USCCB News Release
June 8, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEST COAST MUSLIM-CATHOLIC DIALOGUE EXPLORES MIGRATION IN LIVES OF JESUS, MUHAMMAD
WASHINGTON—Understanding the experience of "Migration in the Lives of Jesus and Muhammad" and applying it to the contemporary challenges faced by Muslims and Catholics was the topic of the West Coast Dialogue of Catholics and Muslims, May 20-21, in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Presenters were Imam S. Mostafa Qazwini and Msgr. Dennis Mikulanis of the Diocese of San Diego.
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 May visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Holy Land as a new phase in Muslim-Christian relations. Imam Qazwini urged the group to “examine our five years of work together on our foundational documents in order to prepare a resource that will foster good relations between Catholics and Muslims.”
Father Francis Tiso, of the USCCB Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, conveyed the greetings of Bishop Carlos Sevilla of Yakima, Washington, who was unable to attend due to illness. Bishop Sevilla explicitly supported hopes of the Muslim co-chairs for a publishable, educational resource based on study of scriptural narratives from the dialogue. Father Tiso urged participants to draw up additional contents for such a resource, including study questions and a user-friendly bibliography that would include annotated on-line materials.
Msgr. Mikulanis traced the narratives of migration in the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus.
“Migration takes place in the birth stories of Jesus, illustrating the climate of danger and risk in the world in which the Word became flesh. Later, the theme of pilgrimage is woven into the itinerary of Jesus’ life and public ministry,” he said. Discussion focused on the theological significance of these travels and comparison of them with the religious aspects of the immigrant experience of Catholics in the United States.
Imam Mostafa Qazwini noted the theme of vulnerability in a number of the stories of early Islam, such as the migration to Abyssinia when the community experienced persecution in Mecca.
“The migration of Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina, called the Hijra, (622 C.E.) is central to Islamic piety; Islam dates its calendar from this event, which signaled the beginning of the first truly Islamic society,” he said.
Father Alexei Smith, ecumenical office for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, noted that “vulnerability remains part of the experience of our communities.”
“In U.S. history, both Catholics and Muslims have been accused of disloyalty because they belong to universal faiths centered outside the territory of America,” he said.
Respondents from both communities demonstrated how it is considered obligatory to contribute to the well being, security and prosperity of the nations in which they settle.
Todd Scribner, of the USCCB Migration and Refugee Services, spoke on the current situation of immigration reform in the United States.
“The Bishops are advocating for a comprehensive approach that would enable undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status, to allow family reunification on the basis of a visa system, and to promote economic and civic development in countries of origin so as to diminish the need for migration,” he said. Muslim respondents noted that their communities in Southern California are serving large numbers of Somali and Iraqi refugees. Imam Taha Hassane of the Islamic Center of San Diego proposed “new forms of USCCB-Muslim collaboration that might be more effective in caring for the urgent needs of immigrants and refugees.”
Participants representing the Muslims included Dr. Siddiqi, Imam Sayed Mostafa Qazwini, Sherrel Johnson, Jerrel Abdul Salaam, Dr. Iftekhar A. Hai, Dr. Hussam Ayloush and Imam Taha Hassane.
Participants representing Catholics included Father Tiso, Father Al Baca, Father Smith, Msgr. Mikulanis, Father José Rubio, Father Michael F. Kiernan, Scribner, and Father Rafael Luévano.The next meeting, slated for May 19-20, 2010, will explore the Christian hagiographical account of the “Seven Sleepers of Ephesus” which has a parallel in Surah 18 of the Qur’ān, “The Companions of the Cave.” Presenters will be Father Smith and Dr. Siddiqi.