January 22, 2016

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

Christmas letter from Muslim highlights spirit of ecumenism

Have you ever received a letter which caught your attention, inspired and granted you a new understanding?

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops received such a letter.

It came at Christmas from Dr. Sayid M. Syeed, the national director of the Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances of the Islamic Society of North America.

It is very instructive. It reads:

“In the name of God Most Loving and Most Caring,

“We want to extend our greetings to our Christian brothers and sisters in America and around the world, on the day of Christmas. Our love and respect for Jesus is central to our faith. We believe that the immaculate birth of Jesus Christ is a historical landmark in … creation and in the history of mankind.

“The chapter 19 of the Quran is dedicated to this blessed event of the birth of Jesus Christ. … [T]he entire chapter is named after his mother Maryam [Mary]. The name of Jesus is mentioned 25 times in the Quran. We are told in very clear words how blessed and joyful the event of his birth is for the whole human family [Quran 19:33]. This is a belief that Muslims and Christians … share earnestly[;] and our love and respect for Jesus binds us together for the service of God, service of mankind and the service of His entire creation.

“We reject those interpretations and that understanding of our scriptures that set us up against each other and misdirect our energy and God-given resources. We stand committed to the divine command that binds us to cooperate in promoting good and forbidding what is evil and harmful for God’s creation [Quran 5:2].

“Our Just and Merciful God has made it a religious obligation for us [Quran 22:40] to protect and respect all churches, synagogues, places of worship where His holy name is mentioned, and where His servants worship Him in different languages and in different styles and in different traditions.

“During these holidays, when the birth days of Jesus and Mohammad are being celebrated, we are getting into [the] New Year 2016 commemorating the birth of Jesus. We are in the Muslim hijra year 1437 commemorating the migration of our Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Madina, a move away from religious persecution to freedom of religion in Madina.

“We stand shoulder to shoulder … to rejoice [in] the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood at a time when a wave of hate and bigotry is spreading around us, at a time when some misguided servants of God, claiming to be the followers of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad are desecrating and destroying mosques, churches and synagogues. All this hate[,] in the name of God we love and adore. They are dividing [the] human family in the name of religion and filling this planet with hate and intolerance.

“We pray that our Christian brothers and sisters around the world get inspired and guided by God to spread the radiance and the splendor of the gospel of Jesus that Quran [5:46] has called ‘light and guidance,’ and continue to inspire us all to fight against hate, injustice, exploitation, corruption and discrimination.

“Let the teachings and example of Jesus Christ continue to energize us all with love, tolerance, religious freedom and respect.”

Like I said, attention grabbing, inspiring and instructive. May God be praised!

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism. He is also dean of the Terre Haute deanery and pastor of St. Patrick and St. Margaret Mary parishes, both in Terre Haute.)

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