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Real Living is Encounter

Father Musa (rightmost) and others at the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions. Photo submitted by author.

by Father Gerald Musa

Why should I engage with people who hold religious beliefs which are different from mine and what difference does interreligious dialogue make when religious intolerance is on the increase?

These are questions I have often reflected upon and I have met friends who ask similar questions. However, I notice that it is hardly possible to avoid interreligious relationships because I was born into a mixed family of Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. My paternal relations are Muslims and my maternal relations are Christians and some of my best friends belong to other religious beliefs. My first name ‘Gerald’ is chosen from the Catholic ‘Saint Gerald Majella’ and my surname is ‘Musa’ which means Moses, an interreligious figure found in Jewish, Christian and Islamic scriptures. So all these factors put together have provided a basis and kindled my interest in interreligious relationships.

I think the most important reasons for which I have developed a passion for Christian-Muslim dialogue are my family and communal background. As a child growing up in a mixed community of Christians and Muslims, I have seen the best and the worst of interreligious relationships. In the communal farm work, no one asks if the other is a Christian or Muslim; in naming ceremonies and marriages everyone participates and contributes irrespective of religious beliefs. During the Muslim celebrations their Christian counterparts supported them with food ingredients and clothes with which to celebrate and the Muslim neighbours did the same for the Christians during Christian festivities. In the village what mattered most was everyone is somehow related to the other. On the other hand, I have personally witnessed riots between Christians and Muslims. The first was during my days in the minor Seminary when arsonists came in and set the school ablaze at a time when we were preparing for our final (high school) exams.

Through the years I have developed an inherent passion for interreligious dialogue and particularly, for dialogue with Muslims. From the various literature on dialogue and the attendance of conferences, my thoughts on dialogue are evolving and so I come to realize that disposition to dialogue is not a destination but a journey. One of the most remarkable pieces of literature on dialogue which I enjoy is Martin Buber’s “I and Thou.” For Buber, the I-Thou relationship is a dialogue and the I-It relationship is a monologue. The traits of the I-Thou relationship are mutual respect, equality and openness while the features of the I-It relationship are objectification and the manipulation of the other.

After ordination as a priest I have been officially engaged at different levels in interreligious dialogue. The first organisation in which I was involved was the Christian-Muslim forum and subsequently in the Nigeria Interreligious Council. Martin Buber says “All real living is encounter.” Through interreligious meetings and conferences I have encountered people with different religious persuasions. The most important conference which I attended is the Parliament of the World’s Religions which took place in Melbourne, Australia in December 2009. During this event, I came across prominent interreligious bridge builders such Hans Kung; Katherine Marshall of the Berkley Center for Peace, Religion and World affairs and the World Faiths Development Dialogue; Wesley Ariaraja of the World Council of Churches; Sakena Yacoobi of the Afghan Institute of Learning; Fr. Lawrence Freeman of World Community for Christian Meditation; and Precious Rasheeda Muhammad of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions headquartered in the US. I also had the privilege of being on the same discussion panel with Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Bukhari, a leader of the Sufi faith in Jerusalem.

When I travelled from Brisbane to Melbourne for the conference, I was sure of where I was going – to the Presbytery of Beaumaris and Black Rock Catholic Parish. Fr. John Dupuche, the Parish Priest and a lecturer at the Australian Catholic University had offered me an accommodation, but I was surprised to see that he lived in the same house with a Buddhist monk, Venerable Lobsang Tendar, who is also an artist, and a Hindu Swami Samnyasanand, who is also a neurophysiologist. I could not work out how these three lived together under the same roof. In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Venerable Lobsang Tendar says: “Every day we do meditation and sometimes in the morning and afternoon and this has really helped me.” This statement indicates that the three are united by the common ground of meditation.

