Thanks to an invigorating night of dialogue at his parish, John Mauro said his handle on religious similarities between himself and Islamic people has strengthened considerably.
“I already knew that Catholics and Muslims had a lot in common, but I didn’t realize just how much,” Mauro remarked, noting that Muslims consider Jesus to be one of the great prophets and refer to him as the Messiah; believe in the second coming of Jesus; hold the Virgin Mary in high esteem; and share similar core values with Christians, including belief in one true God.
These facts were pointed out at a Christian-Muslim discussion night held Jan. 26 at the office of All Saints Parish in Corning. More than 30 people attended, mostly from All Saints but with other faith communities represented as well — including five from the Islamic community. The event was sponsored by All Saints’ young-adult group, to which Mauro belongs. He and Alene Goodman, the parish’s faith-formation coordinator, served as the night’s co-organizers.
“Several members of the group work for Corning Inc., which has a diverse population,” Goodman said. “They wanted to learn more about the faith of those they work side-by-side with.”
Mauro said that after taking part in the discussion, “I really believe that mainstream Christians and Muslims have a lot more in common with each other than with extremists in either religion.” This is a key distinction due to the many terrorist acts attributed to Muslim extremists around the world, particularly the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Participants on Jan. 26 discussed the main two divisions of the Islamic faith — Shiite and Sunni — “and how similar they are to our Christian traditions, where we believe much of the same but we follow different teachers and practices,” Goodman said. “Each faith is a path to being transformed into the best person we can through love and service of our neighbor, and belief in the afterlife.”¬†
Goodman added that the discussion was so lively that more Christian-Muslim events are likely in the offing.
“I think there is a curiosity and thirst for knowledge from Christians about the Muslim faith. We are also looking at continuing the conversations with other faith traditions such as Hindi and Buddhist,” she said.
According to Goodman and Mauro, the get-together grew out of a historic pact signed in 2003 between the Diocese of Rochester and the Council of Masajid (Mosques) of Rochester. Titled “An Agreement of Understanding and Cooperation,” the document challenges religious and ethnic bigotry while making efforts to foster mutual respect between Catholics and Muslims, including the establishment of joint educational programs for children and adults.
Another Jan. 26 attendee was the Rev. Gary McCaslin, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Painted Post. Goodman said Rev. McCaslin has been instrumental in getting the title of Corning Vicinity Council of Churches — which he is president of — changed to Corning Vicinity Faith Communities. This local organization, which has brought churches together in the Corning area for the last 40 years, underwent its name change during a ceremony that took place Jan. 29. The broader emphasis seeks to include people who worship in mosques as well as other religious facilities not considered churches. A handful of Islamic mosques exist in the Southern Tier; the closest one to Corning is the Islamic Association of the Finger Lakes in Big Flats.
“We can no longer operate with the narrow Christian emphasis we have employed since the churches first came together back in the ’60s,” Goodman said. “An understanding of all faith traditions¬†reaches¬†beyond tolerance. This understanding must evolve into an¬†acceptance and respect in our pluralistic society.¬†It is the greatest gift we can give to the next generation.”Tags: Interfaith Relations, Steuben County News