WASHINGTON(February 11, 2005)—The West Coast Regional Dialogue of Catholics and Muslims resumed its activities at a transitional planning session at the Mary and Joseph Retreat Center in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, on January 31 to February 2, 2005. The session was co-convened by Bishop Carlos Sevilla, S.J. of Yakima, Washington, and Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi of the Islamic Society of Orange County. The Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs staff was represented by Fr. Francis V. Tiso.
The co-conveners gave an orientation to the work with scriptural interpretation. Dr. Siddiqi examined the Quran and the specific methods of hermeneutics that Islamic tradition employs. He then presented a number of verses that have been frequently misunderstood. Any single verse must be interpreted in the light of all that the Quran says about the topic under investigation. The question of verses that are said to abrogate other verses, or even to set aside previous covenants with God, was examined in the light of authentic Muslim scholarship. Bishop Sevilla's keynote concerned the question of divine inspiration of the Bible and the way the text may be internalized by the believer
through faith. The believer, transformed by the encounter with the Word in liturgy and prayer, more and more embodies God's self-disclosure to the world.
Dr. Iftekhar Hai explored problematic consequences of mistaken translations of Quranic verses, particularly those that make reference to the followers of other religions. The questions of abrogation and of a certain hardening in Quranic interpretation over recent centuries have given rise to violence and misunderstanding. The present situation of the world requires better translations and more nuanced interpretation of the sacred text so that its universal truth will be clearly seen.
Respondents noted that in the early centuries of Islam, dialogue with Christians and Jews contributed much to the subtlety of Quranic interpretation, something that can be recovered in the present time. Each human being has the obligation to seek out the truth and pursue it to the end; ultimate salvation is bestowed by God alone, so no human being can be condemned by those of us who are still on the spiritual path.
Imam Mostafa al-Qazwini further clarified the notion of abrogation and demonstrated the correct interpretation of Quranic passages criticizing Jews and Christians. A consistent application of interpretative methods as presented by Dr. Siddiqi should lead to deeper understanding and avoidance of those interpretations that have given rise to violence. A greater attention to the ethical guidance in our revealed scriptures was proposed as a way to correct an overly "otherworldly" tendency in religious belief and practice. Recent efforts in Christian "theology of hope" is a way of naming injustice in the world and at the same time recognizing the power of God both in time and at the end of time to set right that which human sinfulness has turned to evil. Fr. Jose Rubio noted that numerous narratives are shared by the Quran and the Bible and
suggested further research on the revelation that we have in common. The dialogue provided an opportunity to examine the historical circumstances surrounding the revelation of the Quran in order to counter frequent misrepresentations of Islamic belief and practice in contemporary US society.
Fr. Francis Tiso presented a survey of the history of Catholic Biblical interpretation, beginning with the decisive actions of Jesus in the Gospels. The Christological interpretation of Old Testament texts, the meditative reading of Scripture, and the role of preaching in the Patristic period were examined. Medieval exegesis and the four "meanings" or senses of Scripture were examined in the light of Renaissance, Reformation, and modern developments in the critical or scientific study of the text. Dr.
Karim Abdullah's response addressed the question of the essential religious truths towards which interpretation must lead the believer. The text itself, illuminated by the
message of monotheism in the Hebrew scriptures, makes demands of the interpreter. Careful interpretation, based on criteria that God has revealed, leads to correct action in the world.
CLINIC lawyer, Don Kerwin, directed attention to the problems the respective immigrant communities have been experiencing since the 9/11 attacks. CLINIC is a Catholic legal aid association under the USCCB; it monitors civil rights abuses and seeks to assist communities that are experiencing difficulties under the law. In addition, CLINIC provides critical evaluation of the effectiveness of law enforcement policies of the government so that legislation can be improved. In a second session, Kerwin examined the basic principles of Catholic teachings on social justice and human rights, applying them to the situation of immigrants. Rights are seen as intrinsic and rooted in one's basic humanity, created by God; natural rights cannot be abrogated by states. Pastoral care of migrants is rooted in the long history of the People of God, from the migrations of Abraham and the ancient Israelites to modern refugees and asylum seekers. Pastoral care must also include political empowerment and safeguarding of basic human rights. Politically, it is necessary to ask what legal structures truly safeguard human rights and the common good of states. People who are exercising their natural right to migrate should be assisted by states with appropriate legislation. Considerable debate followed, examining cases and statistics cited by participants who are experienced in pastoral and social justice activities.
The dialogue group developed plans for another meeting at Rancho Palos Verdes in 2006, taking up the topic: "Sharing the Life of Faith," in which common narratives, festivals and family life, and women's concerns will be discussed.
The following participated in the dialogue:
Fr. Francis Tiso, Karim Abdullah, Donald Kerwin, Sherell A. Johnson, Fr. Paul Wolkovits, Rt. Rev. Alexei Smith, Mostafa Al-Qazwini, Jerrel Abdul Salaam, Muzammil H. Siddiqi, Iftekhar A. Hai, Harry Hood, June O' Connor, Most Rev. Carlos A. Sevilla, SJ, Fr. Michael F. Kiernan, José Antonio Rubio, Rafael Lueváno, Dennis L. Mikulanis, Bruce J. Orsborn