Muhammad Symposium set for Nov. 20 at St. Mary

On Feb. 20, 2008, Bishop Joseph Galante and the leadership of the local Muslim community met at the Voorhees Mosque to sign the historic Agreement of Understanding and Cooperation and establish the Catholic Muslim Commission of Southern NJ. Since then we have been meeting regularly to plan and participate in a number of interfaith joint projects and charitable outreaches. In fulfillment of one of our goals toward greater understanding of our respective faith communities, we have planned our first symposium that will explore and delve into the life of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

On Sunday, Nov. 20, at 1:15 p.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 2001 Springdale Road, Cherry Hill, we will be screening and discussing the PBS documentary film “Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet.” This is an excellent film about the life of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, based on historical records and on the stories of living American Muslims who call Muhammad the Messenger of God. Three years in the making, the documentary tells the story of the seventh century prophet who changed world history in 23 years and continues to influence the lives of over 1.2 billion people who follow his way.

The film takes viewers not only to the Arabian Desert and ancient Middle Eastern sites where Muhammad’s story unfolded but also into the homes, mosques and workplaces of some of America’s estimated 7 million Muslims, to view the many ways in which they follow their faith. Scholars on Islam provide historical context and critical perspective. I have viewed this film several times and am astonished at the depth of information and easy to understand explanations of the beginnings of Islam. I was also moved by how modern day followers of Islam share their stories and faith perspectives.

Producer and director Michael Schwarz said, “There are 6-7 million Muslims here in America, where Islam is the country’s fastest growing religion but many Americans are completely unfamiliar with the life story of the remarkable man who founded this religion 1,400 years ago.”

This film is used in thousands of communities, schools, universities, religious congregations and civic organizations throughout the United States to increase Americans’ understanding of Muslims and Islam.

It seems in the news the only view we receive of Islam and Muslims are those of violent fundamentalists that least represent the tenets and teachings of their founder Muhammad. Gatherings such as our symposium give us opportunities to not only view an informative film about the founding and beliefs of Islam but to encounter and engage in dialogue with neighbors who are of the Islamic faith. In this encounter we discover that they have the same hopes and aspirations for their families, as well as a desire to serve God. As Catholics, we are reminded by the teachings of the Second Vatican Council as regards our Muslim friends that “although in the course of the centuries many quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Muslims, this Synod urges all to forget the past and to strive sincerely for mutual understanding.”

Our Catholic Muslim Commission of Southern NJ hopes that this symposium will further a greater understanding among our people. The film will give us an interesting insight on the life of Muhammad who lived from 570-632 A.D. Unlike we Christians who believe that Jesus was the Son of God and Person of the Holy Trinity, Muslims believe that Muhammad was a man and that he followed Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon and Jesus as the last great prophet to receive divine revelation. A Muslim believes in the revelation of God through the Quran that was given to Muhammad.

Soon we Christians will be entering into the Season of Advent, a time of spiritual preparation for the coming celebration of the feast of the Incarnation. Muslims too are presently in a season of spiritual readiness as they follow the fifth pillar of Islam, the Pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca. What better way to enhance our spiritual preparation than to join together in learning and respectful dialogue. To reserve a seat to this free program please call 856-784-2738 or 856-428-5867. Hope to see you on the 20th.

Father Joseph D. Wallace is coordinator, Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs, Diocese of Camden.

Categories: That All May Be One

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