USCCB News Release
June 16, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
West Coast Muslim-Catholic Dialogue Explores Stories Of Abraham
WASHINGTON—Understanding the story of Abraham in the Bible and in the Qur'an was the key topic at the West Coast Dialogue of Catholics and Muslims, May 27-28, in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.
The dialogue has been sponsored since March, 2000 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Islamic Shura Council of California, with the cooperation of the Islamic Society of Orange County (an affiliate of the Islamic Society of North America) and the Islamic Education Center of Orange County, which is in the Shia tradition of Islam.
Keynote messages by Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi and Imam Sayed Mostafa Qazwini emphasized the importance of the April visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States as a new phase in Muslim-Christian relations.
Father Francis Tiso of the USCCB Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs spoke of the Biblical narratives about Abraham in Genesis.
Father Tiso noted that Abraham appears in the three monotheistic traditions – Jewish, Christian, Islamic – as "our father in faith," who rejected polytheism, listened to and obeyed the voice of the one true God, was obedient and humble, and faced the challenges of his life with complete reliance on God. He is thus the "just man" who "lives by faith," admired in the New Testament and in early Christian writings. For the Jewish tradition, Abraham is the one to whom God revealed the promises and covenants that were bestowed on his descendants through Isaac and Jacob.
Hussam Ayloush and Imam Taha Hassane spoke on the key verses in the Qur'an that refer to Abraham, including 2:135, which refers to the "creed" of Abraham as a guide for Muslims, leading them from any form of idolatry. Abraham's rejection of idol making is told in surah 21, which shows how Abraham rejected his father's craft, sculpting deity figures. Thus Araham showed himself a true prophet of God. The Qur'an also teaches (in contrast to Genesis 22) that Abraham was to sacrifice, not Isaac, but his son by Hagar, Ishmael. Muslim beliefs about Abraham come to life during the rituals of the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Discussion helped to clarify what an "Abrahamic" religion is. Muslims see Abraham as an exemplary leader, a "friend of God" and an ancestor of Muhammad through Ishmael.
Christians have not emphasized the prophetic character of Abraham and have seen the "promise of the land" transformed into hope for the Kingdom of God. They continue to emphasize a spiritual connection with Abraham because of his faithfulness and his role in salvation history, preparing for the coming of Jesus Christ.
One goal of this dialogue is to create a resource to stimulate local dialogues and action groups based on papers presented since 2005. In response to the call by Muslim participants for more concrete forms of collaboration on contemporary issues, all participants suggested specific forms of ongoing contact between regional meetings. Muslim participants also asked that Catholics support the Shura Council's decision to oppose the California Supreme Court's approval of same-sex marriage. Catholic participants agreed to make available recent USCCB documents on this topic and to network with the California Council of Bishops' offices for social justice.
Participants representing the Muslims included Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Imam Sayed Mostafa Qazwini, Kalim Farooki, Sherrel Johnson, Saideh Khan, Dr. Hussam Ayloush, Imam Taha Hassane.
Participants representing Catholics included Father Francis Tiso, June O'Connor, Ph.D., Father Alexei Smith, Msgr. Dennis Mikulanis, Father Dennis McManus, and Father Rafael Luévano.
The next meeting, slated for May 20-21, 2009, will explore "Migration in the Lives of Jesus and Muhammad." Presenters will be Imam S. Mostafa Qazwini and Msgr. Dennis Mikulanis of the Diocese of San Diego.