I believe strongly that the path towards peace is in an authentic relationship with other cultures and faith traditions. This relationship begins when we are able to see the common humanity which we share, when we are open to encounter with others and when we make an effort to improve our knowledge on the meaning of dialogue. In 2001, when Pope John Paul II announced the International prayer meeting of world religious leaders which took place in Assisi, he said: “We wish to have Christians and Muslims come together to proclaim before the world that religion must never be a reason for conflict, hatred and violence.”  These words are still relevant for us today.

Fr. Gerald M. Musa was born in Gusau, Zamfara State, Nigeria and is a Catholic priest of Sokoto Diocese, Nigeria. Fr. Musa had studied philosophy at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Makurdi and theology at St. Augustine’s Seminary, Jos, Nigeria. He undertook postgraduate studies in Communication at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome. Fr. Musa worked as Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (Sokoto Chapter). He also worked as an executive member of the Muslim-Christian Forum and the Nigeria Interreligious Council, Sokoto, Nigeria.

He is currently at the stage of completing his doctoral thesis at the School of Journalism and Communication. He is writing on “Dialogue as Communication: Potentials and Challenges of Christian-Muslim dialogue in Nigeria.”

Fr. Musa has keen interest in intercultural communication and in communication for social change.

Muslims From Abroad Are Thriving in Catholic Colleges

From left, Hadil Issa and Nada and Marwa Alsaif at the University of Dayton, a Roman Catholic university. Photo by Ty William Wright for the NYT

by Richard Perez-Pena
from The New York Times

Arriving from Kuwait to attend college here, Mai Alhamad wondered how Americans would receive a Muslim, especially one whose head scarf broadcasts her religious identity.

At any of the countless secular universities she might have chosen, religion — at least in theory — would be beside the point.But she picked one that would seem to underline her status as a member of a religious minority. She enrolled at the University of Dayton, a Roman Catholic school, and she says it suits her well.

“Here, people are more religious, even if they’re not Muslim, and I am comfortable with that,” said Ms. Alhamad, an undergraduate in civil engineering, as several other Muslim women gathered in the student center nodded in agreement. “I’m more comfortable talking to a Christian than an atheist.”

Click here to read the full article

September 4th, 2012 at 10:55 am

Queen Makes First Visit to Catholic Church in Northern Ireland

Photo from Press Eye Ltd.

The Queen arrives in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.

by Caroline Davies

from The Guardian

On the eve of her historic meeting with the former IRA commander Martin McGuinness, the Queen began her two-day tour of Northern Ireland on Tuesday by visiting a community that suffered one of the most notorious IRA attacks.

The Queen joined Catholic and Protestant leaders in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, scene of the Remembrance Day bombing which killed 11 people and injured 63 others 25 years ago. Crowds gathered in the wind and rain to watch her attend a service of thanksgiving in the Anglican St Macartin’s Cathedral, then cross the road to St Michael’s Roman Catholic church, where she met members of the community.

It was the first time in her 60-year reign the Queen had set foot in a Catholic church in Northern Ireland. But then this visit, probably the most significant she has made to the province, has promised some ground-breaking moments. Chief among them is the much-anticipated meeting between McGuinness, the Sinn Féin deputy first minister, and the Queen, the ultimate symbol of British rule in Ireland

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Three Stories About Expressing Faith in America

A class of boys receives instruction at the Hsi Lai Temple in Los Angeles, California. Listen to stories of Buddhism in America and other lesser-known religion stories by clicking the link below.

from Voice of America

Religious faith is both deeply personal and a community experience. In the United States, religious communities of many kinds co-exist and sometimes work together in interesting ways.

This week, learn about Buddhism in America. The ancient religion has its roots in India. Today, many forms of Buddhism are practiced in the United States. Hear what American-born clergyman Kusala Bhikshu has to say about the religion’s popularity.

In the state of Tennessee, members of the Catholic religious group, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia’s, lead simple lives of work and service. Not much has changed in their community over the years. But more young women are joining. Some see this as a sign that young people are placing growing value on faith and service.

