WASHINGTON (March 10, 2003) -- Beginning in 2000, a group of Catholic and Muslim leaders has gathered each February at the Center for Spiritual Development, near St. Joseph's Hospital in Orange, California. The meetings are designed like a spiritual retreat, with time set aside for prayers, for attending one another's prayers, for examining their scriptures together and discussing central themes of spirituality. The West Coast Dialogue of Catholics and Muslims met this year on February 25-27 to discuss peace, justice, and forgiveness. Last year, participants selected the theme from Pope John Paul II's 2002 message for the world day of peace (January 1): "No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness: This is what I wish to say to believers and unbelievers alike, to all men and women of good will who are concerned for the good of the human family and for its future."(15)
Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Director of the Islamic Society of Orange County, Imam Mustafa Al-Qazwini, Director of the Islamic Education Center of Orange County, and Bishop Carlos Sevilla of Yakima (Washington) convened this year's group of nineteen women and men, nine Muslims and ten Catholics to hear papers presented by a Muslim and a Catholic on each of the topics' peace, justice and forgiveness. In past years, the dialogue had discussed surrender to God/obedience to God and the relationship of surrender or obedience to faith. This year, Imam Sadiq Saafir of Altadena (CA) and Dr. Joseph Sanchez-Núñez of Orange spoke on justice, Dr. Abdullah Aslam, editor of The Minaret and Fr. Alexei Smith of Los Angeles gave presentations on peace, and Imam Al-Qazwini and Bishop Sevilla addressed the topic of forgiveness. After a full day of discussions on Wednesday, February 26, , the group attended the Islamic Education Center in Costa Mesa where Imam Qazwini and his community hosted the dialogue for evening prayers (Maghrib prayer), an evening program of speakers, and dinner. Professor June O"Connor, University of California" Riverside, gave the major address on working for peace and the ten suggestions for "just peacemaking."
At the concluding session on Thursday morning, February 27, the Catholic and Muslim members of the dialogue reached consensus on these five points:
1. We, Catholics and Muslims, believe that God is the source of peace and justice, and thus we fundamentally agree on the nature of peace and justice and the essential need of all to work for peace and justice.
2. Our rich teachings and traditions of peace and justice serve as a resource and inspiration for all; however, our immediate and present actions to work together are often wanting. The need to work together for peace and justice is a pressing demand in these troubled times.
3. We believe that it is God who forgives and that as Catholics and Muslims we are called by God to offer forgiveness. Forgiveness is an important step to moving beyond our past history if we are to preserve human dignity, to affect justice, and to work for peace.
4. We may disagree on certain points of doctrine, even as we respect the others' rights to believe in the fundamental integrity of their teachings and affirm all their human and religious rights. With love and in the pursuit of truth, we will offer our criticisms of one another when we believe there is a violation of integrity of faith in God. We must avoid demonizing one another and misrepresenting one another's teachings and traditions.
5. When we meet in dialogue and discuss matters of peace, justice, and forgiveness, while being faithful to our traditions, we have experienced a profound and moving connection on the deepest level of our faith, which must take effect in our lives.The members of the dialogue further agreed to the formation of a drafting committee which will prepare a report on the progress of this dialogue and the important points raised in discussions over these past four years.
Attending this year's meeting were: Dr. Siddiqi, Bishop Sevilla, Imam Al-Qazwini, Fr. Rafael Luévano (Diocese of Orange), Dr. John Borelli (U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops), Dr. Aslam Abdullah, Professor June O'Connor, Fr. Gerry O'Rourke (Archdiocese of San Francisco), Fr. Alexei Smith (Archdiocese of Los Angeles), Fr. Jose A. Rubio (Diocese of San Jose), Msgr. Dennis L. Mikulanis (Diocese of San Diego), Fr. Bruce Orsborn (Diocese of San Diego), Imam Sadiq Saafir, Mr. Naim Shah Jr.(Los Angeles), Mrs. Saideh Khan (Costa Mesa), Dr. Joseph Sanchez-Núñez (Orange), Jerrel Abdul Salaam (Paramount, CA), Fatima Saleh(Costa Mesa), Sherrel A. Johnson (Council of American-Islamic Relations' California).
The West Coast Dialogue of Catholics and Muslims is one of three regional dialogues meeting annually which is co-sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops through the Bishops' Subcommittee on Interreligious Dialogue.
For more information contact:
Dr. Muzzamil Siddiqi
Dr. John Borelli
Imam Mustafa Al-Qazwini
Fr. Rafael Luévano