad (c. 570–632) and other prophets.
And according to Muhammad, Shayk Mongy said, (prophet) Adam’s greeting of choice was ‘Peace be with you,’ while the appropriate answer was ‘May peace and the mercy of God and his blessings be upon you,’ making the Year of Mercy an opportune time for followers of both religions to come together.
“We must thank God, without him we would not be here. God has favored us tremendously. . .we have to keep thanking him with every breath and even then we aren’t thanking him enough, even for allowing us to thank him,” Shayk Mongy said.
Concentrating on similarities, Shayk Mongy noted that of the 7.5 billion people on earth, more than 3 billion “believe in (one) God - Christians and Muslims.”
When prejudice “crumbles away,” Bishop Hying said, “We see our commonalities and respect our differences.”
Outlining the six tenets of the Catholic faith – unity and plurality, transcendence and immanence, divine and human, Word and sacrament, unity of faith and reason, and justice and charity – Bishop Hying said among the “many points of rich commonality with Muslims” are “the unity of one (God), the priority of the divine and the radicalness of God.
“We need to learn how to live together,” and oppose “the forces that want to tear us apart,” the bishop added.
Born in Egypt and converted to Islam, Shayk Mongy stressed that Muslims believe strongly in peace, not violence, despite what a very small number of terrorists claim. “Islam is about peace, not killing people, not even those you are fighting, but (only) sometimes in self-defense,” he said.
While Shayk Mongy touched on the The Five Pillars of Islam, a practical doctrine that encourages Muslims to pray five times a day, fast during Ramadan, make a pilgrimage to Mecca, declare 'There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet' and pay money to the poor, Bishop Hying called the seven sacraments “a big deal” for Catholics, reflecting “God acting to save us, to fill us.”
Referring to what they have in common, rather than what separates them, Shayk Mongy said: “We are not Muslims and Christians, but we are all living Americans, we are all Hoosiers.”
The spiritual leaders answered questions, then welcomed their followers to continue the dialogue over refreshments, including traditional sweets baked by the Muslim guests.
From table to table, the discussion was lively. Ferass Safadi, a Muslim from Valparaiso, told a group of inquisitive Catholics that Syria is “an oppressed place where some people lose their minds” and become radicals. “But they want power, it’s not about religion,” he stressed. “We need to educate each other more, have more events like this.”
Fayza Ahmed, a Muslim from Crown Point, said interfaith gatherings are good. “A lot of Christian people don’t know a lot about Muslims,” adding that she learned about Christianity while working with Christians in Egypt. “During Christmas, they gave us gifts,” she recalled, comparing that holiday to Ramadan, when Muslims fast for a month and then celebrate with “two big feasts, meals and gifts.”
“This was an excellent format, with emphasis on peace and the connections we have,” said Susan Schaefer, of Hobart, who attends Ss. Monica and Luke in Gary.
Bishop Donald J. Hying speaks to those gathered at the Catholic-Muslim dialogue event hosted at St. Mary Church's Hammes Hall in Crown Point on Apri 24. The bridge-building meeting was sponsored by the office of Ecumenism & Interreligious Affairs at Calumet College of St. Joseph and the Northwest Indiana Islamic Center. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)
Bishop Donald J. Hying embraces Shayk Mongy El-Quesny at the Catholic-Muslim dialogue event hosted at St. Mary Church's Hammes Hall in Crown Point on Apri 24. The bridge-building meeting was sponsored by the office of Ecumenism & Interreligious Affairs at Calumet College of St. Joseph and the Northwest Indiana Islamic Center. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)