But first, we hear from Muslim students at a Christian university here in Washington DC. Christopher Cruise tells us how students are dealing with the differences in their religious beliefs.

Click here to listen to the stories and/or read the transcripts

Bangladesh’s Interfaith Harmony, According to Archbishop of Dhaka

Pictured: Patrick D’Rozario. In an interview with the new Archbishop of Dhaka, Patrick D’Rozario, speaks about the harmony that exists between the different religions and the role the Catholic Church can play there in the coming years. Photo from the Vatican Insider website.

by Gerard O’Connell
from the Vatican Insider

Patrick D’Rozario was the first Catholic priest to be ordained in Bangladesh after the country gained independence from Pakistan in 1971, following a nine-month war. After ordination in 1972, he served as Project Director of the Christian Organization for Relief and Rehabilitation and assisted over 10,000 families in the war-torn society.

A member of the Holy Cross Congregation, he studied in Dhaka and Karachi before going to Louvain University, Belgium, where he gained his degree in moral theology, a subject he subsequently taught at Dhaka’s major seminary (1976-90).

John Paul II nominated him bishop in 1990, and Benedict XVI appointed him first as coadjutor-bishop, 2010, and then archbishop of Dhaka, October 2011. In this exclusive interview, the sixty-eight year old friendly and dynamic Archbishop talks about the situation and mission of the Church in Bangladesh.

Click here to read the full interview

Beastie Boys Co-Founder, Buddhism, and Islam

Photo of MCA of the Beastie Boys, who became a Buddhist, as well as a champion of mutual understanding between the US and Muslims. Photo from the Guardian

by Omid Safi
from Religion News Service (RNS)

If you are of a certain age (not gonna say it) and your impression of the Beastie Boys ends with “(You Gotta) Fight for the Right (to Party)”, “Sabotage”, or even “Intergalactic”, you might not have been keeping with the evolution of the Beastie Boys from hip-hop punks in the early 80’s to elder statesmen of the Hip-Hop world, converts to Buddhism, and defenders of the Tibetan cause.    Adam Yauch, also known as MCA, was one of the co-founders of Beastie Boys.

Born to a Catholic dad and a Jewish mother, MCA eventually found his spiritual home after meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the 1990’s.  This is how he expressed his own spiritual yearnings:

The feeling I get from the rinpoches and His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] and Tibetan people in general. The people that I’ve met are really centered in the heart; they’re coming from a real clear, compassionate place. And most of the teachings that I’ve read about almost seem set up to distract the other side of your brain in order to give your heart center a chance to open up. In terms of what I understand, Buddhism is like a manual to achieve enlightenment—there are these five things and these six things within the first thing, and all these little subdivisions. And despite all of that right-brain information, it’s very heart-centered. At least that’s the feeling I get from the Tibetans. Also the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism have been passed down for a long time now. They have that system pretty well figured out.

MCA’s passing away was mourned by none other than His Holiness the Dalai Lama:
Adam had helped us raise awareness on the plight of the Tibetan people by organizing various freedom Tibet concerts and he will be remembered by his holiness and the Tibetan people.

Click here to read the full article

CPWR’s “Sacred Space” Program Visits Historic Old St. Pat’s Catholic Church

Sacred Space Event attendees view the beautiful architecture and learn about the Catholic faith at Old St. Pat's Cathedral, April 22nd.

by Sarah Fentem

On the chilly afternoon of April 22nd, visitors climbed the steps of a well-known Chicago landmark in the West Loop, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, otherwise known as “Old St. Pat’s.” The cathedral, located just West of Union Station on Adams Street, was the second-to-last venue in the Council for the Parliament of World Religion’s “Sharing Sacred Spaces” program.

“Sharing Sacred Spaces” was started in 2011 by architect Suzanne Morgan as a way to foster interreligious dialogue among different faith communities in Chicago. Each month, one of eight Chicago congregations opens its doors to participants in order to showcase their religious space and speak to the public about their beliefs and traditions.

Like most of the “Sacred Spaces” events, the Old St. Pat’s event began with an introduction to Catholic faith and beliefs, given by Keara Ette, the Director of Youth Ministry at the cathedral. Ette explained that “Catholic” means “relational”. Stemming from their belief in the Holy Trinity—a tri-personal God made up of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit—Catholics believe that God “is one that teaches life is all about relationships.”

Other beliefs that would be pinned to the Catholics’ “letter jacket”, as Ette humorously described the Catholic dogma, would be the belief in Jesus as the savior of humanity, the sacredness of the Scriptures, and the belief in a God desperate to reveal himself to humankind.

Catholics, said Ette, also love “stuff.” The Holy Sacraments—sacred rituals like matrimony and baptism— are a way God uses “the stuff of the world to become present to us.”

Unlike some religions, which preach separating oneself from material items, Catholics have a distinct love of accouterment. From the reading of the scripture and praying of the rosary to the taking of the Holy Eucharist, items, art, and iconography play a huge part in the religious lives of the faithful.

Indeed, Old St. Pat’s brims with “stuff” symbolizing, celebrating, and reflecting Catholics’ relationship with God. While a popular conception of cathedrals paints them as dark, imposing places, when one walks into Old St. Pat’s, they feel as if they have walked inside a giant Easter egg. The walls are painted a pale pinky-taupe, so as to draw attention to the elaborate Celtic knot motifs that decorate nearly every surface, including the ceiling. Splendid windows, which appear to be made of melted jolly ranchers in every flavor imaginable, depict likenesses of the saints. (The famous triptych in the rear, representing faith, hope, and charity, is known as one of the finest examples of Celtic Revival art.) Even the pews are curved in a way that represents the ribs of Christ.

“Art is one of the ways we believe we can connect with the Great Creator”, said Ette.

Notable not only for its decorative interior, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is also known as an institution whose history closely parallels that of the City of Chicago. Old St. Pat’s docent and tour director Jim McLaughlin explained the church was built to cater to Irish immigrants who settled in Chicago during the mid-19th century.  As more immigrants flooded into the area to escape the Great Famine and find work building the Illinois and Michigan Canal, the congregation grew so much that a new, bigger Cathedral had to be built. The present building, completed in 1856, stands as the oldest public building in Chicago.

Two of the most seminal events in Chicago’s history are tightly interwoven with the 1956 building: The first, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, was arguably the biggest disaster the city has ever seen. Miraculously, though, St. Patrick’s escaped destruction-a change in wind carried the conflagration back across the Chicago River and away from the cathedral.

Secondly, the city hosted The World’s Columbian Exhibition in 1993, which brought visitors from all over the country to the Windy City. For the cathedral though, the most important visitor to the Exposition already lived in the city-a Chicago newspaper artist named Thomas A. O’Shaughnessy. Inspired by the Celtic art he saw at the fair, the young artist spent the next decade researching Celtic imagery and perfecting the art of stained glass. In 1912, 15 magnificent windows were installed, each inspired by images O’Shaughnessy found in the Book of Kells, one of the world’s oldest gospels. The “Faith Window” at the rear of the Church has been called “the most spectacular window around.” McLaughlin pointed out there were more than 2000 different tints of color represented in the windows.

Despite O’Shaughnessy’s unduplicated work, attendance dwindled in the mid-century, caused mainly by the neighborhood’s decline and the Cathedral’s proximity to Skid Row.  Two women were stabbed while staying in the church’s rectory. One Christmas mass had only 12 people in attendance.

The fate of the church started to turn with the arrival of Fr. John Wall, who came to Old St. Pat’s in 1983 when church attendance was at its nadir. Within 15 years, Fr. Wall revitalized the congregation through youth outreach programs, most famously founding the St. Patrick’s block party, the world’s largest, which brings thousands of young Christians downtown.  The young people started bringing their families, and by 2012 the cathedral boasted congregants from over 200 zip codes.

Today St. Patrick’s is considered one of the most famous churches in the city. The newly restored building not only mirrors the history of Chicago and its people, but also celebrates the space where the human and the divine intersect.

Impressive stuff indeed.

 

Click here to learn more about Sacred Spaces and join us at our next event!

Bishops and Extractive Industries: A Human Face of Mining

Katherine Marshall

by Katherine Marshall
from the Huffington Post

In far flung corners of the world, religious leaders are protesting against mining companies and projects. What are their complaints? In Guatemala, they argue that gold mining poisons the water table, in Chad that painfully negotiated revenues that promised to ease the pain of poverty are nowhere in sight, in Ecuador that oil drilling devastates the landscape, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Nigeria that mining feeds devastating conflicts, in Ghana that mining in forest reserves threatens animal and plant species, in India that it strips indigenous people of their land rights, and in Peru that it pollutes lakes and rivers. The litany goes on and on but the underlying story told is one of broken promises, of powerful companies for whom profit is their God, and of a wounded planet whose land resources are despoiled with little to show, harming the people who live nearby.

It’s not that the church leaders are fighting a futile battle to stop all mining. As a statement of Catholic Bishops from Latin America who met last July in Chaclacayo, Peru began, “the church recognizes the importance of the extractive industries, the service they can provide to mankind and the economies of the world, and the progress they contribute to society as a whole.” But, there is a long list of “buts.” The bishops’ bottom line is that they see an irrational exploitation that leaves a trail of destruction, even death, throughout Latin America.

At the Washington National Cathedral an unlikely gathering of bishops, preachers, and advocates met on April 24 to explore how they might join forces both to draw attention to the harm that bad mining practices wreak on people and land, and to point to practical, positive ways to move forward. The prime movers behind the effort are the Bank Information Center, its indomitable leader, Chad Dobson and Father Seamus Finn, whose work with the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility has focused for years on nudging and cajoling companies towards responsibility in their corporate practice. Two large faith inspired organizations, Catholic Relief Services and Tearfund, have long campaigned for responsible mining and support the new coalition.

Click here to read the full article

Man Explores Twelve Traditions in Twelve Months

by Amanda Greene
from The Christian Century

Andrew Bowen sat yoga-style in his armchair, absent-mindedly fingering a set of Muslim prayer beads in his left hand as he talked about 2011 — his year of conversion.

But he’s not Muslim. In fact, the 29-year-old Lumberton resident doesn’t call himself by any of the 12 faiths he practiced for a month at a time last year.

Not Hindu (January). Not Baha’i (February). Not Zoroastrian (March). Not Jewish (April). Not Buddhist (May). Not agnostic (June). Not Mormon (July). Not Muslim (August). Not Sikh (September). Not Wiccan (October). Not Jain (November). And not Catholic (December).

Finding faith in God again was not Bowen’s aim. This young father of two was looking for faith in humanity.

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Christians and Buddhists: Increasing Dialogue Through Education

from The Catholic Spirit

Made public today was the annual Message to Buddhists for the Feast of Vesakh, issued by the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. The message is signed by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, respectively president and secretary of the council.

Vesakh is the main Buddhist feast and commemorates the three fundamental moments in the life of Gautama Buddha. According to tradition, the historical Buddha was born, achieved enlightenment and passed away during the full moon of the month of May. Thus Vesakh is a mobile feast which this year falls on 5 and 6 May, while in China it is celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth month of the Chinese calendar, which this year corresponds to 28 April. On those days, Buddhists decorate their houses with flowers and perfume them with incense, visit local temples and listen to the teaching of the monks.

This year’s message is entitled: “Christians and Buddhists: Sharing Responsibility for Educating the Young Generation on Justice and Peace through Inter-religious Dialogue:” Extracts from the English-language version of the text are given below.

Click here to read the full article